Updated: May 13, 2020
How to Talk With Your Child About Ending the School Year Online
By now you may have had a hunch that your kids aren't going back to school this year. First a 2-week return date, then a month- just prolonging the inevitable. Maybe your kid has adjusted to being "home-schooled" or maybe they ask you every day about returning to the building. Either way, you just got word that school buildings are closed and virtual learning will continue for the remaining school year. How are you going to let your kid know? Here's how:
1. Set a Time to Have the Conversation
Critical conversations should have everyone's undivided attention. Choose a time where you know you can have at least 30 minutes to devote to this conversation. Maybe it's dinner time or your morning walk. Car rides were our family talk time- think about it, where do important family conversations typically take place in your house? Maybe there's no designated space because conversations just happen naturally-find a window and go for it. Set a time, stick to it and give it your undivided attention.
2. Shoot Straight
During Critical Conversation, it's essential to use clear and concise language. Make eye contact. You may be anxious and find it easier to sugar coat the conversation but that just gets in the way of clear understanding and processing what's happening. Use developmentally appropriate language for your child so that they get what you're saying. Middle Schoolers may understand when you say ,"Virtual learning will continue for the remainder of the year" but your younger kids may need to hear, " You're going to be learning online using your Chromebook and you won't be going back to school for 1st grade." Then explain what this means for them: perhaps staying home and working/learning, no in-person graduation or end of the year field trips. Unfortunately, many things are cancelled now so you will have to break the news that the next few months of school-related (and life related) milestones or fun activities will look very different.
3. Shut Up
You just dropped a bomb on them. Give them space to process what you just said. Maybe they're excited because this school year was exceptionally tough- they had separation anxiety from you, didn't have many friends and didn't fit it. Or maybe this was disappointing because they were making strides, terribly miss their friends and can't get in touch with them virtually. There's a wide range of reactions that can occur so don't be caught off guard by what your child may be experiencing; hey may have multiple feelings about school buildings closing which is totally normal. After hearing them out, provide empathy and follow their lead. It could sound like this: " I could see why you're happy about staying home because this year was hard." Either way, follow their lead on this and try not to rescue them from their feelings but validate them.
4. Make a Plan
How do you want to finish this school year? Obviously we can't go back to the school building but there's several things you can do to give your kid closure. Did your school team do a neighborhood parade? Make a sign to show during the parade. Schedule Zoom calls with your child's friends so they have time to connect as well. Think of it like a virtual play date. Do you have pictures from their class this year? Make a memory book of a few favorite moments this school year or have them write out 2-3 top moments. Peer connections should be a top priority during this time as we collectively grieve about how we thought things would be. Make a game plan for learning online for the rest of the school year. If work isn't mandatory for credit like high school courses, don't sweat. Get done what you can and know that educators will meet your child where they are come August. Reach out to your child's teacher if you find it difficult to accomplish the assignments that were sent out. Regardless of how the school year ends, make it a collaborative effort and get input from your child. Their feedback may surprise you.
This probably isn't how you thought the school year would end. But look at you- striving everyday to figure it out and that's what matters most. Yes, we will get through this together. If you're feeling uneasy or not sure how to navigate this challenge, I would loved to consult with you about how to adapt during these times.
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