What Can I Do To Make My Shy Child More Confident?

Do you have a child that looks down at the ground around unfamiliar places, has a difficult time speaking in social situations, or watches other children play instead of joining in? If so, you may have a shy child. There are many positive traits and qualities of being shy such as thinking before you act and being modest. While we want to embrace these qualities, we also want to make sure we are encouraging our children to become confident individuals as they grow older. Below are some tips on how to make a shy child more confident.

Let your child speak and don’t interrupt

A lot of well-intentioned parents often jump in and finish their child’s sentences or often speak for them. Doing this hinders your child’s confidence. It sends them a signal that what they are saying must not matter or be of interest. Hold off until your child is done speaking before you share your insight.

Schedule one-on-one playdates

One-on-one playdates are one of the best ways to build social confidence for children. While it’s difficult to do during this pandemic, you can still schedule one-on-one virtual playdates. These one-on-one playdates limits interruptions and helps shy kids get more comfortable in social situations. Once you have started with well controlled situations, you can then move on to small groups.

Rehearse social situations

Before going to a play date or a social event, provide as much details as you can about the situation. This will give your child some idea of what to expect. Practice going over how to meet someone, what to say, table manners, how to say goodbye, etc. Role play with your child to help build their confidence and give them concrete examples to use.

Listen when your child is speaking

Listening means giving your full attention to your child without interruption or criticism. It is natural for kids to want to share. When they feel that you’re listening, they will feel safe to speak up.

Encourage eye contact

It’s important for your child to get comfortable with eye contact. When you’re talking to your child, make it a rule that they need to look you in the eye. By reinforcing this behavior and modeling it, your shy child will soon get comfortable with it. If it’s really uncomfortable for your child to look someone in the eye, have them look at the bridge of the speaker’s nose.

Give praise

We all love compliments, especially children. When they receive them, it makes them feel good and want to receive more. If you praise them for speaking out, it means they will be more inclined to speak up in the future.

Check in with yourself

As you know, our children are constantly watching us and modeling our behavior. Where do you lie on the shy scale? Are you modeling shy behaviors for your child without knowing? If so, try and work on modeling confident behavior when you’re in social settings with your child. 

Remember, the goal is not to turn your child into someone they are not. It is to equip them with the tools needed to grow in confidence as they learn to navigate this world.

Positive Parenting: There’s No Such Thing As Perfect Parenting

While we all strive to be the best parent possible, we must throw out the idea that we have to be “perfect.” Perfect parenting does not exist. There are going to be days when you’ll have the patience to speak softly and kindly to your child and shower them with hugs and kisses. There are also going to be days when you will lose your patience over the smallest thing your child does, and you’ll raise your voice. Guess what, both scenarios are okay.

While we don’t want to lose our patience with our children, it’s important to give yourself a break and remind yourself that you’re human. You are going to have strong emotions whether you like it or not. It’s how you learn to deal with those emotions that matters.

It’s okay to struggle

There’s no handbook for parenting. One strategy may work one day and not the next, and it’s going to be frustrating. Instead of expecting yourself to be a superhero, expect yourself to be super-normal. Showcasing your struggles will model for children that even grown-ups face adversity.

It’s okay to feel exhausted

Parenting is a 24/7 job without many breaks. Rather than feeling guilty or frustrated about feeling exhausted, admit to yourself that you are worn down and find ways to get back on track. Find time to indulge in some self-care activities to hit the restart button.

It’s okay to apologize
You are going to do things that you won’t be proud of. That’s parenting. When this happens, make sure to sit your child down and sincerely apologize for your behavior. Let them hear about your frustrations and how you were feeling in that moment. Your children will learn to model this behavior and it will help create a long-lasting trust between you both.

It’s okay to ask for help

There may come a time when you’ll need to ask for help and in no way does this mean you’re failing at parenting. We all need help. Acknowledging that parenting is no easy task and that there will be many bumps in the road, will make it easier for you to seek out help. Doing so will help you feel less isolated and more supported.

