The COVID-19 pandemic disturbed the routine of schooling for most students. Students are now stuck in front of a screen instead of in a physical classroom and this has raised concerns from professionals about their mental health.
Professionals are especially worried about the change to routine and how children are coping with the new normal.
“It’s a change from their usual in-person routine,” said Raniya Syed, a Toronto-based psychotherapist and mother of two currently going through online schooling.
“Coming to terms with an unfamiliar way of doing things without a definite end date can be unsettling, anxiety-provoking, scary, overwhelming, and also plain upsetting,” Syed said in an email.
Syed said she’s noticed a change in the way her kids are dealing with the change in school environment.
“It takes a lot of motivation and discipline to study and learn virtually,” she said. “They’re easily distracted, require intentional breaks away from the screen, innovative ways of entertaining themselves and connecting with friends.”
Some days they’re too mentally or emotionally tired for school, she’s found.
The increased isolation has made people question what impacts this method of schooling will have on their kids. For Dr. Tina Montreuil, associate member of the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, the adolescent demographic is what she’s worried about.
“Adolescence is a time where [you] blossom and develop our sense of identity and purpose,” Montreuil said. “It involves being around others, our social interactions [and] social isolation is on the opposite end of that.”
Dr. Montreuil is worried about how social isolation will affect emerging adults down the road.
Tips for parents
Both Montreuil and Syed said ways of coping differs from family to family, but there are some basic ways of going about working with one’s child that can prove beneficial during quarantine life.
To combat the effects that online schooling has on students, Montreuil says teaching a child to be proactive can be beneficial, and small positive reinforcements can help as well. Remind them of their accomplishments in studying no matter how small, she advises.
Syed said kids function better with routines, so co-creating a daily schedule and designing a particular space for their virtual learning can help them cope.
Both bring up the importance of the parent’s help. Coping shouldn’t fall solely on the student and parents should be by the student’s side to make sure that everything is going well.
If the parent is lagging behind then the child will reflect what’s in front of them. For the child to succeed, parents should do their best to guide the child in the right direction.