MedWatch Today: Helping Your Child Get Through Challenges of Distance Learning

Med Watch Today

Going back to school looks a lot different this year. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought many challenges for children and families while navigating the classroom remotely. We chat with a child psychiatrist on how you and your family can cope with distance learning.

It’s safe to say, we’d all like for things to go back to how they were. But for now, that time is unknown. Dr. Patrick Shea is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF Fresno. He reminds parents, we’re all in this together.

“This is a great time to really get to know your kids very well again. This kind of intense intentional time is maybe the one hidden blessing or gift out of this situation,” said Dr. Shea.

Dr. Shea said before parents put their teacher caps on, they should have a talk with their child about the current climate.

He added, “For younger children, sometimes parents are concerned or even afraid to talk to them about big difficult things like the Coronavirus crisis and what’s going on and things like that. But don’t be afraid to talk about it all because young children when parents just refuse to acknowledge it they tend to assume the worse so go ahead and let them know what’s happening since they will know that things aren’t normal right now. But make sure that you emphasize what we can do to stop and slow the spread.”

For older kids or teenagers, try to limit the consumption of COVID-19 related news. Dr. Shea says too much information can lead to more anxiety. Making school a priority will help keep kids from treating online learning as a vacation, and giving them brain breaks with exercise can be a healthy way to get through the work day.

But Dr. Shea said children are still losing out on the crucial social aspect of school, so, “One of the most important things I think parents can do is really encourage their kids to find ways to stay connected to especially their circle of close friends. The good news is today’s kids and teenagers have a lot more ways to do that than maybe we did 20 or 30 years ago.”

Dr. Shea said don’t worry about too much screen time in this moment – it’s still a good idea to limit high intensity screen time like video games and YouTube videos – but don’t worry so much about counting the minutes spent on Zoom classes, watching movies with the family or chatting on social media with friends. And remember, give yourself grace as a parent and substitute teacher.

“Just be patient with yourself. Have a lot of compassion for yourself too right, because this is a very, very difficult situation,” ended Dr. Shea.

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