Tips to Un-Distance Distance Learning

Article at a Glance

  • Networking with other distance learning parents can help everyone feel less overwhelmed.
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges of distance learning.
  • Be patient with yourself and your child as you navigate distance learning through this pandemic.

Many districts across the country are adopting distance learning to keep students, faculty, and staff safe this school year, and with this comes unique challenges. Here are some tips to help your kids get the most out of their distance learning without overwhelming them (or you).


If your kids are younger, you may be overwhelmed to find yourself in the role of teacher. Reach out to the parents of classmates. It’s likely they are feeling the same way you are.

  • Form a cohort with two to three other families to share ideas and set up virtual study times.
  • Discover what your strengths are, then divide the curriculum between you. Not only will this allow you to focus on the subjects you’re good at, it will allow some windows of free time where another parent can take over instruction.
  • For older kids, encourage them to form virtual study groups with classmates. Virtual conferencing apps, such as Zoom and Skype, will help them get the social interaction they need while they study.

Involve The Teacher

Teachers are missing their students as much as their students are missing them. Make sure you’re taking advantage of their experience and expertise.

  • Set up virtual conference times between your kids and their teachers. If possible, make a list of questions to ask beforehand to make this time as efficient and beneficial as possible.
  • Teachers are spending countless hours curating resources to aid in distance learning. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
  • Even if your kids don’t need help, set a day for them to check-in with their teachers at least once a week. Build it into their distance learning routine.
  • Teachers aren’t just there for their students. Don’t hesitate to email them for advice or just to check-in. They will be thrilled to hear from you.
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date with the school. Delays in contacting you could cause your kids to fall behind.

Create A Quiet and Safe Learning Space

It seems like an obvious thing, but having a study space that is quiet, safe, and functional can go a long way to help mitigate anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.

  • Limit the distractions that are available in the study space.
  • If possible, have them study in a room where they can work independently part of the time but still have easy access to you if they need help.
  • If access to school supplies is a barrier for home learning, contact local charitable organizations such as The Boys & Girls Club of America, United Way, or Kids in Need Foundation. You can also contact the school for information on school supply donations. Not every program is need-based, so don’t be afraid to reach out for information.
  • If access to technology and/or internet are barriers for home learning, contact the school. There may be technology available for you to use at home while distance learning, such as laptop computers and internet hotspots.

Build-in Time For Breaks

No matter the grade level, regular study breaks will help your kids perform better.

  • Encourage them to get up and move. Setting a timer can be a great way to make sure they’re being active throughout the day.
  • For younger kids, play an active game with them, such as tag or dancing, for a set time limit.
  • For older kids, encourage them to choose an activity that gets them active. When possible, suggest an activity you can do together, such as walk around the block.

Give Kids Some Agency

It’s easy to feel helpless when everything changes, so look for ways to give them back control.

  • For younger kids, let them pick spirit days. If possible, get their classmates involved. It’s fun to have a “crazy hair day” or “wear your pajamas backwards day.” Contacting the teachers may be a good way to get class participation, and it’s a great morale booster. If you can participate, too, even better!
  • If the school day is loosely structured, you may be able to let them choose which subjects they work on as they go through their day.
  • Let them choose their lunch menu. Give them two to three options to choose from, and then either make that for younger kids or have the ingredients ready for older kids to prepare themselves. If choosing lunch isn’t an option, let them choose dinner one night a week. It’s such a small thing, but being in control of something helps combat feeling helpless.

Be Patient

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things can and will change, sometimes daily.

  • Teachers are working tirelessly to adapt to changes. They are just as frustrated as you are, and they are trying their best.
  • Your kids are doing the best they can. Developing a new routine takes time.
  • You are doing the best you can. Teachers know you didn’t train for this and you didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Be kind to yourself.
  • Remember: your kids are more likely to be frustrated over distance learning if they see you frustrated over it. Model the response you want them to use.

Keep Checking In

The single most important thing you can do is be involved. Often, parental involvement is the difference between failure and success.

  • For younger kids, you might be filling the teacher role. Don’t forget to check in with them as their parent. Ask them how they’re feeling and brainstorm together about ways to fill their social and emotional needs.
  • For older kids, check-in with them regularly. Even though they can participate in distance learning mostly unaided, just knowing you’re there and you want to be involved makes a huge difference.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges of distance learning. What works for you may not work for someone else. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment. At the end of the day, if your kids are learning, that’s all that matters.

Reviewed on August 18, 2020 by: Ryan Gottfredson, D.O., MPH
Ryan Gottfredson, D.O., MPH
Board-certified Pediatrician

Dr. Gottfredson is passionate about preventive medicine and pediatrics. After thirteen years away serving in the Air Force, he’s excited to be returning to Utah. Languages: English and Spanish.

Timpanogos Physicians Office
Full Bio

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