It’s okay to make mistakes

As a parent you can and will make mistakes. When this happens, give yourself a break and embrace those moments as learning opportunities. Children are resilient and forgiving and they will learn to grow from their mistakes. Parents need to do the same.

We all know you’re doing your best as a parent. Trust your instincts. You know more than you think you do, and you know your child best. Throw out the notion that there is a “perfect child” or a “perfect parent”. We all have flaws and you’re not alone. Many parents will be the first to admit that their child or their parenting is nowhere near perfect.

The Constant Homework Struggle: How Parents Can Ease the Pain

One thing all parents are bound to face with their child is homework resistance. It’s inevitable. While parents will have a hard time avoiding this, there are many strategies parents can do to minimize this friction and struggle.

Parents need to understand the why. Why is it that your child doesn’t want to do homework? What is the roadblock? Is it because your child doesn’t understand the topic or is it because there’s something else on your child’s mind that is inhibiting them from focusing? As parents, we need to become detectives and find the underlying problem. Rather than making assumptions about your child and what we think is their “unwillingness” to do their homework, instead, try to step back and ask questions, listen for cues, and focus on understanding where your child is coming from. Just like how we talk about being an emotional scientist, this is the time to be just that.

Here are some tips to help ease the homework struggle.

Establish a Homework Hour

Half the battle is getting your child to understand that homework is just another part of their life and routine. This can be done by establishing a set time in their schedule that is designated for homework. This hour should be a quiet time in the whole house. That means everyone, including parents, should be having quiet time.

Be Positive

Make sure you give frequent encouragement and praise their effort, not their smartness or their innate ability. Praise every improvement, not every mistake. Know that there will be setbacks and understand that those are the times to stay positive. Remember there will be times you’ll need to reset for the following day after a difficult day. It’s all normal.

Change the Setting

It’s hard for kids to focus at home. Think about ALL the distractions there are, iPad, laptops, TV, toys, the list goes on. Now that we are spending a majority of our time at home, the line between home and school are blurred. It makes it even harder for children to want to do homework in the SAME setting. One tip is right before their homework hour, have them do an activity that they enjoy outside or in an open space. It’s important to remove them from the same setting and reset their mind.

Give Breaks

Remember when it’s time for your child to sit down and do homework, your child has already had around 8 hours of schooling. That is why many children get tired while doing their homework. About halfway in, allow them to take a quick break to stretch, have a snack, or run around. This short mental break will help reset their mind and allow them to focus a little bit longer.

Help Start the Homework

Some children have a hard time getting started. They are overwhelmed with what’s in front of them and often don’t know how to manage what to do first. Try spending the first five minutes with your child to help get them over the first couple of hurdles and to create a plan for how to move forward. It’s also important to make sure they understand what their assignment is. Remember, this doesn’t mean you’re doing their homework for them, it’s simply a helping hand to get them to move on their own.

Hopefully these tips will help ease the pain of homework resistance. Remember it takes time and consistency so don’t expect change overnight. If you need more support, please feel free to reach out to our Dean of Social Emotional Learning Andrea Passarella at andreap@thewillows.org.

Raising a Happy Child

The first thing you should do to make your kids happy is to flip everything because everything we now know, what science says about making kids happy, is not what we are doing.

Michelle Borba, author of Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World

When parents are asked, “What do you want for your child?” What do you think is one of the most common responses?

If you guessed, “I want my child to be happy,” then you’re right. This is a very common answer and wish for our children. However, what does it really mean and how do we do raise a happy child?

It’s important to note that raising happy children doesn’t mean giving in to them and not allowing them to experience any discomfort, anger, or sadness. It doesn’t mean when they are acting up, you give in to their demands. It means you raise a child to feel secure and be an important part of their family, school, and community. They have a strong sense of self and connection to overcome obstacles and are grounded to know who they are and to love themselves unconditionally.

Let’s take a look at some tips on how to raise a happy child.

