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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Boutin

Grow Your Child's Independence During Distance Learning (so you can get some work done)

Our collective perspective of what distance learning should be needs to change. I believe this is the perfect time to help promote your child’s independence. Distance learning is not the best way that children learn and we are all trying to cope with our own work while managing the expectations from their teacher. I will tell you that dragging your child through the work, forcing them under close watch to get everything done is not the right approach, though I know many parents do it because they want the best for their child. These tips will promote independence and allow you to get some things done too. Your work is important as well and your mental wellbeing requires you to be able to work at least part of the day in peace.

1) Communicate regularly with your child’s teacher. For example, if your child has synchronous learning at 10 am everyday but you’ll be in a meeting-let the teacher know that you cannot support them during this time. If your child cannot complete the assignments independently, let the teacher know what assignments you can help with and the other ones that your child will be doing on their own. Many, if not most, teachers are in the same boat you are in and they understand. You may feel that you have to do everything with your child but in reality, it is better to set boundaries.

2) Have a visual schedule. This schedule promotes independence as children can see what they need to do in order or when (if they are able to tell time). Visual schedules also reduce anxiety so children can picture and rehearse their day. Also, it will prevent them from bothering you when they are bored. I like to write or draw (if they can’t read) what they’re allowed to do if they’re bored. I liked to add “if you bother me that you’re bored, I’ll assign you a chore.” After I wrote that, it’s amazing how infrequently I was asked “what can I do now?”

3) Create a “family learning chat,” for children aged 8 and above. Your children don’t even need a phone or Facebook account. You can chat through their Google Accounts. Set a rule that this is the only way they can contact you while you’re working. This means you can respond when you have a moment and it teaches your children patience.

4) Do not allow your child’s frustration to become your frustration. If your child is struggling to complete work, or having a tech meltdown, don’t participate. Instead model some quality stress techniques. Have your child take a deep breath or run really fast on the spot or try another assignment. If your child is still struggling, set a timer for 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes they still are unable to transition to working independently, let your child’s teacher know and let them take it from there. There are no possible gains for both you and the child struggling over material and not making progress.

5) Don’t fight screen time. It’s winter, they can’t see their friends, they’re mostly stuck inside and though normally I believe in really limited screen time, give yourself a break. Still monitor what they are doing for safety and bullying reasons but ultimately, don’t blame yourself if your kid is having way more screen time than they did in January 2020. It’s a different time and you and your kids have different needs.

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