Many adults have had to adapt to the frustrations of working from home during the pandemic — and kids are being asked to do the same. But learning from home can be stressful for young people, and a viral photo posted by one Arizona mom captures what a lot of families are dealing with.
The photo, first shared August 7 on Twitter by writer Kara McDowell, shows her 5-year-old son lying across a chair, seemingly exasperated during a session of remote schooling.
“My Kindergartner on a 40 minute video call is a total mood,” McDowell wrote in the caption — one that resonated with many.
The photo was relatable to many because no matter how old you are, working from home or learning from home isn’t always easy.
“this is all of us….” one person commented.
“I am experiencing this right this second with a third grader. And today’s only a half-day,” another parent replied.
“Also me after my 40 min zoom calls. And I’m a whole entire adult!” another person wrote.
Two days later, McDowell posted a more positive update: “I’ve gotta say, teachers are trying their best! For balance, here’s another pic from the same day. My Kindergartner happily sharing his stuffed animal during show and tell.” The new photo showed McDowell’s son smiling at his computer screen.
McDowell’s son isn’t the only kid to go viral for their reaction to virtual learning. A mom from Georgia posted a photo of her 5-year-old son crying while he struggled with digital learning.
The mom, Jana Coombs, told CBS affiliate WFMY-TV that the first day of virtual learning was chaos and described the experience: “Juggling a household, having an infant in the house, getting 5,000 emails a day from all their teachers, trying to keep up … different apps, different codes, different platforms, some links don’t work. You’re running from one laptop to another,” she said.
Moms like Coombs and McDowell certainly aren’t alone — most parents with school-aged children are dealing with stress, as are their kids. According to a Gallup Poll in May, when 97% of parents said their child’s school was closed, nearly three in 10 said their child was “already experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures. Another 14% indicated their child was approaching their limits, and predicted they could continue social distancing only few more weeks until their mental health suffered.
Among the various difficulties faced during remote learning, 45% said being separated from classmates and teachers is a major challenge for their kids.
For parents and children struggling during this unprecedented time, the Child Mind Institute has some tips to help families cope — whether the anxiety is caused by in-person learning, virtual learning or other pandemic-related stressors.
One of those tips is to structure your child’s day. “As parents we often think that setting boundaries for a child is a way to make our lives easier, but in fact kids thrive on them, too,” Rachel Ehmke of the Child Mind Institute writes. “It is easy for children to get bored or fretful if they are facing a day without structure, and anxiety can thrive under those circumstances.”
The Institute, which is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders, recommends alternating schoolwork, chores and fun activities and making sure kids get exercise and time to socialize with friends safely.
Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, says parents should lead by example, by modeling calmness and looking for positives. He also recommends parents avoid providing too much reassurance, since kids may come to rely on it and develop even more anxiety when they don’t get it. Instead, he suggests reminding kids of what they can do to take care of themselves during this time — like hand washing and social distancing.
Achieve Virtual, an organization for at-home education in Indiana, has also provided virtual learning tips that families across the country may find useful during the pandemic.
Achieve Virtual recommends making the child’s workspace comfortable — but no lying in bed or on the couch. The organization also recommends parents help their kids keep a routine, monitor their internet safety and keep them motivated by removing distractions like cellphones.
Also, ensuring that children have virtual interactions is key — whether it be virtual playdates or study sessions with classmates. Achieve Virtual recommends parents should contact the teacher if they feel their child doesn’t have enough peer interaction during virtual learning.