Not coping well with online school
Question of the Day:
“Yesterday our superintendent said the re-opening plan for January isn’t going to happen, I’m just feeling sick this morning. Private schools have been on a hybrid model for months. At this point there are no more acceptable excuses. This is horrible for our kids.
A few months back in march when nobody knew what we were dealing with, a national health emergency, totally understandable and fine but it’s been 10 months now. I wake up with a headache almost everyday because I too am bearing this as I am continually advocating for a child of mine who’s totally anxiety ridden, has no outlet, no activity, isolated and has a learning disability and an IEP. She should be getting the education she is entitled to.
Getting our children back to school should be a TOP priority. Give the teachers what they’re asking for to go back safely. Find the money to do it. Who decided education wasn’t an essential business and our educators are not essential workers?”
Parent Educator Answer:
First let me acknowledge how hard this pandemic has been, especially on teenagers. When you are feeling this overwhelmed, the first thing a life coach would do is to help you separate the facts so it feels more manageable.
The facts are: your daughter has an IEP, a diagnosed learning challenge, and hasn’t been getting the educational support you expected her to receive this year, is that right? You also mentioned your daughter has anxiety and lacks a social outlet. It has been announced that your public schools will continue distance learning for winter of 2021.
These are neutral circumstances. Distance learning. IEP. anxiety. What’s causing your frustration are your thoughts ABOUT these circumstances.
When you can separate these things out, it’s easier to notice that in-person school with masks and plexi-shields, probably won’t fix her anxiety, or give her much social outlet. It might not even help her catch up academically.
Like many kids have discovered this year, online school is not a great fit for her learning style. I imagine every kid will ‘fall behind’ in some way or another.
If I was to choose one thing to focus on based on my education and experience, the most important thing for your daughter is her mental health and self identity.
Developmentally, teens should be pulling away from mom and dad, and spending more time with their peers. This is the age where they learn how to adapt and fit in with their culture. Typically this age is about development of the ego. “Who am I?” “How do I fit in?” “How do I identify myself?”
Teen identity is one of the most important developmental milestones to achieve during these years. Identifying with a group helps create a safe space to move away from the familial nest. Without this safe group, independence can feel scary and overwhelming.
Adolescent identity comes from trying out different roles in different situations. Typically, kids have school, home, social settings and jobs to provide environments to explore their values, belief systems, sexuality, gender and personal ethics.
Although school is OFTEN an avenue for teens to figure out who they are, it is not the ONLY place for teens to figure out who they want to be.
Social media is a double edged sword but it can be a great place to find people expressing values you like and want to align with. When you remove teens from the social constructs of middle school, they might find they identify as a non-binary, anti-racist, born again Christian who advocates for the environment and loves jazz. It doesn’t matter if the identity sticks, she just needs a group where she can feel safe to help her bridge the gap towards independence.
For me, high school was very overwhelming. I survived by making myself invisible. The environments that were more helpful in forming my identity were babysitting jobs, volunteer work, and teen romance novels. I was a highly sensitive extrovert so I found socializing easier within the context of work. Tell me what to say and I’ll say it. Surround me with children and there is less pressure and more acceptance.
I would help your daughter focus on building a healthy ego and identity.
Every experience in life is here to teach us more about who we are. What has online school taught her that she needs more of, and less of? Does she need more structure and less computer time? More accountability and less sitting?
Can you help her identify her learning style? How does she learn best? What does she find herself gravitating towards? What have been her favorite TV shows and why? Does she find herself using her hands to create? Does she love having her pets with her all day? What does she miss?
This year is an incredible opportunity for all of us to step away from cultural programming and get really clear on who we are and what we value.
As she learns more about what she likes, she can start looking for activities and opportunities that align with the identity she wants to grow into.
Life Coaching Answer:
You cannot do this work for her, or save her from her negative emotions.
I remember when my son was struggling with strange symptoms that no one could figure out. I felt lonely and scared. I tried so hard to help him but spent a lot of time feeling powerless. I often slipped into the Karpman triangle, otherwise known as the drama triangle.
The drama triangle has three players: villain, victim, and hero
I saw my son and I as victims. Western medicine was my villain since they couldn’t diagnose him. I was DESPERATELY looking for a hero. Each new practitioner brought renewed hope that he or she would be able to rescue us from victimhood. I was mad at my husband for not being the hero.
