Establish a daily home-school schedule. Rituals and routines reduce anxiety and distractibility. Setting expectations for a child’s day with a visual schedule can improve his/her motivation. It may be fun to create such a schedule with your child as an arts and crafts activity. Identify one quiet place in the house where your child can complete school work, and stick to that location.

Use clocks and timers. Reduce the frequency of questions such as “how much time do I have left?” Setting a kitchen timer or regularly referencing how much time is left on a clock can optimize a child’s engagement and focus. Provide 5-, 10-, and 15-minute warnings before task transitions to further promote your child’s work efficiency. For extra motivation, develop a game using the timer.

Develop a daily reward chart. Select 1 or 2 desirable behaviors you would like to see for your child during each academic task. Use stickers or other small tokens when you observe those behaviors and allow your child the opportunity to earn a daily reward. Providing numerous daily opportunities for positive reinforcement enhances a child’s self-esteem. Experts suggest creating a reward chart that will allow children to earn their daily reward at least 80% of the time.

Schedule regular breaks. Regular snack, exercise, and play breaks may help sustain your child’s energy throughout the day. Schedule a break every 30 minutes and offer your child ideas for non-screen related activities during those breaks. If you have more than one child in the house, try to schedule their breaks at the same time to reduce noise and increase joint activities.

Promote outdoor and fun activities. If possible, try to incorporate outside time, games, and social connection into your child’s day to help him/her unwind. Going on walks, riding bikes, and playing with pets are excellent ways to alleviate stress. Given the limitations of COVID-19, social time might consist of video chatting with friends online; this is not the equivalent of social media time (e.g., Instagram, TikTok, Facebook), which often can decrease a child’s mood and increase his/her sense of loneliness.

Engage in structured family time. Now is the time to improve the quality of your family interactions. Cooking family meals, reading a book together, or assigning family game nights can help you progress toward this goal. Asking each family member what they feel grateful for each day may boost morale during a time in which kids are feeling scared and overwhelmed.

Author: Meghan Smith Lawson, PhD