As this “temporary” situation has turned into extended weeks with no end in sight, I’ve been hearing from more and more parents that they’re really struggling with homeschooling. The pressures of parents working, kids’ assignments and juggling multiple classes is mounting, and parents’ nerves are fraying.
The very first message that I want to share is that you know your child best, and you have to do what is right for your family at this time. If e-learning and completing math assignments aren’t working for you right now and it’s become a daily battle, discuss alternatives with the teacher and do what works for your family, guilt-free. Your relationship and connection with your child are worth more than any elementary grade school report card could ever be. In our house, we’ve chosen to focus on a few core subjects and the rest is optional enrichment if the kids want to try it out. An occasional off day is to be expected - on those days, we let go of the school expectation, and spend more time on free play and relaxing.
If you’re finding that the schoolwork battle is happening daily and it’s intense for you & your child, it could be a sign that your child is experiencing some level of anxiety, either about the work expectations or the pandemic situation as a whole.
IS YOUR CHILD AVOIDING WORK?
Anxiety often shows up as avoidance. They may be feeling so overwhelmed with all the changes in their daily lives, that they don’t have any emotional reserves remaining to handle the challenge of learning new material. They may be avoiding stress by:
- Avoiding work they feel will be challenging
- Excessive self-imposed pressure to get their work “perfect”
- Unwillingness to try in because of fear of making a mistake
Avoidance can become a habit that your child relies on to cope with their stress - its a chicken & egg situation because if they avoid the task, they don’t have to face the challenge that causes the stress. But the more they avoid it, the more stressful the challenge seems next time.
COULD IT BE ANOTHER FACTOR?
Sometimes other factors related to anxiety could be leading them to have trouble with their school work or even regular chores at home.
LACK OF FOCUS
Repetitive and persistent worrying might be making it difficult for them to focus. I call it monkey mind - the ongoing chattering of worrisome thoughts, that makes it overwhelming and often impossible to think about anything else.
- Could be about a current situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, or could be a completely different topic but might still be brought on by the uncertainty of the current times
- Younger children especially might not be able to identify it immediately but may complain of feeling sick or tummy aches
- Difficulty sitting still
- Repetitive motions or movements because of nervous energy
We know that as adults when we’re worried about something, it can affect our performance and productivity. The same is true for our kids’ minds. When you talk to them about their worry and help them narrow it down, the worry may not be realistic but regardless, remember that the worry feels very real.
Trouble Sleeping affecting energy and ability to concentrate
- Might become more dependent on your support for sleep, even if they’ve been sleeping independently for a while
- Trouble falling asleep and remaining asleep
- May complain of nightmares
- May use various tactics to delay sleep or bedtime
Lack of sleep might be the hardest effect of anxiety because it affects every other function of our lives. If your child’s sleep pattern and behaviour have recently changed, consider whether anxiety is a contributing factor in that change.
Anxiety is a part of life, that can serve to protect us, but can also be limiting if we don’t have tools to manage it. Teaching your child to handle, tolerate and confidently manage their anxious emotions can be a great service to them. Using this guided journal as a conversation prompt or a written outlet can be a low-risk way for them to practice coping strategies. You can help your child build the resilience, tools and skills to deal with anxiety whenever it occurs, so they can confidently show up for life.
Studies show that as many as 1 in 8 children are affected by an anxiety disorder. If you think your child would benefit from support from a mental health professional, talk to your primary care provider, and access one of these resources:
IN CANADA -
Crisis Support - Kids Help Phone - Text "CONNECT" to 686868
IN THE US -
Crisis Text Line - Text “HELLO” to 741741