Dr. Rivera

Dr. Karla Rivera is a district-wide psychologist here in Irvington. She is here to provide support for children and families as we face these challenging times.

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My Kid Isn’t into Virtual School! What Can I Do?

If you’re struggling to keep your child interested in virtual school, you’re not alone! Many parents are having difficulty keeping their children engaged. It’s understandable if your kids are feeling “over’” virtual school and miss their classrooms, friends and the normalcy of so many months ago.  It’s also understandable if you as parents are feeling overwhelmed.  However, please don’t give up!  Try these steps to help. 

1)  Keep  a daily routine. If your little one is tired, hungry, or even has to go to the bathroom, it’s impossible for them to focus in school. Make sure your child has a morning routine that prepares them for the day.  Include a wake up time that allows plenty of time for breakfast and to go to the bathroom.  Encourage your child to get dressed as though they were going out to school to give them the message that virtual school is real school.  It’s harder for children to understand the seriousness of virtual school if they do it in pjs all day. 

Set an after school routine where you check assignments together and support them in doing their homework. Your child may need a break and a snack first! Help your child to submit assignments and to clean up their work space for the next day. Keep a set bedtime that allows your child to get plenty of sleep.

2) Help your child stay organized: Your children can’t focus on what the teacher is saying if they can’t find their pencils, the homework they did, or a needed book. Help your child keep their workspace organized with everything placed in a designated space. Remember disorganization can cause your child to have difficulty keeping up, and this will discourage them.

3) Stay on top of your child’s attendance & assignments: Use Google Classroom, Classroom dojo, and power school to make sure your little ones are attending all of their classes. Check to see that they are completing their assignments.  Check that your little one ACTUALLY completes the assignment before hitting “submit”.  

4) Stay Positive!: At this point, like your child, you may also feel frustrated with virtual school. Do your best to present a positive attitude to your child (even if you don’t always feel that way). Talk to your little one everyday about school.  Show enthusiasm for what they are learning and try to help them make real life connections to it.  For example, if your kindergartener is learning addition, or your third grader is working on fractions, point out how you use this math while baking or cooking together. Children are more engaged in learning when it has meaning for them. Point out any positives you see with virtual school and try not to complain about issues with school in front of your child. Communicate with your child’s teacher about any concerns and work together to troubleshoot!

5) Keep your child active!  Your child needs opportunities to move their bodies and plenty of physical activity. This is more important than ever, as virtual school doesn’t allow for the same physical activity in-person school does. Lack of exercise makes it harder for children to focus. During breaks in the school day, help your child “get the wiggles out” however they would like. Allow your child to have “recess”, even if it’s after school. Bundle them up and go for walks together. Make it fun by looking for signs of winter, or by playing I “spy” (“I spy a red car, can you see it?”).  If you have access to a park, go and play together. Create opportunities for indoor movement too; play “freeze dance”, hide and seek or other active games together.

 6) Create ways to Incentivize your child:  What does this mean? For some children, just attending school is not motivating on it’s own. You may need to encourage your child by offering rewards for their efforts.  Firstly, remember your praise is a reward for your child!  Offer your child specific praise throughout the day by saying things like, “I really liked the way you focused in reading class today!”, or “wow, you’re working really hard on your math homework!”.  Look for what they are doing right and avoid over focusing on their challenges.  The more you praise them, the more they will repeat positive behaviors and reduce negative ones.

 Hang a calendar and allow your child to put a sticker (you can pick out some together) on each day at the end of school. This will provide a visual reminder of what they are accomplishing. Allow your child to receive other  rewards for a job well done. This can be a weekly reward, or your child may need rewards daily to stay motivated. 

 Come up with a list of things your child likes to do and come up with special activities you can do as a family.  At the end of the school week, would your child like to have pizza night, movie night with popcorn, or to play games together?  Would your child like to bake a special treat with you? Celebrate the end of each virtual school week; remind your child each day that the special day is coming and to keep up the hard work.

 Come up with daily rewards if necessary.  What does your child like to do for fun?  Do they like video games, watching tv, playing with a special toy, making arts and crafts? Would they like “treasures” from the dollar store? You can keep a “treasure box” with small toys to be given as rewards. 

Allow your child to “earn” these daily rewards by using a “first this, then that” model.  This means they earn this special activity by first doing what they need to do. First they participate in school, or first they have to get homework done, and THEN they get to engage in the desired activity. Do not allow your child to receive the reward first, or they will lose their motivation to do what’s being asked of them. Remember your child has to earn the reward, so if they haven’t done what’s asked, don’t provide the reward- but always remind them they have another chance later in the day or the next day! 

7) If it’s still not working:  If you have put these things in place, but you and your child aren’t making headway, your child’s lack of motivation may be due to learning or emotional issues. A child struggling to understand what is being taught may want to avoid school, or a child experiencing significant attention issues, anxiety or depression may not be able to focus. Your child’ teacher has office hours where you can discuss your child and the teacher can provide one to one help. Also, reach out to your child’s building guidance counselor or HSSC for help- check your school website if you don’t know who your child’s guidance counselor or HSSC is.