How Do I Support My Child in Virtual Learning?

By Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick, Tracy Vasquez, Dr. Lisa Bernier, and Dr. Stephanie Nilsen

a mom helping her daughter with online homework

As parents and educators continue to navigate the new way of working, parenting and educating from home, it becomes important to make sure that all of the child’s spiritual, social and emotional, physical and cognitive needs are being met. The College of Education’s faculty are expert practitioners who have varied and diverse teaching experiences and backgrounds. Here are some of their insights for each of these areas:

Spiritual

One verse with special significance at this time that can be a topic for discussion is Philippians 3:12:

“I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not yet perfect. But Christ has Taken hold of me. So, I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize” (Contemporary English Version).

During uncertain times such as this, parents may find themselves challenged in their faith. However, challenging times can be the greatest opportunities for growth. One way parents can support their children spiritually is to model their faith through their daily actions and routines:

  • Set a regular time for prayer and devotions as a family. Allow older children to lead a devotion that they create.
  • Make time to listen to your children and their concerns and doubts. Does this mean you will never lose your patience or that you will do everything perfectly? No, but that also gives an opportunity to model your faith by confessing your weaknesses to one another and extending grace as Jesus does for all.
  • Encourage your children to “keep on running,” setting goals and trusting in the One who never changes. 

-Dr. Lisa Bernier, Assistant Professor

Social and Emotional

One of the most important things we can do during a time of unpredictability and change such as now is to make sure we are addressing the social and emotional needs of our children. Much of a child’s security and ability to transition well during times of change lay in the interactions between the child and their closest caregivers. So what can you do to support your child’s social emotional development, especially during times of change, stress and transition?

Focus on the Relationship

Just as in any of our lives, when stress enters, it’s the people we love the most that keep us going. Our children need us to be as connected as possible. This means we spend time with our child, we talk with our child – listening to them and their ideas and chatter – and we make sure to reassure them of our love and concern for them. Routines are a huge part of relationships, as routines such as bedtime, dinnertime and morning dressing are all predictable ways a child can connect with and feel cared for by their caregivers and educators.

Be Open and Transparent

While it is important to consider a child’s developmental level, our students understand much more of what’s going on than we typically tell them. Often we want to protect them, so we keep the conversation about what is really happening around them to a minimum. But our children are observant and they often recognize big changes and high stress in their families and teachers’ lives. It’s important to appropriately talk with children about what is happening and help them have a place to express their questions, fears and concerns. Be careful not to lie to a child, especially about things that are uncertain. It is okay to tell them you don’t have answers or don’t know how things will affect them while also reassuring them that you love them and will care for them even in the unknowns.

Provide Consistent and Appropriate Ways of Social Connection

Many of our students miss their friends and family members during times of crisis or have found that their connection with others is lost in the stress of the context they are living in. Finding ways to let them continue to connect with others is important. Using technology to set up short conversations with school friends, putting up pictures of people they love around the house or helping them write letters or draw pictures for family members is important when helping a child feel less isolated during times of transition.

Play!

Play is one of the most important things a child can do during times of stress and crisis. Play allows a child to process their fears and concerns and express themselves in ways that are natural and developmentally best for them. It also allows a parent to connect and reassure in ways that are repetitive and impactful. While children may start to incorporate themes adults find uncomfortable – such as taking their doll to the hospital where they get shots and medicine and perhaps even die – these themes are important to helping a child weather the challenges they are facing. Play is a way for a child to express concerns and ask questions while also trying out different solutions to problems they are seeing in their lives. As a child plays, they learn to cope with challenging situations. As caregivers, we can help to model coping skills, answer scary questions and provide reassurance through our characters and responses to play.

-Dr. Stephanie Nilsen, Assistant Professor

Physical

It is important to remember to remain physically active:

  • Spend some time outdoors. Fresh air and plenty of sunshine always help to promote a positive outlook.
  • If there is inclement weather, put on some music and dance with the children.
  • Review science vocabulary terms by playing “Simon Says.” For example, “Simon says jump on your right foot while touching your clavicle three times.”
  • Schedule some quiet time for yoga and meditation. This time should be when electronics are off so that distractions are kept to a minimum.

Cognitive

These unusual circumstances and situations can serve as a springboard for students to be innovative entrepreneurs. Encourage them to think critically about their community’s needs. What resources currently in place can be used to address those needs? For example, some students have mobilized their friends and relatives to create face masks that can be donated to various places in need of protective gear.

As family members and educators, we all play an important role in ensuring that we address children’s needs. When the students’ whole needs are met, they are less likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder and they will have the necessary skills and abilities to cope and adjust to any changes in a healthy manner.

Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. To learn more about the College of Education and our degree programs, visit our website.

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