Working from home and a year of social distancing has taken its toll on just about everybody. Children have spent over a year in online learning environments and have been working even harder to compensate for the sudden, intense learning shift. Despite their valiant efforts, many young learners have been struggling in the new online learning world. But how could you recognize if your child is struggling with learning online?
1. Sleep Disturbances
Students nationwide are struggling to maintain healthy sleep patterns amidst online schooling. But between an overabundance of screen-time and record-high stress levels, it’s hardly a surprise kids aren’t getting their eight hours in each night.
Nearly every screen you and your child look at each day—cell phones, tablets, laptops, emit what’s called blue light. Research has shown that exposure to blue-light within two hours of bed-time can diminish the quality of one’s sleep. This habitual toll on students’ sleep is libel to take a toll on their health, never mind their experience learning online.
Dawn Dore-Stites, Ph.D., a pediatric sleep psychologist at Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Centers, has long-voiced concern over the wide-spread sleep disruption children are experiencing as a result of the pandemic. The stress of online school and fewer opportunities for social interaction and recreation has made it hard for kids to fall asleep, but it’s our fault too. Unfortunately, Dore-Stites reminds us, our children’s mental and emotional state, along with their sleep habits are only as healthy as our own. The stress we seem to all be radiating is palpable, and distressing, for children too.
2. Mood Swings
Does your child’s mood seem increasingly volatile? Emotional regulation requires cognitive energy so many of us are already depleted of. For children still developing emotional regulation skills and already facing the typical stressors of adolescence, the challenges of online learning create an emotional overload. Consequently, these episodic emotional overloads may present in the form of mood swings. Mood swings, put simply, are abrupt changes in your child’s emotional state. Oftentimes, mood swings in younger children are easier to recognize due to their dependence and proximity to us, but for older kids, mood swings can be more difficult to recognize because of their greater autonomy and privacy.
3. Blanking on School
Your child may be attending classes, but are they present? Simply asking your child “What did you learn in class today?” can be revealing. If your child can’t tell you what they learned in class, it’s likely they’re struggling with learning online. Perhaps their mental or emotional health is impeding their ability to concentrate, or their confidence in math class is faltering. Whatever the case may be, there is a bug somewhere in the learning process. Aside from not being able to articulate parts of their school day, your child may “blank on school” in the sense that they forget their test and quiz dates, class materials, or assignment deadlines. Of course, some concessions must be made, as online learning and working from home is challenging for every last one of us, but habitual school-centered slip-ups could be a sign your child is having a tough time learning online.
Once you know your child is struggling to find a stride in their online learning, you can help figure it out with them! In the long run, additional academic support like private or group tutoring is always a huge help to students in need. If you plan to enroll your child in tutoring, look for learning centers that recognize the importance of students’ personal development alongside their academic success. Tip-Top Brain offers private and group tutoring services with dedicated instructors who can help your child learn their class-content and foster their confidence. Whether or not you opt for tutoring, there may be a few quick-fixes that would make their online learning easier, like a school supply or two or a regularly scheduled break.
Everybody is having a tough time to some extent, so recognizing that your child is overwhelmed and struggling in their online learning can be difficult. Moreover, we’ve become somewhat accustomed to the discomfort and stressors of our COVID-induced problems, but it’s very possible many children haven’t. So long as we keep checking in and helping our kids be their best selves the best we can, we can only keep doing better!