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Ways to Reduce Online Schooling Stress

If you are a parent of school age children, by now you may be all too familiar with online school. Many schools in Lebanon have opted to at least carry out the start of the 2020-2021 academic year as remote learning (some have chosen hybrid learning – some days in the classroom and some days at home). As a mom with kids studying online, I can assure you this way of schooling is neither fun nor ideal! My conversations with others have shown me that online school is proving to be challenging for everyone involved: students, parents and teachers. Those with young children have the added burden of having to supervise and provide extra support, adding significant extra stress for parents who are balancing a full-time work schedule as well!! Oh, and don’t get me started on the bad internet connection we are facing!! I can go on and on about the pitfalls of mandatory online learning, but I’ll spare you. After all, for the immediate future at least, online school may be one strategy to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the country. However, there are some things we can do to make this experience at home less stressful and a tad smoother. Let’s explore what they are….

Set a Morning Routine

Just because the child stays home it doesn’t mean they can wake up ten min before class and stay in pajamas all day. A child needs structure to succeed and this definitely applies to remote learning. Let your child set their alarm so they wake up at the same time everyday. They should have ample time to sit for breakfast, get dressed (even to change into something comfortable like a track suit), have their study tools ready (notebooks, pencils etc.) by their device, and be logged into their first class a few minutes before the start time (so they have time to connect to the internet and check that their video and audio are working).

Create a Suitable Study Space for Your Child

Being at home, students are conditioned to think that they are in a relaxed setting. However, with family and other siblings around their attention span decreases. Try to find a quiet study space in your home, preferably at a table and away from the bed (if noise is an issue for your child, let them use headphones which might help). Let the child make this quiet space their ‘desk’ so it becomes their fixed place during online classes. Make sure this area is always comfortable and tidy and, for younger children, you can customize it with colourful images and stationary to make it more fun and motivating. Of course, the reality that many families live in small spaces and have to share rooms with other siblings
also online is not lost on us. Here are some tips courtesy of a blogger in Hong Kong on how to set us a learning space in a small apartment.

Limit Use of Electronic Devices and Focus on Quality Screen Time

Children are already spending many hours looking at a screen, so you may try to limit their screen time (or get them to stop all together) when they are not in school or doing their homework with their devices. You can also try to see how they spend their screen time. In other words, see what type of activity your child is doing on the device and how they’re interacting with it. Perhaps, they are using it to interact with their friends? This could be beneficial for their social skills and mental health. Or they could be researching a topic for a homework assignment. In other words, not all screen time is bad and with more time being spent indoors, screen time is unavoidable right now. Try to focus on quality over quantity of screen time. You can also encourage your children to engage in various tech free activities that are also ideal for the coming winter weather.

Address Needs of Students with ADHD and Make Accommodations

Online school may be extra hard on those who have Attention Deficit HyperActivity Disorder (ADHD), as they have frequent and even severe symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. As a result, ADHD students may also struggle with sitting still for an entire class, managing their time and finishing a task. These students may find on-line school more difficult than being in a classroom where they normally have more contact with the teacher and potentially a ‘shadow teacher’ if they require one. The parent may alternatively need to step in to provide help during on-line classes. To ease the situation here are some great tips courtesy of edutopia.org that can be beneficial for students of all ages. For younger students in particular, it would be beneficial to make sure they get frequent short breaks during the day. This could be time for some light exercise like stretching, dancing to music or even doing some art therapy, such as coloring mandalas.

To let off steam and unwind after on-line school, music therapy is an excellent activity too, according to Isak Eid, a clinical psychotherapist and music therapist who regularly works with children and young adults who have ADHD and also those with autism in Lebanon. Isak gives tailored sessions that allow his students to move to music along with playing instruments, such as percussions, wooden sticks and rattles. His therapy session allows the child to unwind and release any built up stress and tension through self expression with the aid of music. If you want to know more about his style of therapy, he can be contacted via email: isak.eid@gmail.com Also at The Wellness Project we are offering group healing sessions with Isak Eid in person – that can benefit both parents and their children – which are free of charge. You can find out more here https://thewellnessproject.me/event/group-healing-session/

 Picture: Courtesy of Isak Eid 

Try to Reduce Digital Strain on Eyes

Strain on eyes is inevitable for students who are spending a minimum of several hours a day staring at a screen up close. First of all, avoid using mobile phones for on-line classes. Go for larger screens like laptops, computers and tablets as it is useful in reducing eye strain. It is also important to adjust the brightness of their screen. If it is too high, then turn down the brightness of the screen and turn up the contrast for better viewing (this can be done through the settings of the device). In addition to the screen brightness, students should also adjust the lighting in the room. The perfect lighting of a room should be dimmer
than the computer screen to avoid eye strain. Students should also take a proper rest after a day of on-line classes, so make sure your child doesn’t continue playing video games or watching videos for long periods of time. Finally, the child should also be sitting correctly as this can reduce eye strain. The ideal way is the ergonomic position. This means the child’s feet are flat on the floor, shoulders are relaxed, the lower back is supported and the arms are at a right angle in a way that forearms rest on the keyboard in a straight line. Students might be tempted to study on their beds or even the sofa, but this can add strain to their eyes and limbs and can also make the student fall asleep! Finally, make sure the student cleans the computer screen regularly.

Reward Good Work and Communicate Openly with your Child

When a child finishes an assignment or does their best in an exam give them plenty of positive feedback. Celebrating small victories can offset some of the stress and frustrations the child is experiencing during this transition to on-line learning. Remember, no matter how smooth the on-line classes may be going, the child will still be feeling disappointed or upset about not being able to go back to school, so watch out for any distress signs. Be a good listener and let the child talk about his/her feelings regularly. Reassure your child that it is okay for them to feel this way and to express their emotions. Remember, the more you help your child deal with their tension or worries, the smoother on-line education is likely to be for everyone at home. You can read more about how to help kids develop healthy coping skills which is essential for these times we are facing. These are unprecedented times and the academic routine has changed drastically for students. Remember, on-line learning is not all bad too and it may well be the future of learning! The on-line school experience is helping your child develop virtual skills that will be helpful to them throughout their careers in the digital age.

Well, hope you found some of our advice useful. No doubt we are all facing trying times and having children all day at home for school is a major adjustment for the parents too! In reality we are all learning as we go along and with time it will get easier. Right now it is important to help each other and don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t seem to go as planned. Rest assured that it’s okay! Just take good care of yourselves. Bye for now.

References:

First picture credit: https://www.oxfordlearning.com/causes-of-school-stress/

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/winter-activities-for-kids#safety

https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-parents-can-deal-with-the-stress-of-virtual-education-5077955

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/keeping-kids-motivated-for-online-learning

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/healthline-survey-finds-back-to-school-stress-is-worse-than-ever#How-to-cope

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/ADHD-and-Learning-During-COVID-19.aspx

https://www.edutopia.org/article/5-ways-support-kids-adhd-during-remote-learning

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