How To Master Distance Learning Without Stress Or Anxiety

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Moms and dads: How’s pandemic homeschooling going for you? Is it stressing you out yet?

Lately what I keep hearing from people is, "I am so done!”

All this distance learning might not be in your wheelhouse. The pressure can feel like a bridge too far and an expectation too big, especially when so much is has gotten harder, not easier.

RELATED: If It's Not Safe For Adults To Go Back To Work, Then Why Are Kids Going Back To School?

They keep calling distance learning "homeschooling," but it’s not the same thing.

Homeschooling parents often don’t even stay home — they are exploring at museums, zoos, hiking here, biking there.

But holed up in your home with Zoom after Zoom call? That's not homeschooling — it’s screen-schooling. And as parents, you're feeling the pressure and overwhelm.

So, how’s a parent supposed to help their child cope with this distance learning thing?

Give yourself permission to just do your actual best.

Not some pie-in-the-sky best. Your true best. The type of “best” you know in your gut is what you’re comfortable with.

But how can you tell if you're doing your best?

Here are 3 steps to take if distance learning is stressing you (and your kids!) out.

1. Let go of the idea of "perfection."

As a parent, you're constantly — consciously and subconsciously — wondering if you're doing your best.

Here are three questions to help you assess how you're handling distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • How can I keep my family together?
  • How can I help my children best balance schoolwork and play?
  • How can I keep my own sanity intact?

Because no amount of schooling is worth sacrificing any of the above.

The goal is to arrive at a place you’re comfortable with, in good physical and emotional health.

The goal is not "GTD" (getting things done). The goal is not perfection.

If you make the mistake of thinking those are goals, the result is adding anxiety to your existing COVID-19 anxiety, and risking your family's emotional and physical health.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Support Your Kids Through Challenging Times

2. Make sure your kids' emotional health is cared for.

Feeling stressed out is part of the drill these days. Your kids are watching how you're handling stress — and they need you to help them handle their stress, too.

Believe it or not, the most helpful thing you can teach your children during a pandemic is that they're loved and that you can handle it. 

This is not necessarily what's included in their distance learning packet. So, how do you teach that when you're at your breaking point sometimes, too?

Let your kids know that they’re loved and cared for. This is number one, eclipsing any fear of kids getting behind in their school assignments. Say it, show it, live it.

With compassion, listening, and attention, you show your children that they matter, that you're there for them, and that they're not alone — no matter what.

Hug your kids, laugh with your kids, look them in the eye, and tell them they matter. Even if you don’t think you need to, take the risk and tell them. They need to hear it.

Seriously, nothing is more important for their emotional health and resilience than this.

Talk honestly about emotions. Ask your kids how they feel about things these days, their home lessons, not seeing friends, and mostly staying in.

Encouraging them to speak about their experience shows them you care about their inner souls. This paves the way for them to value and cope with their emotions, now and in the future.

In the world of psychology, this is called “name it, tame it.” If you name the feeling, you can tame the feeling.

As kids practice talking about their feelings, they lay down coping skills they can draw on for the rest of their lives.

3. Don't push yourself or your kids too hard.

When you give yourself a break, you give yourself permission to do what feels best for your family.

When you allow yourself to model love and compassion, you're counteracting anxiety. You stave off depression. You feel calmer, less stressed out, and happier.

As the COVID-19 lockdowns, semi-lockdowns, and “exit plans” unfold, you won't really know what to expect. Not for you, and not for your kids. And this can leave you feeling down and unsure of things.

Next time you notice distance learning stressing you out, consider what’s really important for your family, and bravely take back control.

This will help protect you and your family from feelings of hopelessness that can creep in around the edges when chronic stressors start to feel overwhelming.

By following your heart about what your children really need, you empower yourself to take control and do what matters most: Keep your family safe, healthy, and strong.

Not much is more important than that in these times.

RELATED: Why Some Teens Thrive In Isolation During Quarantine

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Dr. Alicia Clark is a licensed clinical psychologist. For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out her anxiety blog, download her free ebook, or sign up for her newsletter.

This article was originally published at Alicia Clark PsyD. Reprinted with permission from the author.