1.) Don’t Try to Make Your Child Happy

As parents, we are looking to foster long-term happiness in our children, not short-term happiness. If we give in to our child and grant them every wish and desire, they grow to expect this. You are not responsible for your child’s happiness so don’t give in to trying to fix your child’s feelings. Instead, accept that you can’t dictate your child’s feelings. Stepping back by validating those very feelings can help and provide a safe space for your child to develop their own coping skills and resilience.

2.) Your Own Happines

This one seems to be often forgotten. We are role models for our children, and they are constantly picking up cues and observing us. If they see us doing things that make us happy, they will do the same. While we can’t control our child’s happiness, we can control our own. Happy parent, happy kid. Carve out time for relaxation, for activities that you enjoy, and to nurture those things in your life that bring you happiness.

3.) Practice Gratitude

It can be as simple as creating time out of the day, whether that be in the morning or before dinner, to say one thing your child is grateful for. Make this a family event at dinner and have each member of the household say something they are grateful for. This simple, yet effective activity, will positively affect emotional well-being and promote empathy in your child.

4.) Expect Effort, Not Perfection

One way to make sure we raise a happy child is to focus on the process and the effort that our child is expending at a given time. Try not to always focus on the outcome. When we praise the outcome, we are sending a message to our children that we are valuing the outcome rather than the effort they put in to the process. If we consistently praise for perfection or the outcome, our children may end up feeling they need to win our approval. Refer to our Blog The “Smart” Way to Praise Children.

5.) Quality Time

Create time out of the week to engage and play with your child. During this time, you should give your child your undivided attention and do something your child enjoys. This quality time will create and nurture a strong and positive bond between parent and child. It will also model to your child what a healthy relationship looks like.

A Collaboration of Mindfulness and Movement

It’s been amazing to be able to provide this great opportunity to not only get the kids back to campus working out but to also be with their friends in person again.

Marc Weiss, Athletic Director

Right now there are three things our students desperately need: social interaction, movement, and mindfulness. With everything being online and virtual, there are not enough structured opportunities for our students to exercise their body and their mind. The stress of distance learning and staying home, while being deprived of social interaction, takes a toll not only on the physical aspects of our body but also the mental aspects of our mind. If it’s tough for us as adults to handle, think about how hard it is for our children. Our students need a healthy outlet and, thankfully, The Willows has found a solution.

In accordance with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, Youth Sports Programs allows for schools to hold conditioning and training workouts for students. Since being granted this, The Willows has been hosting circuit training paired with 15-minutes of mindfulness.

Currently, the classes are limited to 20 middle school and 5th grade students each day and are held exclusively outdoors on our new Field following all Health Dept. protocols. All personnel and workout students complete a daily Titan HST text COVID-19 health screening questionnaire and temperature check upon entering campus, where physical distancing, face coverings, hygienic, cleaning, and disinfecting guidance is mandated. The sports workout requirement is 8 feet physical distance between students, but we are separating by 10+ feet. In our sports workouts, we have 62 students registered with each child attending from 1 to 3 days per week with an average class size of 20.

For the two individuals spearheading the program, Marc Weiss and Andrea Passarella, they have all witnessed first-hand the impact it is having on the students. Dean of Social Emotional Learning Andrea Passarella says, “It’s just so wonderful to see them, in general. It feels confirming, in a small way, we are coming out of these difficult times and will one day really be together. It’s a sign of our resilience to see them so happy and together.”

In one of our previous blogs we talked about the importance of building healthy relationships, and this is no exception. What better way to bring some sense of “normalcy” back into our students lives than by providing them with what The Willows believes in, which are connections, not only with each other, but to their own body and mind. Providing these movement and mindfulness classes is just one small, yet meaningful way The Willows continues to support its community.