I remember the day I switched roles from victim to hero. I was racing to pick up another prescription from yet another doctor, certain THIS would be the answer to all our problems. When I got to the pharmacy, I found out it was called in to the wrong pharmacy and I had 15 minutes to drive across town and pick it up before it closed. I was LIVID. My heart was pounding as I ranted and raved in my car, racing to get there on time.
On the drive there, a thought popped into my head. “I was made for days like this.” I left my victim mindset behind, put on my Supermom cape and set out to “rescue” my son from his problems. Feeling like the hero who was rescuing her son felt WAY better than feeling helpless so I decided from now on, I would be the greatest, most resourceful mom on the planet. I would figure this out and be the hero.
But in order for me to be the hero, my son had to become the victim. Luckily, he did not tolerate this role for very long and “fired me” when he turned 14.
Once I was no longer allowed to play the role of hero, I felt lost and confused. Until I took all the lessons I was learning and turned it into my class called “Leading Your Teen”, helping other moms who get stuck in the drama triangle with their teenagers.
You can see this drama triangle playing out in politics, in fairy tales, in friendships. It makes for compelling storylines and dramatic reality TV shows, but it’s exhausting and pulls us into our lower selves.
To solve problems from your higher self, you need to shift out of the drama triangle and into the empowerment triangle. The empowerment triangle has three roles: Creator, challenger and coach.
Change the role of victim, to that of creator. Creators take responsibility for the circumstances they have control over and use their creativity to make something new that may have never existed before. Instead of seeing your daughter as the victim, believe in her ability to rise to the occasion. Hold a higher vision for her, believing she can create the life she wants, no matter what is happening with school.
The villain becomes the challenger. If online school becomes the challenge, it offers healthy pressure to create a breakthrough. In sports, there is no blame placed on the opposing team, no matter how dominant they may be. You just focus on the challenge in front of you and utilize what resources you have. Kids often learn what they DON’T like and want, before they learn what they DO like, so if nothing else, this challenging year has helped with that.
The hero becomes the coach. Coaches don’t try to fix anyone. They see everyone as fully empowered creators of their own lives and support them in taking responsibility for what they most want. It can be very frustrating to try and play the hero in your kids’ lives because there is so much you don’t have control over and teens don’t like to be disempowered in that way. By becoming the coach, you get to support, encourage, offer guidance and have a lot more fun.
Supermom Kryptonite: The drama triangle
Today’s Supermom Kryptonite is the drama triangle because it can be so draining, frustrating, exhausting and keep you stuck in it. We get so used to living with high drama that it seems boring or empty to live without it. This makes us hold onto it and find new avenues for us to get the adrenaline rush of heroic drama.
We can feel a sense of belonging and righteousness by aligning with an extreme political party who believes in the victim, villain, hero mindset.
We can have conflictual family relationships when we are looking to stay in the drama triangle. We quit our jobs, hoping to find something better, only to end up right back in the same situation.
Learning to let go of the victim, villain, hero mindset and shift into creator, challenger, and coach may feel weird and different, but the energy you gain by being empowered is worth the trade off.
Supermom Power Boost: Conversation Cards
Are you getting bored of your family dinner conversations? Or maybe you eat in front of the TV because dinner conversations are so unpleasant. Or maybe you dread dinner time because everyone ends up bickering.
If any of these sound familiar, I’m going to recommend you buy a box of conversation topics. There are many different brands but you can keep a box on the kitchen table or take them in the car. It’s a great way to get to know more about your kids, how they think and open up new topics of discussion.
If you are wanting to be a part of the solution for the political divide in our country, this is a fun way to do it. The goal of conversation cards isn’t to come to consensus and agree, it’s to explore topics with no right or wrong answer.
Would you rather live in a tree house or on a boat? Do you know how both sets of grandparents met? What was the best part of your day? What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
When you use conversation cards with your kids, it shows them you care about who they are, what they think and how they feel. The basic need all kids have is to feel seen, heard and felt by their parents. Plus, it makes dinner time more interesting and teaches your kids good conversation skills.
Quote of the Day:
“Part of the adventure here is not just developing creativity in kids, but thinking about school in a different way.” Sir Ken Robinson