Five tips to help your child prepare for online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

OTTAWA — For the third time during the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers, students and parents are preparing for online learning at school.

Starting Monday, all elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa and across Ontario are closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19 cases, and all learning will be conducted online.

In an interview with CTVNewsOttawa.ca, parenting coach and behavioural consultant Sylvia Corzato of Success in Steps provides five tips for setting up your kids for virtual learning.

TAKE TIME TO DISCUSS

“I think right now what’s really important, more than anything, is communicating with our kids,” says Corzato.

“There’s a lot of feelings going on right now, and not all kids are able to express how they’re feeling about this back-and-forth.”

Corzato recommends taking time this weekend to discuss with your children the shift back to online learning on Monday.

“Say, ‘Hey, you know we’re starting back with online learning, how do you feel about that? What did you like about online learning last time? What worked? What didn’t work?’ Having those discussions by posing questions, as opposed to telling them what will take place,” said the parenting coach and behavioural consultant.

“When you ask questions, you are opening the door for communication. When you’re telling them how it’s going to be, you’re basically creating a barrier for them to express how they’re feeling and right now we need to have a better understanding on how they’re feeling about this whole back-and-forth situation.”

WHAT WORKED/DIDN’T WORK LAST TIME

As students prepare for online learning for the third time since March 2020, Corzato says connect with your children about past experiences to help set them up and adjust this time.

“The way that you approach that would be, ‘Last time when we had to do online learning, we had your computer set up in your room and you had snack breaks’ and list down the things that took place. Say, ‘Do you still want to do it that way or did that work for you or is there anything you want to do differently?'” said Corzato, adding it’s important to get the child’s opinion on their experience.

She recommends identifying what makes your child feel frustrated about school, what are they looking forward to during online learning and what they will be missing while schools are closed.

If your child wants to log into the computer in a different room this time, Corzato recommends providing them with options that are acceptable for schooling.

“Maybe they’re just tired of being in their bedroom and they need a different environment,” said Corzato, noting setting up the computer in the TV room would not benefit the child during the school day.

“With the weather being nice, maybe we can say that, ‘Hey, we have a quiet backyard, you can set up on the patio furniture outside.’ When we change the environment, we change the mood and with the warmer weather maybe we can switch that up or provide some opportunities that way. It’s also great motivation.”

CREATE A BALANCED ENVIRONMENT

“Right now, we are at a time of the school year where my kid’s attention to school work is starting to diminish,” said Corzato, noting it’s been a long school year and summer break is just over two months away.

“This is when normally, the end of April, month of May, we’re doing the last little focus on curriculum and then we’re focusing more on end of year outings and stuff, which for this year is not going to be taking place. So that’s going to an adjustment for kids as well,” said the parent consultant and behaviour coach.

“We need to look at how motivated our kids are, and on top of that we have to also take into consideration is with this all back-and-forth for those children that have been in in-person school … we have to look at how that is impacting their motivation to want to learn. Not all kids do well with online learning.

“We have to look at the motivation, and we have to look about how we hit a balance at home.”

Corzato says find the balance that works for your family, including setting them up in a quiet environment, fewer distractions and outlining how the day will unfold.

ESTABLISH CLEAR EXPECTATIONS AND BOUNDARIES

As school shifts to online learning following the April break, Corzato recommends taking time to establish clear expectations and boundaries for each school day.

“A routine is probably the biggest thing that is going to set the family up for success. Have a set time where by the kids need to be awake by, have a set time where by they’re going to be having lunch,” said Corzato.

“What I’ve really uncovered from speaking to many different parents, both by my work supporting families and also from my friends and their kids, is every school has a different set-up. Kids need structure, we can’t just say, ‘Hey, you got your school work for the day, figure it out.’ If we do that, we’re not setting them up for success.”

Corzato recommends connecting with your child to find the “balance over perfection.”

“When we have clear expectations and we’re consistent with the follow through, then we’re creating healthy boundaries and that’s how we set up our children for success.”

POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an emotional, stressful time for parents and students. CTVNewsOttawa.ca asked Corzato how important is it for parents to create a positive environment for their kids returning to online learning despite all the uncertainty.

“You just hit the nail on the head there. Kids model our behaviours, that includes our coping strategies and for this reason I cannot stress enough the importance to strive for balance over perfection at home and also to be very cognisant of the language that you’re using and how you’re dealing with things,” said Corzato.

“If you are having a hard time, as a parent you can express that to your children in a way that is meaningful but not oversharing. This is a fantastic opportunity to be teaching our children coping strategies.”

Corzato says you can use this pandemic to teach your child to be more resilient, to develop coping strategies and how to rise above difficult circumstances.

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