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Creating a learning environment for children during social distancing

By University of Phoenix
May 07, 2020 • 2 minute read

Remember those difficult mornings of the past, rushing to get everyone ready for the day? There was a rhythm to it: Wake up, brush teeth, get dressed, pack lunches, eat breakfast, check backpacks — then out the door for another day of school and work. It was hectic, but predictable. Now this familiar routine has been completely upended by the social distancing we must practice during the coronavirus pandemic.

Needless to say, this disruption combined with the ever-present fear of contracting the illness itself can be extremely anxiety-inducing, and children are not immune to these feelings. As natural learners, children absorb much more than we may assume, including our worries, said Dr. Pamela Roggeman, Dean of the College of Education, University of Phoenix. We can help quiet their fears and ease anxiety by being intentional about our days.

“Kids emotionally rely on their routine. It gives them a sense of security,” Dr. Roggeman said. “So when we disrupt that routine, regardless of whether they are 4 or 14, it makes them uneasy.”

As parents we need to recognize this time is hard on our kids. It’s easy to assume they’re enjoying being at home, hanging out and likely seeing this as fun. But children are also having to embrace these sudden changes for an unknown period of time, just like adults. Even children who were once reluctant to go to school may be experiencing a level of anxiety about suddenly having to live and learn in the same environment.

Many adults are still trying to figure out expectations for ourselves at this point and probably haven’t effectively set or communicated expectations to our children. Dr. Roggeman suggests considering the following tips to ease the transition to learning at home and quiet anxiety created by uncertainty:

Set age-appropriate expectations and goals

Our daily schedules are likely much more fluid in these days of social distancing, and that’s okay. Setting expectations and goals doesn’t necessarily equate to a rigid pattern, which would likely just lead to more stress. Dr. Roggeman suggests setting “loose goals” with age-appropriate expectations, then holding children accountable.

Older kids, for example, could establish four loose goals per day. These could be as simple as making their bed, taking a shower, setting aside learning time and setting aside social time. For younger kids, the goals can be even more simple. Maybe set two loose goals for each day, such as setting aside learning time and active time. Talk with your kids about the expectations for the day and involve them in creating a plan to reach their goals.