In this three part series, we will discuss the challenges that have come with COVID-19 and some strategies to help you best support your child during this time. Read Part 1 HERE
Up until this year, most students haven’t had to manage their own schedules or their own work. The structure of the school day and the support of teachers has provided the accountability that students need to get through the day and stay on task. But now, with COVID, many students are either attending classes fully online or follow a hybrid schedule. With these changes, students must now keep track of their own time and their own assignments. Students are also using electronic applications to turn in their assignments, no longer receiving the physical feedback of papers being returned and paper report cards. Subsequently, students are not receiving the accountability and support of teachers that they are used to. Couple this with the stress that students are facing and this combination makes it even harder for them to learn.
To help your child navigate these new challenges, it is important to check in with them about their school work/grades. If they are falling behind and struggling, try to help them find the root cause of their procrastination, missing work, or absenteeism. You can then work together to come up with a concrete, step by step plan to meet deadlines. This plan could be a simple agenda of which assignments are due and when or a more detailed schedule. Whatever plan is created, it will need to provide the structure and accountability your child needs. Ask questions about the expectations for each course, their current standing in each class, and what assignments are due. Even if, as the parent, you don’t understand half of the material that your child is learning, by asking these questions you are encouraging them to take ownership and to stay on track with their teachers. When parents ask their children specific questions about their classes, they can also identify what their student might be struggling with, and help them to advocate for their needs. If your child is resistant to this, give it time. It might be that they fear being reprimanded. Be careful to remind them of your intentions; that with everything going on you are holding them accountable in order to encourage and support them, NOT to punish them.
Even high school students struggle with communicating their needs and asking for help. One of my senior year students, Carter* has been a high achieving student since his freshman year. He started the year strong, attending all of his classes and turning in his assignments. But by the second quarter he stopped showing up for his virtual classes and stopped turning in assignments all together. I reached out to his mother and she was shocked to hear this. She told me, “I thought he was doing well. I didn’t even bother to ask about his classes because he is always on top of them.” After our conversation, she talked to Carter and realized that he was simply having a hard time building a routine for getting his assignments turned in. Since she began checking in with him, Carter has been consistently attending his classes and turning in assignments again.
If you notice that your child isn’t keeping track of his/ her classes, or they are not completing their work, let them know that you empathize and understand that this year has come with a lot of struggles. Remind them that you believe in them and you know that they will make it through this hard time, but they have to take action and you are ready to help them. If they are high school age, give them a deadline to compile a list of what they need to do to get back on track. Clear any distractions from their calendar like outings, work, or technology. This can be seen as punitive, so ensure that your child knows that you aren’t punishing them by keeping them from something, but that this is the natural outcome of having wasted time on the front end and now they have to make up for it. As soon as they have a clear plan, you can release the restrictions and give them space to execute their plan. You want to avoid raising your voice, lecturing, or condemning them; this will only push your child away. By calmly addressing the issues and holding them accountable for their behavior, children will learn more and leave better equipped to stay on track then they would otherwise. Once they have a plan, check in with them weekly until they are making progress, and then move on to checking in with them bi-weekly.
If your child doesn’t know where to begin and you are unsure to what to do, please reach out to your child’s teachers and counselor. They are there to help and will give you direction. If your child needs more support, then you might need to begin with daily check ins versus a weekly check in. This will be challenging at first and it may require you to use a few lunch times and breaks at work, but it will pay off in the long run. Eventually, your check-ins will become less frequent as you gradually release ownership over your child’s performance back to them.
For primary students, set up a meeting with his/her teachers, check their email, and have them show you a tour of their online platform and apps they use in class. Then create a schedule for their classes if they are learning at home or for their homework. Clear any distraction from their workspace like games, toys, or anything that clutters the space so they can focus on their work. Try not to set their workspace in their bedroom if possible, as this will make it easier for them to separate work from play time.
I received feedback from a parent whose child wasn’t turning in work and was being deceitful about not having any homework. The mother began with daily check ins with her child, and a weekly email with their teachers. During these check ins, the mother would have her child show her the grading system website, their class platform, and their email service to see what was assigned to the child. After a month she moved to checking in three times a week with the child, and a weekly email to their teachers. After three months, the parent now checks in twice a week with their child and a monthly email with their teachers. The child initially resisted their mom’s efforts, and it was a struggle to get the child to be honest and consistent. But after a few weeks of realizing that the parent wasn’t letting up, the child began to come prepared for their check ins. Currently, the child has taken the initiative to ask their teachers for feedback on their performance and asks questions to clarify the assignments. The parent reported to me recently that the child’s grades have improved and their overall confidence with their school work has increased.
I hope this example encourages you to make the effort to hold your child accountable, giving them loving support while holding them responsible for their school work.
Stay tuned for Part 3:Your Child’s Biggest Cheerleader