REAL Advice From REAL High School Teachers: How to Support your Teens with Distance Learning Challenges


As schools around the Bay Area announced their intention to keep campuses closed for the remainder of the school year, students and parents were hit with the realization that online learning has become “the new normal.”  How can you support your teen so that they thrive in these new circumstances?

Communication is more important than ever.

Be open with your student’s academic advisor, especially around your family circumstances.  Are both parents working away or at home?  Are multiple siblings vying for the same device? Are you having difficulties with technology?  Are financial stresses or other concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the home environment?  Teachers are by nature caring, empathetic people. Share your circumstances and work together to find a solution.

Treat school like school.

When you can attend school in your pajamas, it can be easy to feel like different rules apply across the board.  But attendance and punctuality are still very important.  Work with your teen to establish a daily routine and adhere to the schedule provided by the school.  Attend virtual classes at the scheduled time, and practice standard classroom etiquette.

Virtual classroom etiquette:

So that all students get the most out of their virtual sessions, be sure they take time to prepare before class begins.  Students should gather all needed materials, and check their Internet and camera connections. Encourage your student to keep their camera ON for live meetings.  Not only does it help with social connections, it allows the instructor to ensure your student is present, and has a clear understanding of the material. Does your student feel anxious in front of the camera?  Identify their main concerns and talk through some strategies to build their comfort level.

Teens should customize their schedule to maximize the hours of the day when they feel the most focused.

Take advantage of the flexibility of distance learning and create a daily schedule that works for their own personal ‘inner clock.’  They should be realistic about the schedule they create.  How much time did your student spend working on homework previously?  The more challenged they are with organizational tasks, the more detailed their schedule should be.  Here is an example of a detailed schedule created by Learning specialist  Chanel Nijmeh, M.Ed.

Learn along!

While this is not realistic for every family, this could be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the world your teen inhabits each day.  Some of the most engaging classes tend to be in the arts and sciences, math can be a fun challenge too!  Check out this virtual Photoshop tutorial from art teacher Nazira Arnold-Kury, or try some Calculus with math teacher Keith Hubert.

And finally: Keep your student accountable.

Your teen may need more organizational and emotional support than they have in the past, but that doesn’t mean that you should be running the whole show.  Provide the kind of ‘behind-the-scenes’ toolbox they need to be successful, but know that this is a crucial time to be honing the discipline and self-advocacy skills they will need to navigate ALL the future uncertainties life will bring.

Here are even more tips for ‘Parenting Through the Pandemic’ from Alice Treves, LCSW, Social Emotional Counselor at The Marin School.