Adjusting back to face-to-face learning after Remote Learning will be a bigger hurdle for some students than others. Some may need a little TLC from teachers and parents. It has been a strange and challenging time for many adults and the same goes for many teenagers. Even the most highly organised teenager who has excelled during Remote Learning will need to re-adjust once back in the classroom. Not to worry. Parents can do a lot to help teenagers re-adjust and forge on successfully.
Here are some strategies parents can use to support teenagers as they transition back to face-to-face learning.
Give your teenager time to get back to ‘normal’ after Remote Learning. How much time will your teenager need to settle back into the swing of ‘normal’ schooling? Every teen is different. Some teenagers may arrive home on top of the world after face-to-face learning resumes. Others may come home in the weeks and months following lockdown looking upset, worried or even angry. Some will have discovered that they are behind with work and have not coped as well as they believed. Others may find that friendships have shifted and that a former best friend has remotely teamed-up with other friends.
Importantly, some teenagers will not magically switch back to their pre-Remote Learning selves. They will simply be different and, in some ways, changed by having living through this strange period in our history. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is important for parents to look and openly acknowledge the positive changes and then address changes that are not so pleasing.
The best advice is to watch carefully to see how your teen is travelling. Watch for changes in mood. Typical signs that all is not well are fairly easy to pick up on. Here are the most common signs:
- Uncharacteristic behaviour of any kind
- Moodiness or easily moved to tears
- Reluctance to discuss school or friends
- Loss of appetite, looking more tired than usual
- Loss of interest in hobbies and interests
- Academic results taking a dive
- Wanting to miss school or not looking at all happy about getting ready for school each day
If you feel that something has upset your teenager, try to find a good time to sensitively broach the issue. “What’s it like being back? I guess some things have changed… What’s good about being back?”
Acknowledge it has been hard
Teenagers who have struggled due to being away from friends and teachers may greatly appreciate some genuine acknowledgment of this from parents/guardians. As a parent, let them know that you have also missed seeing colleagues and friends every day and have perhaps found adjusting to new technology a challenge. Say that you understand how hard this time has been for your teenager.
Encourage your teenager to focus on the positives
Teenagers need to learn that there are negatives and positives in all situations and that’s life. Praise the areas your teenager has excelled in and help him focus on the positives of returning to face-to-face learning. Face-to-face learning requires us to work alongside students and teachers who may be very different and require us to be patient, tolerant and respectful despite the fact that we disagree with many of their opinions and actions. If possible, make mention of the fact that the ability to get along with all kinds of people is a vital life and employment skill. Getting back to face-to-face learning is preparing teenagers for tertiary studies and the wider world where they will almost always need to work alongside others.
Acknowledge your teen’s achievements
Every teenager should be congratulated for having made it through Remote Learning with the cloud of the Covid hanging over them every day. Teenagers who felt lost, confused or found Remote Learning a struggle may benefit from a ‘You-made-it’ pat on the back. “We are really impressed with the way you handled this strange time…”.
If your teenager has completed most of the set work during Remote Learning and has attended most classes, he again deserves a ‘Well done’ message.
Many teenagers have had to become more self-starting and self-motivating due to the Remote Learning situation and these are wonderful life-skills which will help them right through life and certainly during tertiary studies. If your teen has shown the ability to organise time, attend Remote Learning classes on time and submit work as required, praise them for showing initiative.
During lockdown, many adults had days when they felt down, worried and emotionally drained with the constant news of Covid intruding into every day and many sleepless nights. They have had to actively look for ways to pick up their spirits. Teenagers have experienced similar ups and downs. If your teenager has managed to hold onto a sense of humour and an optimistic outlook through Remote Learning, make sure you say how impressed you are with this.
Work with the school
If your teen doesn’t adjust and his spirits don’t pick up after a few weeks or so, don’t hesitate to contact the school. School counsellors may be able to subtly find an opportunity to speak to your teenager and work out what is going wrong. If you have a close relationship with your teenager, talk things over. Acknowledge that this has been an unusual and challenging time for everyone. Talk about how you feel too. Rather than contacting the school yourself, you could suggest that your teen has a chat with a school counsellor. A counsellor may have advice that could help. It is so important that teenagers see asking for support as ok.