Building Healthy School Relationships

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

This is one of my favorite quotes. It goes to show how important relationships and connections are between people. Having a strong and effective home-school partnership helps build a bridge of trust and communication between school and parents. Studies have shown that children learn best when the significant adults in their lives work together to encourage and support them. In a school environment, there are many types of relationships that play a vital role in building a supportive, safe, and engaging school community. (i.e. student/student, teacher/student, teacher/parent, admin/parent.)

Below we will examine each relationship and how The Willows fosters those relationships.


We all agree that parental involvement is important, but how do you create and sustain a healthy relationship? At The Willows, we believe it’s about open communication and accessibility. We provide parents with many different opportunities to volunteer from inside the classroom to working on a variety of committees outside the classroom. Our teachers have an open-door policy. They are often available before and after school, and even during their breaks, to speak with parents. The Willows also holds three in-person conferences throughout the year. On top of that, teachers are always assessable via email/phone and are in constant communication with parents. This variety of open communication methods helps build and sustain solid relationships with parents.


Building relationships with students promotes an engaging, safe, and positive learning environment. It also helps to build the classroom community. As teachers invest their time in getting to know their students, the students simultaneously start to invest their time into the teacher. At The Willows faculty and administration understand each child is unique and that the relationship between teacher/students is the most critical. Our teachers know that when they take the time to ask questions and listen, they have a good chance of understanding their students even better. Additionally, knowing the students’ interests helps teachers match and find ways to engage students in lessons at school.

At the beginning of this 2020-2021 school year, all our teachers visited each of their students at their home, wearing masks and social distancing. The value of that connection and having the students meet and see their teachers was invaluable. Here’s a reflection from Parent and 5th grade teacher Dan Goldberg.

“ I was grateful when we were allowed to drive around town and see your children IRL (in real life–see, we learn from your kids, too!). Sure, we were socially distanced and wearing masks and we couldn’t even carpool with our co-teachers, but wow, getting to have conversations with each of your children gave us a chance to learn about our students in a way that I’m not sure would be possible through Zoom. For example, we learned about one student’s passion for birdwatching when we saw him tilt his head to the sky and point at a beautiful red-tailed hawk, circling lazily overhead. Those moments are invaluable to us as teachers, because they form the foundation of our bridge to each student and allow us to build the trust and love that are essential to our classroom relationships–especially in times like these, where the world seems turned upside down.

But, I did wonder, as I drove to each student’s home, were we giving as much as we were getting?  How did the student (and that student’s parents) feel about the visit?  Well, sometimes it’s obvious, as in the case of one student who actually skipped around the backyard with glee, but many times, it’s hard to tell–especially, when the child is wearing a mask!  Then, Doug came to visit our home, because I’m not only a teacher, but a Willows parent, too! Beyond the thrill of seeing one of my colleagues in person, my heart warmed to the sight of my 7th grader daughter, Tallie, excitedly asking the Middle School Dean questions and examining the bag of school supplies he’d brought for her. And it came full circle for me.  I felt as if The Willows itself, the entire beautiful community, were giving us a hug.


Students yearn for the social stimulation of school life. For them, it’s a place where they consistently see all their friends in one place. Students crave those little moments from eating a snack on the yard with their buddies to laughing together as they walk down the hallways to class. Lisa Damour, clinical psychologist and writer, who has written numerous academic papers, chapters, and two New York Times best-selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, noted since we are in a distance learning platform, “school now, to children, is all vegetables and no dessert”.

The Willows understands the importance of building a safe and collaborative environment in which students feel comfortable with one another. The teachers establish the classroom environment at the beginning of each year by creating a classroom Charter with students, which is part of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence RULER approach implemented at The Willows. The Charter reflects how students in the class all want to feel when they come to school and solutions for when fellow students aren’t living the Charter.

The Willows approach is hands-on, project-based learning that incorporates collaboration. In our academics, we offer ample opportunities for students to interact either in small or large group settings to build on their social skills.

In student to student relationships, we mainly think about those students in their class or in their grade. However, it can reach far beyond that. Within our Developmental Kindergarten through eighth grade structure, older students interact with younger students as science and reading buddies, and as guides and mentors.

