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Oregon Family Magazine

Coping with Distance Learning Burnout

01/01/2021 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic looks and feels very different to students, teachers and parents. Long hours in front of a screen, challenges with technology and difficulty mastering new material can be overwhelming to some children.

Pediatricians are deeply concerned about kids experiencing burnout, and we’re seeing it taking a significant toll on their mental and physical health. We are treating more kids of all ages for anxiety and depression, as well as complaints of physical ailments like headaches, stomachaches, fatigue and poor sleep directly connected to school-related stress. 

I recommend these strategies for students and parents:

  • Create a schedule for schoolwork, so kids know when they will and won’t be expected to study.
  • Take frequent breaks from screen time and use those breaks to get fresh air and move your bodies — shooting a basketball or going for a walk can refresh your mind and help you concentrate.
  • Acknowledge your child’s struggles and let them know that doing school this way—under our current circumstances—is different and hard. Just knowing that parents understand can help kids feel better.
  • Praise your child’s effort more than their outcomes and give your kids (and yourself) more grace during these challenging times.
  • When you see your child losing interest in school or becoming highly stressed, reach out to their teacher as a resource.

Invest in Quality Sleep

Encourage your kids to take more time in the evening to wind down and prepare for bed. Turn off cell phones and other devices 1-2 hours before sleep. Constant interruptions from friends texting or Snapchatting can make sleep difficult. While those devices may feel calming emotionally, the blue light they emit stimulates the brain and makes it difficult to rest.

If your teen has difficulty shutting off their phone, I suggest docking it in another room before bedtime, so it’s not a disruption. If they use their phone to wake them up each morning, purchase a battery-powered alarm clock.

This is a difficult season for families. Remember to take time to have fun with your kids, to give them and yourself a break from the pressure. Encourage your kids to talk with you about how they are feeling, especially when they are sad, stressed or anxious. It’s important to protect the loving, positive relationship you have with your children, now more than ever.

If your family needs help coping with the stressors and emotions of distance learning, talk with your pediatrician. Providers at Thrive Behavioral Health are also offering one-time, hour-long sessions to help kids and parents brainstorm solutions for distance learning. Call 541-246-7263 to make an appointment. We’re here to help.