But when you make contact with teachers, remember that they have also had a stressful and challenging time during Remote Learning. Many teachers will be very tired and worried about their students. They will be wondering who has coped and who hasn’t. Is Simon unhappy being back at school because he loved being at home? Will he be unwilling to adjust back to listening to instructions and following these as directed? Will Sandra be lost because she found it really hard to study at home? Will she give up and start acting out in class to cover not being able to keep up? There will be many issues confronting teachers in every class so be supportive if you need to approach your teen’s teachers. They will certainly want to help you and your teenager as much as humanely possible. But these things can take time…
Support school rules
Some students may find it difficult to get back to following the rules at their school. After being able to wear what they please for so long during Remote Learning, some students are reluctant to wear school uniforms as directed and remove jewellery, makeup or even shave beards!
Remind your teenager that rules are rules. Parents who return to work after Covid restrictions cease will also have to dress as the company expects and respect other workplace norms. Encourage your teenager to focus on more important issues and let the unimportant issues go.
Some students may miss the independence they tasted while being at home and find it difficult to stop talking and follow instructions in class. Teachers are aware of this and are generally very patient but there is a limit to what they can accept. For the class to get on top of areas of work some students may have found challenging as well as move on with new work, all students must readjust and respect classroom norms such as not speaking when the teacher is explaining work.
Keep an eye on assessed work
Some students have indeed fallen behind in certain subjects, particularly those they may not have previously enjoyed or have found challenging. It is always harder to get down to work in particular subjects.
If your teenager falls into this category, have a chat to him about a positive way forward. Teachers are very much aware of students in this boat and are always happy to offer support. Suggest that your teenager approaches teachers to ask for some help with areas of the work that are difficult rather than simply waiting and hoping things will improve. Perhaps suggest that she sends a quick email to the teacher. Taking action early can save a lot of unnecessary angst.
But make sure that your teenager accepts that there is no easy solution and that extra effort will have to be devoted to a particular subject if he is to conquer it.
It is always a great idea for parents to know how their teenagers are going at school in every subject. Sometimes schools even post results progressively. The disruptive school year students have just faced provides parents with the perfect opportunity to ask their teenagers how they are going now that they are back at school. “How did your test go? When do you get the results back? What did the teacher say about that assignment?” If results have dropped, be understanding. “Look it’s been very different studying remotely. Give it time. You’ll catch up.”
Keep an eye on your teen’s health
Stress can wreak havoc with our immune system. Most teenagers will feel a little uncertain about some aspect of returning to face-to-face learning. Those who are very worried or nervous may need a little extra TLC. It is very important that your teenager has adequate sleep and a good diet to have the energy to cope well with the ups and downs.
Look for ways to move forward
The time spent in Remote Learning may have exposed areas of need or strength in your teenager’s academic or emotional life. If your teenager has shown that she can’t study unless supervised by teachers, it might be a good idea to subtly help her develop greater independence and self-motivation. These skills will be required in senior years at school and in tertiary studies. Find opportunities for her to take responsibility for herself and develop greater independence. However, if your teenager has demonstrated the ability to manage his time well in the relatively unsupervised Remote Learning time, acknowledge this and find opportunities for him to take on even greater responsibilities at home.
If your teenager has been quite negative or has emotionally crumbled during Remote Learning, find ways for him to gradually stand on his feet and make decisions for himself. Model a glass-half-full outlook and focus on the positives in day-to-day conversations with the family about issues in the media or issues affecting family members.
The teenager years are not easy and Covid 19 has sometimes drawn our attention to aspects of our teenager’s personality or study skills that we may not have previously noticed. This can prompt parents and teachers to offer support where it is most needed. Above all, Remote Learning has been a tough time for many students so offer praise wherever possible and above all praise effort rather than results.