In the words of a Developmental Kindergartener parent:

“My son, Jackson, joined Willows as an extremely shy child. I’ll never forget him clinging to teacher Jill’s leg on the first day (after I had spent thirty minutes prying him off my leg.) I wasn’t worried about his shyness, but I was sad for him. Would it hold him back from making friends? Would he ever truly feel comfortable? Shortly into October, I began to witness some changes in Jackson. He didn’t need to hold my hand as I walked him to class; he stood tall and waved to friends. As a parent it was so heartwarming and reassuring to see his eighth-grade buddies, Ben and Jessie, run up to him, hug him, and ask how he was doing. I instantly knew that they were helping Jackson with the transition. It was like they had all known each other for years. At home, Jackson would say things like “Ben would love that joke, I’ll tell him tomorrow,” or “Jessie said he likes to read too!” I knew a very special bond was forming, and I was thankful. When The Willows had to transition to distance learning this past March, a zoom was set up for the DK and eighth graders to connect and say a sweet goodbye. Jessie and Ben emailed afterwards expressing how they hoped to keep in touch and how much they enjoyed getting to know Jackson. I read the email to Jackson as he beamed but knew they would be off to high school soon and be too preoccupied to zoom with a five-year-old. I was wrong.  A few months later, Ben and Jessie emailed asking to set up a zoom. They zoomed with Jackson for over forty minutes. They talked about school and friends and Jackson got to do his very favorite thing- show them his many Lego builds. Their questions were thoughtful, their insights astute and their kindness incredible. During this time of change and often uncertainty, my heart swells with gratitude to think that Jackson has two big buddies cheering for him.”


While this relationship may seem to take a backseat to the others, it’s just as crucial. Parents need to feel supported not only by teachers but by administration as well. They want to feel heard when they have questions and concerns that are beyond the teacher’s control. A few ways The Willows fosters this relationship is by holding Parent Gatherings with the Head of School Lisa Rosenstein. This is a chance for parents to talk to Lisa regarding any issues or problems they are experiencing as well as positive experiences. It’s an open forum where both sides get the opportunity to listen and learn from one another. The Willows is very communicative and transparent with the parents through letters, newsletters, social media, and live events. For The Willows, it’s important that parents are not only kept informed, but also included in the process.

All of these relationships need to work together cohesively in order to develop a strong and communicative relationship between school and families. Our school values each of these relationships and continue to find new ways to foster them.

Building Healthy Habits Around Screen Time

With school being online, our children tend to be connected to the internet now more than ever. While screen time and screen use can be beneficial, we worry that our children may be spending way too much time on them. Like everything in parenting, screen use may look completely different in one household than another. It’s important to look at your family and think about what your child specifically needs.

Below we have 5 tips for you to build a healthy habit around screen time.

1.) It begins with you

Take a look at how often you, as a parent, use your own screen. At the dinner table, are you constantly on your phone? How often do you say “just a minute” while you finish perusing what’s on your Instagram feed? Children are learning screen time habits from watching you. Make sure to set a good example and be consistent and fair.

2.) Create boundaries

There’s nothing wrong with allowing your children to play a video game or watch TV, you just want to make sure it’s not your go-to distraction. Set guidelines for how long and when they are able to have screen-time. Common Sense Media is a great resource to find how much screen time is age appropriate. Remember it’s okay for kids to be bored! Please refer to our blog called the Importance of Being Bored.

3.) Allow for a transitional period

Know that once you set new rules and boundaries there is going to be an adjustment period. Rather than expecting children to stop screen time immediately, ease into it by connecting with them. Using the technique of connection helps children transition from one task to another. Sit down with your child and ask them about the game, show, or activity. Once you have connected with your child, that is the time you can reiterate the end of screen time.

4.) Check in with yourself

We all know that screen use is extremely stimulating. Anticipate that your child may have difficulty finding “a good place to stop.” Many children have a difficult time regulating their emotions especially during these transitions. Allow your child to have feelings, stay calm, validate those feelings, and focus on supporting them as opposed to forcing them to calm down or get over it.

