Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and colleges all over the US and the world transitioned into online classes. The health and safety of everyone are the utmost priority during the pandemic, and online schooling is the only real option during these times.
At first, it was comfortable and convenient. For parents, this meant no more driving to school or snack prep. Some kids even attend classes in their pajamas. However, in the long run, students, parents, professors, and teachers have realized the challenges of online classes, especially their impacts on individual mental health.
This article explains how online learning environments can affect the mental health of students and parents. It also shares tips on how parents and students can cope with the challenges of online learning.
Online classes affect the mental health of students, parents, and even teachers. They can worsen existing mental health problems in individuals who already have them.
Imagine what it is like for a kid to spend hours in front of Zoom every day without social interaction and playtime with their friends. Parents are now acting like teachers and are more involved in their children’s schoolwork. Teachers and professors have increased workloads and are pressured to deliver quality learning without face-to-face classes.
There is this newly coined term during the COVID era called “Zoom fatigue.” The term Zoom fatigue refers to feelings of exhaustion after long Zoom classes or video conference calls. It may not be a formal diagnosis, but Zoom fatigue does exist, especially in virtual learning. There’s information overload during an online class, and facing the screen for prolonged periods is mentally draining.
It’s more challenging for students to learn new information, and even though they just sit in front of the computer, they feel physically tired. Virtual learning fatigue is real, and it may lead to anxiety and stress for both students and professors.
Schools do not only teach new learning from books; it is also where friendship starts and fun memories are created. Communication and social skills are best learned with social interactions. Kids, teens, and even teachers need to connect with their friends and socialize.
But there has been a lack of interaction since the COVID pandemic, which means students are experiencing social isolation. This greatly impacts a student’s mental health. The lack of social interaction in online learning leads to feelings of loneliness, lack of motivation, and isolation.
Young adults need social interaction in their formative years. Kids needs play dates with other kids their age to learn how to socialize. These are some of the main reasons why online learning can affect the students’ mental health.
Students follow a set schedule during school days in the traditional classroom setup. There’s a time to wake up, go to school, for class, do homework, interact with friends, and attend extra-curricular activities. This isn’t the case with online learning.
Staying focused on online classes is a challenge. Separating home life from class time, not following a routine schedule, and the distractions at home make it difficult for students to concentrate well in their classes.
As a result, students tend to procrastinate and set things aside. Then deadlines are missed. This causes pressure, stress, and anxiety to both students and their parents.
Online learning does not only affect the students but parents as well. Parents have now become proxy educators and tutors and are getting more involved with schoolwork to ensure their kids learn well and maintain good grades. How can a parent tutor physics if it’s something they’re not good at?
Work-from-home moms and dads who are getting overwhelmed with their jobs now have to assist their kids with their online classes. The additional responsibilities cause them more exhaustion and higher levels of stress.
Photos of tenured professors having a hard time teaching their students online have gone viral on social media. These professors have years of experience inside the classroom, but teaching using technology devices has not been their best asset.
Teachers are also pressured and worried about losing their jobs because some schools are closing. Then there’s the additional workload to ensure they deliver quality education to their students. These are all causing them anxiety, challenging their mental health in the process.
Although online learning may impact the mental health of students and their parents, it also has its pros, particularly in family bonding and relationships. Online learning encourages more time for bonding at home. Parents who previously could not spend much time with their kids due to busy work schedules can spend more time with their kids. This is helpful, especially when you’re trying to understand your teenager.
Some students who experience bullying at school may find online learning a positive experience. They feel safe at home and can be more productive. They can stop feeling the fear of being bullied at school. Online learning, however, may not prevent students from experiencing cyberbullying.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
There are many ways to take care of your mental health to avoid the stress of online learning. Here are some strategies parents, students, and teachers can follow to prevent burnout from attending online classes:
- Have a designated work/study space. Setting boundaries can help prevent stress caused by distractions. Pick a spot at home with fewer distractions so you can concentrate on work or school. Choose a quiet area and impose a rule at home not to disturb you during work or school hours. This way, you can be more focused and productive.
- Encourage healthy habits. One way of taking care of your mental health is to encourage healthy habits. This means eating well, following a regular sleep schedule, getting enough physical activity, and taking care of your physical health. By following healthy habits regularly, you will notice an improved mood, increased energy levels, and better overall mental well-being.
- Follow a regular schedule. Routine work for some may be boring, but following a regular schedule brings order and organization to one’s life. It enables you to achieve the tasks planned for the day and avoid cramming at the last minute. There will be days you will lose track of time and procrastinate on the tasks that need to get done. Follow a regular schedule: sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Stick to work and school time, designate break times, and follow study time schedules. As you put the organization into your daily schedule, you’ll feel more productive and less stressed.
- Encourage physical activities. There’s not much physical activity for students since learning from home started. Unlike before, kids can run around the playground, climb four flights of stairs to their classroom, or bike from school to home.
Encourage physical activities for kids, perhaps an outdoor activity with the family, like biking, a walk in the park, or any physical activity in the backyard. Physical activity releases feel-happy chemicals in the body that can help improve a person’s mental health. Plus, spending time outdoors also eases emotional and mental exhaustion.
- Set a positive tone at home. For parents, avoid stress and anxiety by setting a positive tone at home. This means talking in a soft tone, avoiding outbursts of anger, and not putting too much pressure on yourself and your kids.
- Take breaks. Taking breaks from the daily hustle and bustle is a must. If you’re feeling tired of your child’s schoolwork, take a power nap, meditate, go outside for a while, and breathe deeply.
Take a short walk and clear your mind. Do not force yourself to meet deadlines if it causes you to lash out at your loved ones. If it’s not a school day, set the books aside and take time to enjoy the weekend, have movie nights with your kids, picnic in the backyard, or spend quality time outdoors. You and your kids deserve to enjoy happy moments because of all the hard work that you do.
- Practice self-care. Prioritize self-care more than anything else. As parents, you dedicate your life to making your kids happy and healthy. But don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Do things you enjoy, learn a new hobby, catch up with your friends, pamper yourself. You must also be healthy mentally so you can be there for your kids.
This COVID-19 pandemic indeed imposed a great challenge for all of us. Face-to-face classes may not be returning soon in some states, and all we have to do is to adjust to these challenges. Along with the ways to take care of your mental health mentioned above, also consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
Thankfully, you don’t need to leave your home to talk to a therapist. The telehealthcare service offered by Kentucky Counseling Center is just a few clicks away. Talk to a therapist now and learn how to take good care of your mental health during these trying times. Stay safe and healthy!