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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Oefinger

Support Your Kids Academically During COVID-19 School Closures

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

Schools are closing all over the country amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Our athletic and creative outlets - sports practice, music lessons, and dance class - are all probably canceled, too. Parents and children may find themselves in the unique position of working from home... together. So how can you support your kids academically during these school closures? Here are some potentially helpful suggestions:

1) First and foremost, make space for feelings.

This is a stressful, uncertain time - for all of us. Our routines and schedules are in disarray, and the collective anxiety is very high (e.g., panic buying toilet paper). This may be an especially difficult time for children who thrive on predictable routines and/or are emotionally intuitive. So, be sure to talk about what's going and allow kids to express what's meaningful for them. The National Association of School Psychologist (NASP) posted helpful guidelines for talking with children about COVID-19. Check it out.

2) Obtain clarity on the school's expectations.

As a school employee, I know the decision to close came on really fast. This past weekend, my inbox was flooded with messages from hardworking educators trying to develop the best possible plan for their students. As expectations are identified, be sure to reach out to the school if something isn’t clear. This is new for everyone, and gaps in communication are very possible. Also consider, what will your child need to complete the assignments? Access to a laptop? Wifi? Poster board? Which assignments are mandatory? What platform (e.g., google classroom) is being used? If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, what accommodations might your child need to complete the work? Again, reach out to the school if you don't have what you need.

3) Make a schedule.

Predictable routines, visual schedules, and timers are common classroom tools. It may be helpful to write out a daily schedule with built in breaks and display it (on the fridge?). Maybe an older student can develop his/her/their schedule independently or co-create it with you. Maybe use a cell phone timer to help kids stay on task. If you are working from home, remember to consider your own work needs. Where will your work fit in? When are your conference calls scheduled? Perhaps plan for your kids to work on quiet independent learning tasks or take breaks (e.g., some screen time?) during these times.

4) Set up a quiet, consistent work space.

Students may focus best if they have a consistent, personal work space, that is quiet and free from distractions. However, if you live in the Bay Area like I do, you are probably limited on space... and your whole family might be working from home. So, with these realities, what can you do to foster productive work environments for everyone? Some things to consider: Where do your kids work best? Do they need a table? Do they work productively on the couch or in their bedrooms? Can your kids work together? Or do they work better in separate spaces? Can an older sibling help a younger sibling? How about noise-canceling headphones? White noise? Is their cell phone distracting? Setting up the "right" environment is dependent on the student and the family. Also, at this unusual time, perhaps setting up an environment that works "well enough for now" (rather than works perfectly) is a more reasonable expectation.

5) Read.

Encourage your kids to read independently. Read to them. Have them read to you. Download some audio books. Reading may be the most important thing one can do to promote his/her/their own education. Read generously during this time... and always.

6) Enjoy each other.

In these stressful times, find the opportunities to connect and experience joy with one another. Remember this is temporary. I wish you and your family health and peace.

Questions or comments about this article? Suggestions for a future topic? Reach out at

DISCLAIMER: This blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not imply nor establish any type of therapeutic relationship. It should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. If you think you need immediate assistance, call 911 or your local mental health crisis hotline.

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