5 ways to survive spring fever and help kids focus online

By: Gahmya Drummond-Bey

For starters, schedule naps (seriously) and mix up the online/offline experiences.

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We all know what that mid-semester slump feels like. As the weather becomes warmer and summer grows near, we find ourselves looking at our clocks, waiting for moments of freedom. The same spring fever you may feel in video meeting after video meeting is also experienced by young people, who are still pushing through online learning. However, there are ways to manage spring fever in the virtual space to help kids focus and make this last push before summer as painless as possible.

In fact, I can’t help but recall conversations that I had with caregivers in 2015 in South Korea. Even in a country where parents are known for stressing heavily over academics, during that time people worried more about the loss of connection children were experiencing and ways to decrease loneliness. It was the second pandemic—the MERS pandemic—that I’d experienced as an educator, and I’d made it my goal to help my students have the best experience possible when going through a challenge or a transition in the virtual classroom. One of the best ways to do that was to empower and support the people who would be helping them the most: their parents and caregivers.

What’s most important when moving through these last few months and weeks will be the mindset that each situation is met with. With the right mindset, you may even enjoy it! And if you enjoy it, this also increases the likelihood that the young people in your home will, too. Joy is contagious!

That said, here are five mindset shifts that caregivers can embrace to help kids focus and thrive through spring fever in a virtual classroom.

1. Praise the process, not the person, with a growth mindset.

It’s not easy to be in the same space every day, and because of this some caregivers try to be less hands on to give their young learners more space. However, I’ve noticed that students tend to be sensitive to both what is and what is not said to them.

In fact, many children learning at home have admitted to feeling criticized by their parents more than before the pandemic. Remember to compliment and praise “actions” and “effort” to help the child not internalize failure. Praise the process, not the person. “You must be really smart” becomes “you worked so hard on this!” Make a point to intentionally offer phrases like:

  • “I love how hard you’re working!”
  • “Your focus is amazing!”
  • “I like how you tried all those different strategies on your math problem.”

2. Talk about ways you’re staying connected with your friends and provide social nudges.

If you’re still physically distancing, help your children remain socially connected. This is important for teens, as well. I recently held a seminar at a large high school and asked students, “What’s one thing you wished adults talked to you about more?” The answer: “Friendships. People assume teenagers know how to connect, and we really don’t. We also don’t know how to nurture friendships once we have them.” Here are a few ideas to help you think beyond a video chat:

  • Share with your teens ways that you are maintaining your own friendships. 
  • Try to set up virtual homework dates for them with other kids.
  • Schedule fun movie nights. 
  • If they love books, help them to create a social club that has a group chat or biweekly video calls to discuss books virtually. You could do the same if they love fashion, turtles, science, video games ... anything!

3. Push for routine.

Younger children thrive with a routine. With the days getting longer, it can really help kids focus and lower anxiety if each family member discusses their schedule every morning or the night before, even when there are few changes that are made to the schedule. Include when break times are, when meals will be eaten, and answer any questions the child may have. 

Teens also thrive with a routine. I noticed that many teens tend to struggle around springtime because they allow their work to pile up, rather than completing it daily. Remember to ask about homework and to incorporate a schedule for “coming home from school,” just as you would if your teen were actually returning home daily. This allows them to actually separate themselves from the classroom once they “arrive home.” You can do this by designating specific spaces in the home for the school day and creating a promise as a family to be Mom, Dad or caregiver after a certain time of day and not flipping back and forth between caregiver and part-time teacher.

4. Think again about naps.

One of the things that you may notice, even for yourself, is how difficult it becomes to regulate sleep cycles as daylight changes. This, coupled with the amount of energy it takes to focus on a screen, often creates a form of fatigue that is important to acknowledge.

It may seem odd to encourage your older child to schedule naps in the middle of the day, but even teens have come to appreciate “refresher naps” and look forward to them. A nap now can help kids focus later. Even if your young person doesn’t take a nap, as the caretaker, try to remember that this is not a typical school day where one learns for a solid six to eight hours before taking a break. Breaks are necessary and should be fully honored.

5. Mix online and offline practice.

Remember to help your child to put their learning into practice. Do they have a vocabulary list? Stick it on the fridge and use the words with them in conversations throughout the week. Are they learning about something interesting in science class? Let’s see what a famous scientist has to say about that and watch it as a family. Busy working and not quite sure what’s on your child’s syllabus? (No judgement.) Have them teach the family a lesson during dinner. In fact, go around the table and everyone teaches one new thing. You don’t have to be the teacher, but remind your young person that they have your full support.

One of the things I like to say to my students is that there is a difference between things that are hard and things that are challenging. If you’re the one trying to help kids focus, remember, this is a challenge. But we can rise to the challenge. Spring break will come and go. We can do this. Lead the way with your mindset!

Learn how some fidgeting helps kids focus better online, too.

About the author(s):

Gahmya Drummond-Bey has taught through two pandemics and is a TED Resident, global instructional designer, author, educator and CEO of Evolved Teacher. She has redesigned learning programs in more than 20 countries.

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