5.) Brainstorm together

Brainstorm together what is acceptable. It might entail writing up a screen time contract, limits on certain media, or even learning to play a new game together. The older the children are, the more involved they should be in this brainstorming session. It’s important for children to be heard, but it’s also important to understand that you, as the parent, set the boundaries.

These tips will help you navigate how to build healthy habits around screen time. As we continue to learn through an online model, it’s important to find ways to connect with your children off screen. Please refer to our past blog on Activities to do with your Child at Home for a list of fun, engaging activities to do at home!

Tips for Returning Back to School from our Dean of Social Emotional Intelligence

It’s that time of year again, back to school! However, this time it’s not your typical first day of school since we open with distance learning. We all experienced distance learning in the Spring and discovered how to successfully transition the home into a remote school learning environment. Andrea Passarella, Dean of Social Emotional Intelligence, has provided a handful of tips for all those families returning to distance learning.

Tips for returning to school:

  • Set up a designated place for children to ‘do school’ and eliminate distractions in the space and around the computer. For the little ones, have them bring or sit on a special pillow or blanket. They can even bring a stuffed animal. Something to get before school begins helps them mentally transition for the day.
  • Routines are necessary. Set up a schedule so they know what their day looks like. Children love to know what they are going to do for the day. Put their class schedule somewhere they can see it. This routine will bring a sense of normalcy to their days.
  • Breaks…really important. Stretching, yoga, jumping, dance parties, or make a play list of some of your children’s favorite songs. All they have to do is hit play and they’ve got a plan for their break time.
  • Set boundaries around using one screen at a time.
  • Help them get ready for school, wear a Willows shirt, make sure they put their shoes and socks on. These little acts will signal to them they are starting their school day.
  • Get plenty of sleep and give time for rest on the flip side. Find a time in the day when you too can take a break, and go for a walk or spend some time together outdoors. A conscious decision to take a break for 15 minutes, goes a long way.
  • Remind them how proud you are of them. This isn’t easy for either of you and we really need to celebrate how hard our children are working to go to school in this current ‘normal’.

Hopefully these tips will help with a smoother transition to distance learning. If you any questions or need any advice/support, feel free to email Andrea: andreap@thewillows.org

Looping: Needed Now More than Ever

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship

James P. Connor, Comer School Development Center

Looping at The Willows has always been an integral part of the school’s philosophy. From 1st to 2nd grade and from 3rd to 4th grade, Willows’ students have the same teachers and classmates for back-to-back years. Looping in schools has been shown to have a positive impact on both students and teachers. The Willows has always understood and embraced the positive benefits of looping, but now with the pandemic, for the next school year, looping is going to be more significant than ever before.

Why looping?

Relationships with students

When teachers spend two years with the same students, there is a level of trust that is formed. These deep bonds allow students to be more open to taking risks in the classroom, which in return, will foster more authentic learning experiences. Teachers will also have a better understanding of their students’ learning styles from being with them for two years and will be able to adapt their approach to fit their students’ needs. These formative years are crucial for students to build a strong bond with their teacher.

Relationships with parents and families

We all know the importance of the home/school connection. It takes a partnership. Not only is trust extremely important between students and teachers, but trust between parents and teachers is equally as important. Having two years together helps parents and teachers build on that trust. Once that foundation is established, parents will feel more comfortable asking questions and taking advice from teachers. Parents will know the style of teaching and how the classroom is running, and generally, have a better sense what to expect during the year.

Students adapt less to change

The beginning of any school year is a transitional time. It sometimes takes months just to get in a routine. A great deal of this time is spent getting to know the students and students adjusting to classroom expectations such as rules, schedules, and acceptable behavior. This transitional time, while extremely important, can take away from the academic learning that takes place in the classroom, especially if teachers have to do it yearly.

