By: Sophie Gilbert, Penfield Children’s Center

This school year’s virtual learning curriculums have presented challenges for students, teachers, families and parents. Although virtual learning is a temporary solution to classroom learning, students may have difficulties with their classwork and experience more anxiety than usual. Clinical psychologist Kate Eshleman, PsyD, and Dr. Adelayo share some advice that can help when virtual learning increases your child’s anxiety levels.

  • Find a calm zone
    • “Do everything you can to stay calm when a crisis happens,” says Dr. Eshleman. “It’s natural for parents to get upset when their child is upset. But you can’t help your child when you’re not calm, and it can make the situation worse.” Take a deep breath and acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings in a calm voice. Try saying:
      • “I know how upsetting this is. We’re going to figure it out.”
      • “It looks like you’re feeling frustrated/angry/sad. Let’s see what I can do to help you.”
  • Tackle the problem
    • After you’ve calmly validated your child’s feelings, talk about the problem and work through it together. Create a plan for steps your child can take, including searching for a missing item on a computer, talking to a teacher, or asking friends or other school contacts for help.
  • Set and keep a routine
    • Kids do best when they have a predictable routine. Setting up a consistent routine and schedule is important for them, but it also helps you manage your time at home. Dr. Adelayo shared these helpful time management tips to build structure in the day:
      • Pre-make snacks and lunches to have on hand
      • No TV and gaming until after school
      • Set aside breaks between schooltime and homework
      • Reduce distractions
  • Touch base with the teacher
    • Children with anxiety, especially younger children, may have a hard time vocalizing their needs. Set up a line of communication with their teacher to share some of the challenges your child is facing and ways you both can support them. If they are struggling with submitting things through the portal, see if there is another method that might work to turn in work. Working together can help you achieve the best outcome for your child.
  • Add Movement Breaks
    • For young children especially, it can be beneficial to add movement breaks into their online learning routine. Try setting aside 15 minutes to stretch, do yoga, play a game of Simon Says, or any other activity that allows children to get up out of their chairs and move around.
  • Provide Positive Incentives
    • If your child is struggling to raise their hand in class or answer a group post from the teacher, positive incentives may help. Rewards help students focus on developing new skills and motivate them to change their behavior. “Some parents frown upon rewards to encourage positive behaviors, but positive consequences can actually encourage learning and increase confidence and self-esteem if done correctly,” Dr. Adelayo said. “Rewards don’t just have to be materialistic and cost a lot of money. They can be as simple as free choice time or an extra 15 minutes to play before bedtime.”

What tips can you share that have helped ease your child’s anxiety?

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