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8 tips to survive distance learning

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

It’s fall 2021, the end of the pandemic is in sight and you are exhausted but hopeful. Your kids are finally back in school and you are getting used to the “new normal.”

Then comes Omecron…

And now, in January 2022, COVID continues to sweep the globe, and, where I live at least, another lockdown is issued. Schools are cancelled or go online, sports and recreation close, limits are set on where you can go and who you can see even inside your own home… Your sense of hope from fall 2021 is gone and your tank is empty.

This is our reality. We are exhausted with what we have been through and the task before us. But we are being asked to dig deep and support our children through distance learning. Distance learning has been my breaking point in this pandemic, and over the last few days I have been pretending that it is not happening again.

The kids are not alright, from mental health challenges to eating disorders, and loss of learning. And the parents–their support network–WE are not alright either.

I don’t have it all together, but I wanted to share some of the things I am doing to prepare for this season in case it helps you too.

Every situation is different, what works for me may not work for you or your kids. I am currently working from home full time, my spouse works full time outside of the home, my kids are 10 and 8 and these are my survival tips.

8 tips for surviving distance learning:

  1. Post their school schedule. I ensure my kids know their school schedules and post it on their walls to help them keep track.

  2. Use alarms (on a watch, timer, Alexa, google etc.) to help your children with transitions. I set alarms for waking up, when school starts, when break is over, and bedtime. This allows me to have less interruptions with my work and less nagging at the kids (which all kids hate).

  3. Make lunches in the morning or make it foolproof. Their school lunch breaks do not lineup with my workday so eating together is a challenge. They can eat when they are hungry and I don’t get interrupted. My oldest can grab her own food and the youngest will have lunchables (I purchased the healthiest ones I could find).

  4. Communicating our needs is important and there are a number of things that you can do:

    1. Take breaks to check in on them. How are they doing, do they need anything? This can address some needs that could become bigger challenges if not addressed in a timely manner. One question I asked my kids before distance learning started was, what can I do to make this easier for you? One of them shared that they need alone time to recharge, I shared that keeping things tidy helps my mental health.

    2. I have also spent some time reviewing expectations. For example, we discussed limits on technology (I don’t limit their online time with friends I put that in a different category), and spending recess outside.

  5. Ensure they are comfortable at their desks. My daughter wanted a comfy chair so we switched out the normal desk chair. She also made a poster for her background.

  6. Know your kids' triggers and see how you can help them alleviate them. One of my daughters struggles with her mental health and not having in-person social time with friends is a big trigger for her. Some ways I address this are:

    1. Planning outdoor get-togethers. If I am working, the kids can play in the front yard and I can still keep an eye on them from my office, or plan it for after school, it can be too much to try to do both at the same time.

    2. I often hire an older child to take my kids skating or tobogganing–something I can’t do if I am working. They inevitably run into friends there or I can text their friends ahead of time. This supervision can be done by an older child or even a grandparent. If cost is a factor, a group of parents could take turns supervising, decreasing the impact on your work. This also helps me battle my mom guilt, the kids are not on technology AND and they are getting exercise and fresh air, win win!

  7. Headphones! The best gift my husband ever gave me was noise-cancelling headphones and they are worth their weight in gold. If you don’t have a pair, run don’t walk to the store. If cost is a factor, second hand may be a good option. In addition, a pair of headphones for your kiddos can help too. We have ADHD in our house so this helps the parents AND the kids.

  8. Ask for help if you need it. I have a child with ADHD and in the spring we didn’t know. I had to cut back my work hours in half to sit with her during distance learning. She could only focus for seconds, and I mean seconds at a time. Now she is taking medication that has helped her focus better at school. Distance learning doesn't work for her and I am working full time. I am monitoring the situation but I have started a conversation with a local university student to see if she has time to sit with my daughter while I work. Grandparents may be a great option too!

It's go time!

You have got this and you are not alone.

Now, I want you to make sure you do at LEAST these 3 things for yourself and in turn your family. You need to fill your cup so you have the energy and mindset to support distance learning.

  1. Stay in contact with friends and family.

  2. If you or your family need mental health support, seek help immediately. In Canada start here, in the United States start here. If you are doing well, check in or offer help to someone else.

  3. Take care of yourself, do one thing for yourself every day, something simple like a short walk or a bath can be a game changer.

I will say it again: you’ve got this. We’ve got this!

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.”

Maya Angelou

Share in the comments what you would add to this list.

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