Opinion

My six-year-old is still having daily meltdowns over remote learning

I assumed I must be doing something wrong until I heard from parents in the same situation.

It’s Monday morning. I begin the countdown to prepare my six-year-old for another week of virtual school. We’re in week five of remote learning this time around. At least, I think it’s week five. Could be six. Tough to keep track since all the weeks have blurred together.

His brow furrows almost immediately and I know it’s going to be a rough start. AGAIN. I realize my stomach is in knots too.

He trudges over to the iPad and sits down. My first meeting isn’t until 9:30 so I have my laptop set up beside him so we can “go to work together.” The teachers are taking attendance and I hear the reminder for everyone to keep their cameras on. His square is black.

“Turn your camera on,” I whisper. He does but slips under the table in a fit of defiance. They call his name and he responds in a flat voice “here I am” from his seat on our ceramic floor.

I see many of his bright-eyed classmates responding excitedly to the roll call as I try to yank my guy back on his chair without looking like a criminal on camera. I’m unsuccessful (likely on both counts) and he runs over to the couch, lies down and puts a pillow over his head. It’s always this way. The frustration and panic are setting in. The clock is ticking and I don’t have time to cajole him all day. My husband is already at least an hour into calls at his new job.

“C’mon buddy, all your classmates are excited to see you. Please go back to the table,” I plead, with an edge to my voice that is probably a little too harsh.

“I don’t want to!” he yells.

“You don’t have a choice.”

And now he’s crying. Knowing I’ve caused this and that it will be almost impossible to turn things around at this point, I begin to cry too.

Not 10 minutes into distance learning and he’s already done. It’s like this every day. He knows what’s to come and no matter how amazing his teachers are (and they are), remote learning and kindergarten do not go together.

In our city, it’s looking like kids will be learning from home until the end of June. How on earth are we to negotiate two more months of this? And how can we be the only ones struggling?

We have two older boys as well and although they are better equipped to cope with e-learning, I see our ten-year-old trying to give up piano lessons (virtual now too, of course) and withdrawing more into himself, and our 13-year-old losing himself in video games. It’s tough on everyone.

Later that day I was perusing one of my Facebook moms groups (while losing focus on a video call myself), and I came across a post from another tired and frustrated senior kindergarten mom at her wit’s end. I scrolled through the comments with many echoing the same sentiments I’ve been feeling. Finding solidarity in this army of parents was a huge weight off my shoulders.

That said, realizing you’re not alone doesn’t solve the problem for two full-time working parents but it certainly made us feel less pressure. I don’t have the silver bullet here but since that fateful Monday, I have discovered a few helpful strategies that sometimes work for us.

  1. Giving our kid stuff to keep his hands busy. Lego works well for us but it could be a fidget toy or something else. Our son is able to listen, respond, and build Lego at the same time.
  2. Reaching out to our school’s Special Education Resource Teacher. They put a “busy kit” together for my son, which was mostly fun worksheets.
  3. Picking our teacher friends’ brains. One of our close friends has been gracious enough to send some great virtual activities that my son can navigate on his own.
  4. Talking to other parents. It’s not only cathartic, but they are an amazing source for tips and ideas.
  5. Giving our kid a choice, where possible. When it becomes painfully obvious that he won’t last the whole virtual day, we look at the daily or weekly schedule together and have him choose the activities for which he can commit to being “in” class and engaged.

There will be good days and bad for sure, and if your day is a $%*! show tomorrow, at least you know you aren’t alone.