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Effects of the Pandemic on Children and Caregivers

Has the pandemic upset your sense of identity, leaving you afraid and unsure what you’re supposed to do?

Some people are affected more than others. Those struggling with poverty, lack of technology, poor health, disability, language barriers, and unstable social situations are among those hardest hit. And children. Education, the key to personal and societal advancement, is in shambles. Students who were already in need of special attention are now more vulnerable than ever.

Disoriented with their own disrupted lives, anxious parents – often single parents – are challenged how to effectively cope with their children’s educational and social needs. Sonya Thomas, Executive Director for a community group that focuses on black parents, sadly comments that “We almost need a disaster plan for education.”

How People Learn

Have you ever tried to train a cat, dog, horse, or bird? Children are very much like animal species in that way, each one an individual. Visual learning includes observing scenes and actions as well as experiencing visual reinforcement after initially comprehending a relationship or skill. Who performs the action has an impact, depending on how the student feels about the one doing the demonstrating.

For many, learning improves with data presented orally or accompanied by sound effects. Scientists as well as individuals attest to the positive and negative effects of music on human engagement. Imagine playing games with no cheers or balloon bursts!

Other students need to shadow an expert performing a task before they themselves try it. Some students like to “just do it” to break through their apprehension. They get the hands-on feel of the task first before integrating individualized constructive review.

Finally, most prefer a combination of methods to reinforce learning in a multi sensorial fashion. Studies on optimum learning involve additional factors such as time of day, comfort, freedom to move about for bathroom and exercise breaks, room temperature, noise level, aesthetic appeal of the learning environment, the degree of solitude or presence of companions, and the individual student’s emotional state.

Barriers to Learning

Think back on a dreaded visit with your healthcare provider to hear test results. Your emotions deafened much of the talking. Your mind raced as it struggled to grasp possible consequences. When you walked outside later, how much did you actually remember? How often did you refer back to the paperwork? This example demonstrates many barriers to learning. Being an adult, though, you’re aware of your options: you can drive to the library, search online, and contact other people.

If you’re a child, however, you’re basically dependent on your caregiver. If your caregiver is hostile, impaired, absent, isolated, transportation-impaired, or computer-illiterate, then your ability to learn is choked. Children are not miniature adults. Significant barriers to childhood learning include the following:

  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Anxiety
  • Shame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Home situations such as poverty, another family member’s chronic health condition, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, disregard for the value of education, military deployment, foster care or adoption, separation or divorce, or death
  • Social situations such as cyberbullying, racial discrimination, or high neighborhood crime rates

Challenges With Virtual Schooling

Virtual learning is a helpful supplement to in-person learning but presents many problems when it is the only learning option. For many months, not enough data was available to analyze. Disturbing reports are now showing that thousands of students are falling behind or not even showing up. Almost half of all low-income parents don’t have or use computers. Many have old devices or lack high-speed internet. 

Math learning is the most severely impacted, a fact that will affect generations to come in our increasingly science-oriented society. Math concepts build upon previously taught concepts so any delay prevents advancement. Unlike with reading, casual opportunities to practice math skills are generally non-existent.

For students with disabilities, the absence of classroom learning and peer support interferes with basic skills such as socialization, accessing public transportation, staying safe in public, and using money.

Social isolation is one of the most severe challenges with virtual learning. Because cameras are not regularly used due to privacy laws or preferences, students frequently don’t even know what their classmates look like. Student conversation, a healthy way to develop peer interaction, is severely limited. Many find their motivation to learn impeded by loneliness compounded by classes of pre-recorded lectures and technology glitches. Students report missing live interaction between the instructors and other students.

Educators often voiced the feeling that leadership is absent and that students “are going feral.”

Enhancing Learning

When students have a fast internet connection and a stable home life with their basic needs met, they can all learn more easily. The most effective teaching by far is individualized to each learner. Making students feel like a valued member of a team or community is proven to be highly motivating, especially when enlivened by live, responsive interactions. To add variety, successful teachers use online gaming and social media to further apply the curriculum topics to real life.

Contemporary educational plans incorporate caregivers and family members as part of the learning team. They offer literacy opportunities and workshops, even shared read-aloud activities and weekly celebrations of some kind to give everyone something to look forward to.

What You Can Do

It’s critical that your child has regular visits with a pediatrician because he or she can spot many life-changing conditions invisible to you:

  • Cognitive learning disabilities that might include autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, neurological conditions, or traumatic brain injuries of unknown cause
  • Speech or language disorders
  • Hearing and visual impairments
  • Chronic pain from orthopedic or other invisible causes
  • Sleep disorders
  • Nutrition and thirst
  • Inadequately managed conditions such as asthma, allergies, and type 1 diabetes
  • Undiagnosed mental illness

Go easy on yourself and be patient. We weren’t taught how to live like this; your children will look to you how to deal with a crisis. You demonstrate that it’s part of the normal course of life to gather information, make a plan, and adjust the plan as needed. Flexibility is not failure but a basic principle of survival.

Understand that each child is an individual changing through the lifespan just as you. Keep the lines of communication open with your kids. Listen to their opinions on improving remote instruction. Practice techniques of enhancing learning.

Finally, accept that you can’t do it all by yourself. And you don’t have to. Explore the availability of tutoring from experienced professionals.

Bridging The Gap With Tutors

Tutoring companies in DC can help the entire family dynamic. Students, caregivers, teachers, and quality tutors are able maintain open lines of communication so everyone is included on the team. Empowered to define their personal goals and to self-pace their learning, students can take ownership of their education. Tutors are trained to build students’ self-confidence and independence as well as widening the path to a love of learning. They also have expertise in problem-solving when complications arise with a difficult teacher-child fit.

Having a tutor gives families more control of their own lives, enabling them to make more effective use of time. As the pressure lessens, so does frustration and tension.

The pandemic chaos is slowly being controlled. We have the responsibility and know-how to enable our children to rise above it with the foundation of a good education. Competent tutoring companies in DC will bridge the gap to a good future.