COVID has had quite an impact on our young people. From missing grad to missing summer vacations, it’s been a difficult year full of emotional and social challenges for our teens.
Now, even the 2020-2021 school year will not be a seamless process for them as well. For example, they are not going to be able to sit with friends, interact, and play sports as they may have done in the past. Some may be frustrated or even depressed from the social withdrawal of COVID’s mandatory quarantine process. We can help them, but we have to be intentional about how we approach teens.
Teens have the capacity to understand why things are happening to some extent, but like many of us, they do not like the changes and new protocols that they now have to adopt. The change in the school environment may likely be the hardest for them. They have used this environment to meet and cultivate friendships, some of which will last a lifetime. Think back to when you were in school. How would you have felt if you could not communicate with your friends and classmates?
Cooperative learning has become so much more important, but people can no longer work in small groups. Your child may be looking forward to returning to in-person classes, but it is likely going to look different and be more challenging.
The New Format
Schools have chosen a variety of meeting formats, and they can be confusing for students. Students may be meeting strictly online or face-to-face, or they may meet in a combination of formats. Some school systems have also considered having elementary and middle schools meet face-to-face but for high school students, they are more likely to be successful adapting the online platform because they are independent and mature enough to stay at home alone.
Teens have the capacity to understand why things are happening to some extent but …the change in the school environment may likely be the hardest for them.
These formats all have learning curves. Even an all-online format has different components and aspects that need to be considered. Is the class synchronous, asynchronous, or both? Here is an explanation of the different types of learning formats in the digital age.
In this type of setting, students will meet online with instructors at a specific time each day. The meeting may be a teleconferencing software or other platforms that the student is not accustomed to using. In this type of setting, to be successful, ensure your teen is always prepared ahead of time. Get him or her to ensure internet is working well and that if audio and video is required, wifi bandwidth should be solid. There is nothing worse than having their connection drop during an important lesson.
These settings are generally ones where the teacher assigns materials or sends home information. This format is similar to how long distance education has been conducted at many schools. Students do not have an instructor accessible at any specific time, but they can call, text, or email when they questions, depending on the instructor’s communication preferences. To be successful in this format, your teen needs to be disciplined and proactive about reaching out through the established communication channel with their instructor so that he or she gets the work submitted in time.
Students in these settings may have times when they are required to be in synchronous meetings, but they are also given work to complete and upload by a specific time. Most synchronous settings are actually mixed settings, but each school program may be different. To be successful in this format, encourage your teen to identify the issues or questions he or she may have that are better communicated through video conference versus an email. Often times, talking through a problem or question is far more efficient than typing out an email and managing the back and forth communication.
Most schools have chosen not to use this type of setting right now due to the social distancing challenges they are facing. However, charter schools, private schools, and small school settings may be able to do this type of meeting. These students are in classes with one another for the entire day. They may change classes as they are accustomed to doing, but they complete all of their work as they have done in the past.
This setting can be especially unnerving and awkward especially if they are suddenly required to wear masks, stay six feet away from friends, or remain in the classroom to eat meals. Students are finding that returning to school may not provide the mental help they were hoping for.
To help your teen cope with the challenges of interacting during COVID, remind him or her that we are all in this together as a community and need to support each other through the challenges. Encourage him or her to go outside and meet with friends so that masks can be removed or encourage him or her to use free video conference tools like zoom, skype, facetime or what’s app to stay connected after school. Chances are, they are already using these social tools to gossip.
In locations where COVID cases are relatively low, some schools have tried to return to a combination setting when possible. In this setting, students may have some days or some classes that meet strictly online, and other days or classes take place in the traditional classroom. This type of format is terrific for students because it helps them see their friends in both controlled and relaxed settings, but they are not exposed all day every day.
Managing Changing Needs
There are a few things that parents can do to help their high school student manage their needs. Encourage them to stay organized, to be proactive with communication to their instructors, to use the various channels to work collaboratively with others and to set aside some time to take a break from the screen.
Get your high schooler a planner and help him or her learn to use it. Many schools provide planners for students but never help them learn what to put in it or why. Help your teen put important dates such as assignment due dates, school closing dates, and remote learning days. In addition to writing important dates, students learn time management skills by writing in when they want to have parts of projects done to minimize last-minute work.
In addition to planners, help your teen learn how to organize emails, essential papers, or websites. Teaching him or her how to categorize their favourites lists, passwords, or other relevant information can be just as helpful as helping with content.
Plan socially distanced activities for your teen and his or her friends. They need to be able to spend time together when possible. Plan study sessions or pods to help them learn while maintaining socially distanced spaces. When weather permits, schedule outdoor activities.
Help Them Decompress
These changes are difficult. You should allow your teen to be vocal about his or her fears, hopes, concerns, and needs. Teens need to be able to vent with their parent without fear, shame or judgement. Keep the lines of communication open so that your teen can speak freely about how he or she feels. Fears can lead to anxiety and other forms or emotional stress that can be diffused by talking through the issues.
Take the changes as they come. Regulations are changing all the time and we are all encouraged to comply with what the government mandates. Help your teen build resilience and teach them how to remain agile and flexible as things evolve daily.
You do not have to have all of the answers, but you should help your teen to understand how to manage and cope through these changes and how to be more successful in adapting to the new format of learning. This pandemic is overwhelming for most people. It will be no different for your teens.
Help your teen become an independent-thinker, self-motivated and more agile. These are traits they will develop as they manage through these difficult times, but the good news is that this is an opportunity to build the resilience they will need when they enter the work force and face the real world.