Change is difficult and can be overwhelming. The pace of change has been rapid during the past few weeks. At times we’re able to shelter our kids from change, but often that is not possible. Our kids have experienced several unexpected changes in their daily routines and lives due to the COVID-19, online classes and social distancing. What was “normal” a few weeks ago is not today. How can we help our children feel empowered through change and online learning?
Stop negative self-talk: A child should beware of their own anxiety and fear of change. Begin by asking your child to reflect on their mental messages. Have them determine if these messages are more positive or negative. Too often, kids sabotage themselves into making poor choices due to negative self-talk. They need to understand that they are what they think, and that all actions and outcomes begin with a single thought. That single thought should always be positive. Negative self-talk only brings them down.
Encourage positive words and actions: A child that listens to their own positive instincts will be better prepared to handle life’s challenges. Motivate kids to take control of their personal and academic destinations by setting and achieving realistic goals, working hard and recognizing their favorable progress.
Problem-focused coping vs. emotion-focused coping: Problem-focused coping targets the cause of the stress, allowing kids to engage in strategies that help them lessen the stressful aspects of a situation. Emotion-focused coping strategies center on the negative aspects and emotions of a stressful situation, thereby increasing their effect (with negative results). It’s best when students are solution-driven, not excuse-driven.
Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset: A student has a growth mindset when they are willing to face challenges, display resiliency, have grit and keep working despite setbacks. A student has a fixed mindset when they believe that things will never improve and that abilities are unalterable.
Validate personal feelings: When a child is heard and understood, they’ll be more willing to share their opinions and will be open to advice. Communicate a willingness to hear them by showing patience. Don’t interrupt them, but don’t be afraid of lags in the conversation either. Short pauses allow a child to gather their thoughts.
Setbacks will occur: When change is thrust upon us, we tend to “fight or flee.” This is a natural response that occurs when we view change as a threat, not a challenge. As a parent understand that these academic and lifestyle changes are also a challenge for you; take note of your personal health needs. Setbacks and frustration will occur and a mental “time out” may be a positive way to combat fatigue and overload.
A child’s attitude and emotions are a critical part of their success equation. Attitude is how a child feels about something and can be strong enough that it influences their course of action. Emotions are complex and have a notable effect on people’s lives. Kids make decisions differently based on whether they’re sad, happy, angry, bored, or frustrated, and the actions that accompany those decisions will be displayed as such. Each one factors into a child’s success. Adaptability is the notion of adjusting to new conditions. Children manage change in healthy ways by responding positively to challenges and other stressful situations, while negative reactions may prompt further challenges down the line.
Online classes, instruction, and tutoring will require students to stay focused and have a desire to learn. The achievement motive is one aspect of desire—the value of an incentive can also influence a student’s motivation to complete the task at hand. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivators are what makes a student strive or not strive to accomplish goals. Extrinsic motivators are rewards received for accomplishments like grades, positive feedback from others or a monetary allowance. Intrinsic motivators are internal rewards, such as enjoyment or personal satisfaction. This initiative starts with encouragement. Help kids find ways to self-motivate and feel pride in a job well done.
Change is part of daily life, and kids encounter some form of change each day—it’s no secret that things are changing at a far greater speed and pace than they did in the past. It’s more important than ever to bounce back, adapt, and re-assess when needed. Adaptability allows students to learn, grow, and work towards achieving their true potential and prompts flexible, positive responses when faced with personal setbacks. It is an essential skill for kids to develop and will aid them throughout their lives. As Charles Darwin wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable.”
Encouragement and support along the way will let a child know that you believe in them. If their hard work goes unnoticed, their motivation will falter. Celebrate small successes and provide helpful insights when they get off track. Remain positive and encourage them to be optimistic about their progress. Positive words and energy will help students work hard, reach their potential, and enjoy personal successes. Their motivation will increase, as will their ambition to be the best that they can be as they navigate several personal, academic and lifestyle changes.
RESOURCE: Building Blocks – A Practical Guide to Supporting Kids and Teens with Learning Disorders and Academic and Behavioral Challenges by Vikki Carrel (release date: mid-April)
About the author
Academic Language Therapist, Multi-book Author, National Speaker
Vikki empowers people! She is an Academic Language Therapist, multi-book author and a national speaker. Vikki grew up in Salt Lake City, met her husband at the University of Utah, and has owned several companies across the United States. In 2010, Vikki and her husband moved back to Utah from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and she founded Vikki Carrel & Company, a speaking and training organization. Read more about the author