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Strategies for Keeping Kids Engaged During Distance Learning

June 10, 2020

The Enrollment Management Association shares some tips for supporting your students and maintaining productivity while remote learning.

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt both the world and our daily lives on a historic scale, you’ve likely discovered that your various parenting tactics are not as effective as they once were. Take heart. You’re not alone. Standard parenting books and classes don’t exactly teach homeschooling during a pandemic, they never needed to — but times have changed. In order to help your child stay focused and engaged while working from home, we’ve compiled a few useful strategies.

Establish a Schedule

Losing the comfort and familiarity of our usual routines is a significant source of stress for parents and children alike. You can help restore normalcy to your child’s daily life by recreating a sense of structure around one area, such as schoolwork:

  • Collaborate with your child to develop a daily remote learning routine, considering factors such as when and where they work best 
  • Try promoting calendar use for scheduled breaks and specific assignment sessions 
  • Use this opportunity to support your children in fostering time management skills by helping to divide more substantial assignments into manageable tasks and generating milestone “due dates” ahead of official deadlines

Strengthening these disciplines now will both prepare your kids for a successful transition back to their previous learning models and continue to benefit them throughout their educational and professional futures.

In her Psychology Today article, Helping Your Teen Succeed at Remote Learning(1), Camille S. Johnson, Ph.D., emphasizes, “Social activities are part of your teen's usual schedule” and should therefore be included in this planning. “Typically, students see friends at the beginning of the day, between classes, during lunch, and then after school.” She recommends recreating these “passing periods” when helping your child establish a distance learning routine.

Work for Short Chunks of Time

Learn to manage your and your student’s expectations for what a day of eLearning looks like — you may both be accustomed to a seven-hour school day, but it’s important to keep in mind that this generally includes organic downtime: breaks to switch subjects and change classrooms, lunch, recess, etc. Encourage children to split their time evenly between educational and extracurricular activities, as well as balancing computer time with scheduled off-screen hours. 

The Child Mind Institute suggests the use of a basic work-play format.(2) Caroline Miller explains, “Do a session of work first, then reward yourself with something relaxing,” like socializing, exercising, or entertainment. The work will still be there when you return to it, and any distractions that arise during a work session may be less tempting when a brain break is on the horizon.

Exercise and Increase Other Extracurricular Activities

Helping your child diversify their extracurricular activities is essential in maintaining incentive, motivation, and a sense of separation between schoolwork. Encourage them to try a few of the below options:

  • Explore any of the countless museums, national parks, or zoos that have opened their digital doors for virtual tours
  • Live-stream a free performance from the many musicians and comedians offering them online or via social media apps
  • Pick one of the free exercise classes currently offered by various apps and websites to try out together

In an article for Rutgers Today(3), Bev McCarron adds, “Students can take virtual tours of campuses and make lists of questions they want to ask when they’re able to visit in person.”

Above all else, it is crucial to remain patient with both yourself and your child. This massive shift to remote learning is unprecedented. Communicate with each other, periodically checking in to reassess the practices you’ve implemented. And, remember that change takes time. 


  1. Johnson, C.S. (2020, March). Helping Your Teen Succeed at Remote Learning. Psychology Today. Retrieved from  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/its-all-relative/202003/helping-your-teen-succeed-remote-learning
  2. Miller, C. (2020). Supporting Teenagers and Young Adults During the Coronavirus Crisis. Child Mind Institute Blog. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/supporting-teenagers-and-young-adults-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/
  3. McCarron, B. (2020, March). Tips for Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis at Home With Teens, Young Adults. Rutgers Today. Retrieved fromhttps://www.rutgers.edu/news/tips-navigating-covid-19-crisis-home-teens-young-adults

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