EveryDay Strong: Acknowledge, empathize with children who missed school milestones
The pandemic created a new learning environment for our children in which much of the social aspect of school was removed. The classroom experience, during which students were able to talk with their classmates in person, quickly vanished and schooling mainly focused on the curriculum. Children missed out on major milestones associated with school like prom and graduation. It’s important that we acknowledge, rather than dismiss, the grief our children may feel about losing out on experiences most of us were able to have.
Children have also lost a great deal of connection with their friends, so they have turned to their phones as a way to communicate. Talking or video chatting with their friends has helped our children feel less alone during such an isolating time. As much as we would prefer our children to not rely so heavily on their phones, we must recognize how necessary phones have become in helping our children socialize during the pandemic.
While some children have been successful in the transition from in-person to online learning, other children have struggled to adapt. It’s easy to become frustrated with our children who are struggling because we’ve already been through it. Putting yourself in the shoes of your children will help you understand their perspective and allow you to approach your children with compassion and an open mind.
When we witness our children struggle, our first thought is to try to fix their problems. When you approach your children with the desire to understand their problems, rather than fix them, your children will be more likely to open up. Observe what your children are going through and start a conversation from a place of curiosity.
Self-discipline has been necessary while being immersed in online learning, but for some children, self-discipline can be a challenge. Tasks may take longer to complete for children who have mental health issues or a disability. It’s important to acknowledge the effort a child is putting into school and to understand that self-discipline looks different for everyone.
As our children struggle, we want them to feel safe to talk to us about their problems. Approaching our children with accusatory phrases like, “Talk to me” or “Tell me what’s wrong,” will make them feel unsafe to talk. Instead, get them doing something they enjoy, like getting out of the house to go for a walk or taking them to get food. Ensuring that your children are relaxed allows conversation to flow more naturally.
In an effort to communicate to your children that they can safely open up to you, it’s important to understand that a child’s sense of safety is earned through your actions. It will take time to build trust with your children and that starts with showing up and being there to support them.
For more advice about how to support your struggling children or how to get your children to open up about their struggles, tune in to our new episode of the “EveryDay Strong” podcast! In this episode, we talked to Chancy and Kyle, two high school students. Chancy and Kyle provide their perspectives on online learning during the pandemic and how they learned to cope with missing out on important milestones.
United Way of Utah County is on a mission to help every child in our community feel safe, connected, and confident. You can listen to our latest podcast episode at anchor.fm/everydaystrong (or on Apple Podcast and Spotify). Learn more about us at everydaystrong.org.