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I understand. I have four kids of my own. 12, 9, 5, and 4. Three of my littles are in remote learning. One is a middle schooler. So, yes, I understand what you’re going through completely. Remote learning has started, it isn’t working, it won’t work, and it’s awful. But it’s not going anywhere. So, let’s find some silver linings, and quickly, because the whine won’t work… long-term.

Remote Learning

Since this is all based on the tight grip of Covid, let’s lean in to it. Unlike like this devastating, now beyond boring and annoying virus, our fear and loathing in remote learning has somewhat of a cure. It’s not as effective as hydroxychloroquine – stop it – but it’s an answer to at least some of our questions. Really, I just want to help calm your nerves. You’re waiting in line at Kaiser, and your prescription is ready. These are the knowledge ingredients for the “Remote Learning Chill Pill” to find some success (and sanity) this year for your at-home children:

It’s not your daddy’s schooling.

Or yours either. Give yourself this break. I said the same thing when schools rolled out Common Core. Okay, you multiplied by stacking two numbers, and your kid’s multiplication looks like a tic-tac-toe board. No matter how many Facebook posts you wrote about it, it didn’t go away. Your child completed the worksheets, turned in the assignments, and went from fourth to fifth grade not really understanding what they were doing… just like you didn’t understand – really understand – what multiplication is… and why we use it.

Just because your child isn’t spending their school years exactly how you did doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It’s just different. It’ll be okay.

When your child has their child (aww, you’re going to be a grandparent one day), they will say something like, “well, we had to spend an entire year – or part of a year, or the beginning of a year – online because of that Covid thing etc etc…” and your grandchild will say, “Ugh, who cares?” Some things never change. Try to find some comfort and calm in this. Just because your child isn’t spending their school years exactly how you did doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It’s just different. It’ll be okay. This will end, sometime soon, hopefully. When it ends, it will at least remind us of the good parts of school. Maybe it will even help us respect teachers more.

The meltdowns are coming.

These include yours. Best to brace for them and let them pass. Tantrums will range in volume and length, depending on age and grade level. When your child’s fit happens, remember, some version of this would have happened no matter where learning was taking place. It’s part of growth and development. You’re just used to not seeing it or you were letting the teacher deal with it. You’re welcome. Really. We don’t shy away from these times, because they are incredible teaching moments.

Your meltdown, on the other hand, is typically not seen by your children, and is usually saved for the other drivers in traffic coming home from work. How about this? Give each other a break. Some form of emotional breakdown is bound to happen in remote learning. Maybe make an empathy pact with your child and family. Nothing resonates more than when someone truly understands.

Falling is learning.

Or, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. This is the most important lesson when teaching your child how to ride a bike, or really in any learning setting. You will fail. It will hurt. The more children understand this idea, and actually look forward to it, the smoother learning will go. In remote learning, there will be many falls. Sometimes this will look like your child coming to you after an hour online class saying, “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do.” It may logging in to an online meeting 10 minutes too late, or forgetting about a meeting completely. It will happen. It’s all part of this whole mess. Here’s another free pass.

Technology fails.

Always. Inevitably. WIFI goes down. Logins don’t work. Hyperlinks show error messages. Power goes out. Computers overheat. PowerPoints get lost. Shared screens don’t share. All of these technology problems are four deep breaths from total peace and calm. And technology use is not recreation – it’s actually work and not that fun, and riding a bike, or going outside to do anything, is sooooo much better than sitting in front of a computer screen. This is actually my great wish from all of this – that people will go outside again. Kids will play in their neighborhoods again. Yes, the use of technology for work or school now means that will always be associated with work, not play.

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Ride a Bike 720

Get your needs met.

Start by identifying your needs. What makes you satisfied and content? Make that list. Do you enjoy bike rides? Long walks on the beach? A great conversation with friends over lunch? Listening to music? What floats your boat? Floating on a boat? A hug from your significant other? This is a wonderful opportunity to take inventory of what really makes you tick. What, as Bob Marley put it, satisfies your soul?

Without getting all “Five Love Languages” on you, self-care in Covid is extremely important. Asking your children and your family to help you get your needs met is equally important. If you’ve ever been on an airplane, there’s the little flight attendant spiel, “Should the cabin lose pressure while in flight, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” The same thing applies with your own needs. The cabin will lose pressure. No doubt. Is your oxygen mask/needs list ready?

Your love knows no (well, some) boundaries.

I know you love your kid. That love will be tested. Your child will be frustrated with their work. You will be frustrated with yours. Now stack those and multiply. As parents, we are challenged daily on the Love/Learning Scale. If you have a younger child in the early years of schooling (K-2), your child will come to you, while you’re working on something that requires intense focus and zero disturbances, with a challenge. Where on the Love/Learning Scale will you land in your response? 50/50 is the goal. If you apply too much Love and not enough Learning, you will rescue your child, and they won’t learn as much, or as thoroughly. If you apply all Learning and no Love, well, that goes without saying. Balance is needed. So are healthy boundaries.

Most teachers in remote learning will clearly define what they need from you as a parent. If they don’t or haven’t, please ask them: How can I best support my child during remote learning? Once you’re comfortable with this role, trust the process. Create those healthy boundaries with your children. If the teacher wants to be the point person for all your child’s problems with tech or frustrations with work, let them be. That 50/50 balance on the Love/Learning Scale will front load the frustrations, and there will be some sort of healthy workflow in the home sooner rather than later.

When work hours are over…

Now, time for some MadLibs: “When the clock strikes _____enter the time your work ends______ , I am going to _____enter an activity______ with my family and my loved ones. I will tell _____enter family and loved ones’ names______ how much I love them and how I’m so glad we’re ______enter the activity again______ and spending time together.”

When the weekend hits, it’s even more opportunity for family time. Quality time. You don’t have to look at your computer or phone even one time. Those devices will be waiting for you on Monday morning. Guaranteed. For now, it’s time to pull your family close and do all the things you never had time to do before. We will be back in traffic heading to and from work and school again soon enough. When it’s dinner time, the whole family can sit around the table and share what you’re grateful for. You can listen to each other. Really hear each other. You can see each other in a new light. Uninterrupted. It’s time to you can use to love and laugh.

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Brian Wright