We all know students like routine and structure. They like to know what’s coming next. Looping provides the stability and consistency at school that all students crave and need. By integrating looping into schools, children spend less time adjusting to classroom expectations and rules, and they won’t have to adapt every year to a new teacher and classroom. This will allow students to have more time to focus on the academics and social emotional facets of school.

I’m going to leave you with this analogy.

The notion of finding a new doctor or dentist every year sounds absurd. We, as well as our children, want to develop a bond with our doctors in order to feel comfortable with them, and so do our doctors with us. This bond that’s built on trust and experiences are developed over time and provides doctors with a better understanding of our growth and development. So why wouldn’t this concept of looping not be utilized in our schools?

For more information about distance learning at The Willows. Please visit our Distance Learning hub at www.thewillows.org/distancelearning.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Being a Teen in Quarantine

“It’s all vegetables and no dessert”

Lisa Damour

Throughout social media, you may have seen an act of social media solidarity for high school students as Facebook users shared their old senior photos. Thousands of individuals came together to support and empathize the significant loss these teenagers were enduring. To some, they may not see or understand the significant loss. To them, it’s just high school. To be honest, I initially didn’t understand the magnitude of this loss either. I’ve been far removed from those years for quite some time so, to me, I forgot the significance of what my teenage years meant to me. After listening to Lisa Damour’s talk on Teen Lockdown, I now remember the importance of my teen years and can understand why so many teens are struggling.

Lisa Damour, clinical psychologist and writer, who has written numerous academic papers, chapters, and two New York Times best-selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, put it really well when she said, “It’s all vegetables and no dessert.” The thing that’s missing is the fun and social aspects of school. Seeing friends in the hall, cracking jokes, attending sporting events, and gossiping about the latest crush is no longer a factor in play. These playful parts of school that are so meaningful to students are hard to replicate in a virtual learning environment and it’s really affecting our teenagers.

With distance learning being the only current option, we have now created a full-on academic environment without the social interaction that teens crave and need. That’s why so many of them are having a hard time at school. Now, add in being stuck at home with your family for the majority of the day. If there’s one thing teenagers want from their parents, it’s autonomy. How many times have you heard, “just leave me alone!”? This common phrase gets thrown around a household with a teenager quite frequently and often leads to tension within the household. More so now than ever, with the stay-at-home mandate, teens need space. Teens were not built to be at home all day with their parents. They were meant to be at school, socializing with their peers. This time is an extraordinary challenge for them.

So how do we help our teens?

  • A lot of empathy is in order.
  • We know that this quarter in school is typically not a high motivational quarter anyway. Children are typically drained and are looking forward to summer vacation. On top of that, there’s not the time pressure of getting assignments done.
  • We know that teens will feel better if they feel productive during the day. Don’t throw all the rules and expectations out the window. Children feel better when they accomplish tasks and get things done.
  • We also know that teenagers dislike being told what to do. Lisa Damour goes into the two different sides that teenagers have. One side is they want to be impulsive and lazy. The other side is that they are thoughtful, mature, and invested. When trying to motivate your child to do something, try to recruit the more mature side into problem solving together instead of throwing solutions at them.
  • Let your teenager know that this is a big loss, but also offer them perspective. It won’t derail their life and it’s going to be a shared experience for all of you to look back at later in life.

Remember that your teenager has experienced a huge loss and they don’t have the perspective that adults have. The have experienced the loss of graduation, prom/dance, and friends. For many of them, this may be the first major setback and disappointment for them. Teenagers typically get through school by looking forward to things, whether that be seeing a crush in the hallway or attending prom. Now, they don’t have any of that.

So parents, show empathy and work with your teenager and hopefully you can all get through this difficult time without hearing “leave me alone!”

This coming December, we will be having Lisa Damour speak to The Willows community and our extended Los Angeles community as part of our Speaker Series, which will be open and free to the public.

For more information, please check out our Distance Learning Hub: https://distancelearning.thewillows.org/