Supporting your child’s mental health through remote learning

6 tips from @childrensmentalhealthon

“In this difficult phase of the pandemic, prioritizing the mental health of all kids and their families is really important. Children’s Mental Health has compiled tips from their child and youth mental health professionals to address some of the issues and concerns they are hearing from parents.”

1. Manage expectations
Some children are really struggling with remote learning, and we may need to lower our expectations. This could mean a teen who can’t get out of bed at all and is struggling with severe depression might have to drop a course this term. A child may need to opt-out of their second half of online class because they need to be moving and actively engaged in a different way to learn.

In the long term, children will benefit from feeling successful if academic expectations are lowered, and the courses or content they might miss in class can be retaken or retaught. It’s okay to make your child’s mental health the priority as you continue to parent through a strange and uncertain time.

2. Ask what they need to feel better about this period of remote learning
Asking open-ended questions about your child’s learning needs will encourage them to fill in the blanks. Maybe they need extra support to adapt the virtual classroom to their learning style, more time to practise self-care at home (reading together or watching a favourite movie), support connecting with friends, or building in extra family time away from the virtual classroom.

3. Staying connected
For older kids and teens especially, it can be tough not to have access to the social connections they have at school. Encourage them to talk about how difficult it can be to be disconnected from their peers and help them brainstorm ways they might feel most comfortable connecting with their friends. Working with your kids to come up with creative and diverse ways for them to stay connected may help ease the anxiety they may be feeling around missing their social connections.

4. Encourage media breaks
For many of us, we know that our kids’ screen time has increased significantly during this period of remote learning. It can be a draining experience for some kids, and the blue light from screens can impact a child’s sleep – all of this can affect their mental health.

Try carving out scheduled time within the day where the family agrees to decreased screen time, such as collectively putting phones away for a time period, or creating dedicated “phone-free” zones in the house to focus on in-person connection time. Think creatively about how you can turn these screen-free times into ways to connect with each other – play a board game, do a puzzle, get outside together, build on your relationship with play and fun! Parents may find that media breaks are beneficial not only to kids, but to parents as well!

5. Make room for physical activity
It can be difficult to stay focused and connected for long stretches of time in a virtual learning setting at any age. In class, your children would get opportunities in the day to stretch their legs, whether it’s moving from class to class or having recess or gym time. It may help reset their focus for the day to have opportunities to stretch, go for a walk, or get in any kind of physical movement (there are lots of YouTube dance and exercise videos for children and teens to help get them moving).

It can be helpful to remember that little children, especially, find it challenging to sit still for periods of time. Easing that expectation of them may help to ease some stress.

6. Recognize that remote learning is not for every child
Remote learning can be really challenging, and it’s not something that works for every child’s learning style. Some kids will thrive with online learning, and some really do not – each child is unique. It is important to recognize all children have different learning styles, and it is ok if one child is not doing as well in the online learning space as another.