Calling All Parents: How to Support Children Learning at Home
2020 has been an eventful year for all of us to say the least. COVID-19 has impacted every person in the world in some fashion, and has presented unprecedented and unique challenges. Events and moments have been taken from us. I lost my entire senior year season on my dance team at UNL. I didn’t get to step foot into memorial stadium for a single game. My boyfriend and brother lost their high school and college graduation ceremonies. My family has hardly seen my grandma this entire year due to her having pre-existing respiratory conditions that make her “high-risk”. Some people have lost friends and family members. One thing is for certain is that 2020 has presented us with a lot of changes to adapt to. One major change is the introduction of learning at home.
Learning At Home With ADD/ADHD
Learning at home presents challenges for Kindergarteners, all the way to college students. Not to mention, how difficult learning at home can be for children with ADD/ADHD. According to the CDC, a 2016 study showed:
388,000 children between the ages 2-5 diagnosed with ADHD
2.4 Million children between the ages 6-11 diagnosed with ADHD
3.3 Million children between the ages 12-17 diagnosed with ADHD
However, what is even more troubling is that, in the same study, the CDC found that an estimated 6.1 million children have undiagnosed ADHD, which is about 9.4%.
As someone with ADD, I know this struggle all too well. Learning in general for a student with ADD/ADHD, can be difficult to navigate. Now, what about when education means sitting at a computer all day?
ADD/ADHD or not, this can be a difficult environment for any child to handle. So, what can you do to support your learners at home? Luckily, the following list showcases 10 ideas that will benefit all types of learners.
1. Limit Distractions as Much as Possible.
A new environment for school can be a bit of a shock to the system for children. Home is often associated with play, leisure, and family time. Typically, school and long periods of focused work time are often not associated with this environment, other than perhaps some homework time. Do your best to create a constant and tranquil environment for your student to work in. Of course, pets and other distractions may be difficult to eliminate or control, so in addition, encourage your student to redirect their focus when they catch themselves off task. This also encourages self-management!
2. Encourage Self-Management Strategies!
Self-management is a skill students develop overtime, but you can help encourage its development by introducing a few strategies. Some places to start include:
Establishing an awareness of acceptable behavior
Introducing methods to manage emotions and stress, such as taking a few deep breaths, or taking breaks
Assisting with the creation and use of lists or a planner
Reminding them to have self check-ins
Learning at home definitely demands a learner who can attempt self-management. You can serve as their guide!
3. Help to Break Down Tasks and Assignments.
When a child opens up an online assignment, there can often be a lot of information and imagery to take in at once. This can be extremely overwhelming for students, especially ones that struggle with ADHD. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to giving up before starting. Go through assignments with your students and help them break them down into steps. Tackle one step at a time, and cross it off the list. Students will be encouraged by conquering each step, and the stress of a large assignment can be a lot easier to digest.
4. Create Periodic Breaks.
Learning at home through a computer screen can be monotonous for any kid. All students can benefit from short but frequent breaks implemented into their schedule. Make the breaks appealing and individual to your student, and bonus points if you can get them moving around! Whether your student needs to alternate between sitting an standing, or take a short break to stretch, find something that works in your students schedule and hits the mental and physical refresh button.
5. Have Discussions and Provide Positive Feedback.
This learning at home experience is new for you, but it is also extremely foreign to your child. Have conversations with your child about what is going well, and what are still struggling with. Provide positive feedback on their accomplishments, and celebrate even the smallest of successes. This helps your child to know that they are not alone, and that you are seeing and appreciating their effort. Sometimes, this can be the most impactful.
6. Conduct A Few Emotional Check-ins Throughout Their Day.
This one is not a new for teachers, but parents, you too can implement this practice! At the start of, midway, and at the end of the day, have emotional check-ins. I have commonly seen teachers do this by labeling a stick with a student's name, and also by labeling a few cups as perhaps: Sad, Mad, Happy, Ok etc. Have your students start their day by placing their stick in the cup that reflect their current mood and emotions. Repeat this process a few times daily. This allows you to start a conversation with your child. What is making you feel sad? Is there something I can do to help you with that? Even if you cannot eliminate all problems, knowing what emotions your child is dealing with can allow you to determine the best ways to approach them and their learning.
7. Display Finished Works.
Displaying your child's work, no matter how old they are, lets them know how proud you are of them, and that their learning and their effort in their learning, is valued.
8. Create and Stick to a Routine.
Creating and implementing a routine will allow for structure in your child's new learning experience. Schools are excellent at practicing a strict schedule, and keeping one at home, will actually be a lot more familiar and beneficial for your child.
9.Embrace Your Child's Learning Style!
Talk to your child, observe them, and discover their unique learning style. Embrace how they learn best, and try to show them how they can adapt their work to match their learning style. For example, if your student learns best visually, encourage them to collect images or create drawings to go alongside their notes. Make their learning their own!
10. Don't Expect Perfection.
Learning at home, and the pandemic in general has changed the routines and lifestyle of what is considered your child's "normal". They are having to adjust and adapt just as all of us are. Some days will be better than others. Be patient with them, and encourage them to be patient with themselves as well. Take care of you and your child's mental health as best as you can, and be a support system for one another. It won't be perfect, but you got this!