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August 20, 2020

When Your Teen Resists Online Schooling During Covid

The options from our local school districts

It seems that most parents are being provided the option of their child returning part-time in-the-classroom or full-time online. However, it seems that most of the elementary schools are more prone to offer full-time in-the-classroom while most high schools are offering part-time in-the-classroom and part-time online. It appears that a difficulty establishing what is deemed to be safe ‘social distancing’ at the high school level is the rationale for not offering full-time in-school programming.

My position

Not that my position is the end-all, but as a Clinical Child and School Psychologist with over 30-years of experience, I have clearly found, in the absence of an underlying medical condition, our kids need to be back, full-time, in the classroom. I can’t seem to find any medical “science” that suggests otherwise and behavioral health ‘science’ as well as my experience as a psychologist, with my own kids, and in talking to all of you who are parents of kids, unequivocally sites the damage to kids from not being educated in the classroom. It is quite frustrating for me, as a child advocate, and parent, to see how this is playing out. I have any number of opinions as to why this is happening but, rather, I will focus today’s post on how to make this situation somewhat workable, especially when your teen resists.

If your child is in school full-time

If your child is in elementary school and going to school full time, then you’re all set. We trust that the powers-that-be will not change course, and your focus will be on your child returning to school and preparing for the change in routine from the summer. I’ve written a lot on that subject, so simply see my prior posts on preparing your child for the routine of school

However, you’ll also need to prepare your child for wearing a mask (often only until they are in their assigned seat with social distancing but it seemed the rules and mandates and changing almost daily). If your child has sensory issues, you can experiment with different materials used to make the mask, and increase the time allotted, at home, for mask-wearing to practice and increase tolerance. This could include beginning wearing the mask only 30 seconds, then one minute, then two…. Of course, the mask can feature a favorite super-hero and even be part of a full costume, if necessary, to promote cooperation.

What if my child is only in-the-school part-time?

The back-and-forth between in-the-classroom and on-line is a notable challenge. As a parent, you’ll need to establish the ground rules for online days.

In that respect, you’ll need to determine, most importantly:

  •   Where will the online programming take place? If your child is in high school, they may want to work in their room, in their bed, and/or on their phone, as opposed to your preference of them working in the kitchen or some family area where you can monitor, on their laptop or desktop, dressed/groomed and ready-for-the-day.
  • If the schooling is asynchronous, which refers to not being Live or in-the-moment but, rather, posted assignments your child completes at his or her leisure, then even more oversight and monitoring are needed to ensure the work is getting done. Again, it’s strongly advised that the work is done in an area where the parent or guardian can provide oversight and monitoring, the completed work is reviewed by the parent, and there is weekly contact with the teacher to ensure the work is being done to satisfaction. By the way, in my professional opinion, asynchronous programming, in my estimation, is the worst and least useful for most of our kids unless your child is a super self-learner and highly motivated and self-directed. Otherwise, keeping your child focused, motivated, and invested, without a teacher actually teaching, can be quite a challenge.
  • If online and there is no teacher (asynchronous), you may consider scheduled breaks but not before a specific amount of work is completed. You may need to plan for extra 1:1 attention, or at least checking-in every 15 to 30 minutes depending on the age or maturity level of your child.

How do I enforce?

A big challenge is enforcing these rules on your high school student. In that respect, your teen may have ideas about how online and asynchronous learning should be carried out, while you have very different ideas. The goal, as with all matters when dealing with a teen, is to have an open conversation with your teen and attempt to reason with him or her. When dealing with a teen, we try, above all else, to avoid relying on punishments and, rather, rely on talking things out and coming to a compromise. In that absence of finding common-ground, your left with other options including trying to get his friends to offer a positive influence. In that respect, maybe your teen’s friends and their parents have already come to an agreement that online schooling should be in a family area with monitoring and not in their room. In that respect, peer’s plans are vital to potentially coming to an agreement.

In the absence of Common Ground

If you can’t come to an agreement with your teen, then you’re left playing some hardball. In dealing with teens, it’s always best to work together, compromise, and attempt to come to a common ground. However, if that does not occur, then at some point you simply dig-in and 'do what you have to do. In most instances, these days, that involves shutting down access to the phone or video games on days of in-home schooling unless they acquiesce. Your kiddo won’t be happy, but you have limited options unless you're okay with indulging your teen's wishes.

If your teen agrees

If your teen is on board with the program, then you’re all set. Schooling is scheduled to begin at a particular time, in a specific location in the home, and carried out for a certain number of hours with planned breaks. If your child has some special needs, you’ll plan the breaks and level of oversight accordingly. You’ll likely need to check-in with the teacher on a regular basis; granted, we want our teens to be independent and for us to intervene as little as possible. However, it does not always work out that way and, in all fairness, it’s far easier to lose track of assignments and tests via an online format, than when a student is face-to-face with the teacher.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

I certainly hope this challenging time goes smoothly; in fact, some kids thrive in an online format. However, many do not, so we have to prepare accordingly. Think about how your child is likely to respond, and plan this out; don't wait till the last minute.

In my next post, I’ll show you how to get control of your child's or teen's video game and phone without getting into a wrestling match.

In the meantime, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out at These are challenging times. God-speed in venturing through this situation, it being resolved quickly and favorably, and all our kids, if we so choose, getting back to school in-the-classroom on a full-time basis.

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