The Do’s and Don’ts of Helping your Teen Learn Virtually: A Guide for Parents and Caretakers

Hello, Irvington families! My name is Dr. Karla Rivera. I’m a school psychologist here in Irvington and am here to support you as we face these challenging times.  Not only do I work full-time, but I’m also a mother of four children, all learning remotely.  I know how difficult it can be to help our children as they learn virtually, while also working and taking care of our households!  It can be really overwhelming, so I want to share some do’s and don’ts that can make things easier, keep us sane, and help our children be successful!

  1. Do help your teen create a workspace:  Help your teen make a space in your home that will be just for school.  Keep any devices for school, supplies and materials in this space.  Make sure (as much as possible) that this space is quiet and free of distractions.  Having a set place to learn is important because it helps your child have structure, a routine, and to stay organized.
  2. Don’t allow your child to come to school unprepared:  We want our children to get the message that they are still in school, even if it is remote. Our teens may want to roll out of bed and right into their virtual classroom but it’s important that your child have a morning routine (including breakfast) at the beginning of every school day that will help them get mentally ready. We want to make sure your child is awake, alert and ready to learn.
  3. Do Monitor your child during their school day.  Post a copy of your child’s schedule in a place where both you and your child can see it easily.  If you are working remotely, or out of the home, set reminders on your device (and your teen’s if they have one) for when each “class” is during the day.  That way, even if you can’t be home with your teens, you both will know what class they should be in and when. Get help to learn more about the technology school uses such as power school and google classroom. Use these platforms to monitor your teen’s progress, know upcoming assignments, and check grades.Remember even if you have a teen that seems to be doing fine, if your child were in school in person, there would always be adult supervision.  So it’s still important that you check on them.
  4. Do communicate with your child’s teachers and support staff.  We have to partner with teachers to support our teens. Communication is key.  Reach out to teachers, guidance counselors or other support staff if you have questions or concerns.  If you have worries or questions about your child’s progress, don’t wait!  Please reach out for support sooner than later to prevent problems from growing.
  5. Don’t try to communicate with your teen’s teachers during your child’s virtual classes.  If you are home with your teen, it can be tempting to want to ask questions or express concerns as you watch your child learn virtually.  Remember if your child was in school in person, you wouldn’t be able to walk into a classroom with questions or comments because it would be too disruptive. Think of the virtual school day in the same way and reach out to school staff in the ways discussed tonight.
  6. Do give your teen plenty of praise and encouragement!  Remember your child has had to go through many major changes. They have lost the ability to go to school and to be with friends. They have missed out on things that are important to them and they may feel stressed about things going on at home. On top of this they have to learn virtually in whole new ways.Your teen needs to hear that you believe in them and that they can learn successfully virtually. Try to find reasons to praise your child throughout day.  Encourage them when they do something you want them to do, even if you think they should do it anyway.  Like If your child struggles to get up and get to their virtual school day on time, encourage them when they do!  You can say things like, “you did a great job getting ready and to class on time today.”Praise them just for trying hard.  For example, if your child struggles in math, but you see them working hard, let them know you are proud of their hard work even if they don’t get an “A”.  Remember children of all ages want and need praise, so even if your teens that don’t show it, they still want to know you’re proud of them.
  7. Don’t be too hard on your teen if they struggle right now. we don’t want to add stress to an already stressful situation.  It can be frustrating when your child makes mistakes or just isn’t doing as well as you’d like. If they are really struggling they may have emotional concerns that are getting in their way, so reach out to your child’s teachers and counselors.Remember your child is going through a lot, try to have patience with them, struggling at times right now is normal. If you are home while your child is learning remotely, this is an opportunity to learn about who they are, how they learn, and what helps them.  Step back, observe, have patience, and seek help to support their learning.
  8. Do practice self-care!  This is the most important thing to remember and maybe the hardest.  We as parents and caretakers can often put ourselves last.  We cannot take good care of our children if we don’t take care of ourselves! It is very hard to manage work and your child’s schooling! It is normal to feel overwhelmed!

You may have other struggles right now like worries about your health, the loss of a loved one, a financial loss, or the loss we all feel of normalcy in our lives. All or any of these can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration or depression. It can be hard to know how to cope.  Practice self-care, find healthy ways to manage your feelings, remember to stay connected with friends and family that can support you, and seek help if your feelings are too overwhelming.   

Remember Our children are watching us to see how they should feel and cope.  We need to show them how we care for ourselves in a healthy way, and how they can do the same.  Show your child good examples of self –care. Help your child to talk about what they are feeling.  Let them know it’s ok to have worries or fears, but that you are here for them.  Don’t overwhelm them with news or information they don’t need and help them to identify activities that make them feel calm. Have fun together!

We are all being faced with many challenges, but remember you are not alone and your community is here to support you.