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Dr. Chris Magryta column: If they must go online

What advice can we offer to the parents of the online-only student to ease the burden of this teaching reality?

Treat school like a job for both child and parent! Structure and discipline are critical for success.

1. Get them back into the swing of school by waking up every morning, having a good nourishing breakfast and sitting down to class at 8 a.m. This also means that they need to be in bed by a reasonable hour, depending on age. I recommend that 5- to 11-year-olds get to bed by 8 or 9 p.m. at the latest, ensuring at least 10 hours of sleep. The 12- to 18-year-olds will need 8 to 10 hours for full mental function. Consider an Apple iWatch for a gentle vibratory wakeup at 7 a.m.

2. Make sure that their working environment is quiet, devoid of distraction and pleasing. This is likely the hardest task for parents of multiple children and those that are working from home. Consider making makeshift cubicles out of cardboard or wood to separate children at a kitchen table or other location if space is limited. Encourage the use of noise-cancelling headphones to limit sound distraction (schools should provide these headphones for at-risk children).

3. Set up a virtual meeting with all of your children’s teachers and obtain a list of what they are learning and what the goals are to help them stay on track and also to hold the teacher accountable for high-quality learning throughout the year. I am very hopeful that the online debacle of the spring has been understood and planned against.

4. Try to avoid making the bedroom a place of learning as it is a sanctuary for sleep. It is also far too often a place where television or video games reside (they should never be in a bedroom).

5. During downtimes, read to your child/children or have them read with you. Let it be the schoolwork-based books, if possible. Get them up, stretching and jumping randomly throughout the day to break up the monotony.

6. Remember to be patient. These are tough times for everyone. Failure is the stepping stone for success for all children. If you find your child struggling, sign up for the teachers extended hours or look to hire a tutor if you have the means.

7. Consider keeping a tight social bubble of friends for social interaction to keep this critical aspect of a child’s growth strong. This virus is here for the foreseeable future. Full isolation for months to years longer no longer makes logical sense. Make sure to comply with state and federal guidelines for social distancing rules, i.e. crowd numbers and be cognizant of your locales current infection statistics.

8. Build in more structured and longer physical activity events during the day to get them moving and focused emotionally and energetically which provides for better learning when they sit down again.

9. Feed them only nourishing food to keep the food-induced hyperactivity at bay while providing the brain with neurological-enhancing nutrients that primarily come from vegetables and fruits. This specifically means that you are avoiding dyes, processing chemicals, and processed food in general.

10. Be a part of the process. They need you more now than any other time in their school careers. This online learning world is going to be a major challenge for everyone from the teachers on down. Be patient with your teachers and yourselves but hold them and yourself accountable as your kids deserve that.

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Email him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com .

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