Are We There Yet?

Helping Parents (and Children) Get Through the Next Semester of Virtual Learning. 

A famous movie included a long road trip where the kids kept saying, “Are we there yet?” The March 2020 pandemic abruptly changed how we live our everyday lives, and many parents and caregivers are having that exact sentiment as 2021 starts with the “new normal” of online schooling.

Private and public schools have decided to continue with online teaching in order to prevent spreading of COVID-19. Perhaps the question in their thoughts is, “How are we going to make it through this?”

As virtual school was about to start, I watched my 11-year-old grandson transition from joyful and relaxed to sad and tense. On the first day of online classes, he was nearly comatose—sitting still, with little movement, watching the screen as if forced to do so. His countenance displayed both discouragement and frustration. When it was time for a ten-minute break, he sighed with relief, sat on the sofa, and appeared to be thinking deeply and contemplatively. I asked him if he could come talk with me. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but I knew that his demeanor on this first day was indicative of how his entire semester might be if something didn’t change.

When he came into the room, I smiled, gave him a long, loving hug, and asked him what was the matter. With teary eyes, he said, “I don’t like school anymore. I hate it.” I knew he loved and excelled confidently in school before the pandemic. It wasn’t school he didn’t like—it was online school.

I told him I understood how he must feel and assured him that he was not the only one. “This is hard not just for you, but for your teacher too.” He looked to me for further explanation, so I told him that most teachers don’t like teaching online, but the pandemic requires all of us to live differently, and that it is not anyone’s fault, but we must all deal with it.

I told him he is very bright, and he can get through this semester by doing a couple of things. First, look at this for what it is. Accept the reality that life is always going to bring situations that we may not want or understand, but change happens regardless. I told him that the difference in him from nine to 11 years old is growth and maturity. I explained that challenges in life help us to mature and grow in patience, character, and wisdom I told him this pandemic is helping him learn about challenges beyond his control, and how important it is to realize that he may not be able to control the external situation, but he can control his response to it. I explained that growth comes when we learn how to accept what we cannot change and still live life with joy and peace in our hearts, no matter what we have to deal with in life.

I told him how important it is to change the way he feels about the situation by choosing to see the good in his life rather than focusing on what is not the way he wants. I explained about gratitude, and how thinking about what he is grateful for can help change his negative feelings. I asked what he is thankful for and helped by prompting the following statements—

 I am grateful for:

·  Having parents and siblings who love me

·  Having a loving home life.

·  Having my health and the ability to move and play basketball and games with my friends on the computer.

·  Having food to eat and a bed to sleep in—my own room that has awesome posters on every wall space!

I then said that if he smiled during class it would help his teacher be more hopeful! You see, as a professor myself, teaching 100% online, I, too, prefer face-to-face, but I dare not let my students feel negativity from me when many of them are struggling too! I told him his teachers are putting on a happy face to make him and his friends feel better about online schooling, but many are just as frustrated and unhappy about this as he is.

I explained that he can help his teachers by being kind and responsive and showing them that he is doing his best with a positive attitude, which will make it easier for him to get through the semester, one moment, one day at a time.

We covered a lot of ground on his ten-minute break, Afterward, he went back to his seat and smiled. The rest of the afternoon, his countenance was much more positive and confident. During our talk, I promised to do something special for him at the end of the semester if he gave his best effort with a positive attitude. He really liked that and smiled a big joyful smile!

So, if you’re still thinking, “How are we going to make it through this?”, I want to encourage you as I encouraged my grandson—take it one moment and one step at a time. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, teacher, or student, you’ve made it this far. By choosing to maintain a positive and grateful attitude, the end of the semester will be here before you know it!  Although we do not know the future and no one can promise that life will return to normal, we can hold on to hope. This too will pass, and nothing remains the same forever. The new normal of pandemic life is something we’ve never experienced before, but so is every new day we wake up to and have breath and life. We’re not there yet, but we will make it through this together.

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