4 Tips for Helping Teens Stay Motivated During Virtual Learning

COVID-19 has forced many students and parents to embrace the digital world, both for virtual learning and remote working. Whether a child is fully remote or hybrid learning, chances are this new normal has caused quite a strain on family dynamics. But it has also drastically changed the way teachers, principals, and school counselors work — and live — as well. They’re also spending more time than ever navigating a strange and new world.

For some students, virtual learning poses challenges to staying motivated and engaged. Some adjust after a while, but others continue to struggle. Here are a few ways you can help your students succeed in this new method of learning.

Take their feelings seriously

Even during in-person school days, something that seems trivial to adults could be earth-shattering to a teen. In this new environment, some students feel anxious about fading friendships, worry about keeping grades up, or feel resentment for traditional school experiences they might miss, like prom or graduation. 

Try to avoid downplaying the importance of their feelings or focusing too much on problem-solving. Instead, this may be the right time to connect them with someone who can empathize with these feelings of uncertainty and disappointment. For instance, TEEN TRUTH mental health expert and former NFL player Caleb Campbell knows firsthand how hard it can be to overcome internal struggles. His talks have been inspiring both to teens who are struggling and those in a position to help others.

Set up an effective workspace

Not all teens are going to have access to the technology and materials they need for remote learning. This is an unfortunate but very real truth. If you think your student is struggling because they lack the proper technology and a quiet, distraction-free workspace, try to connect with their parents and offer additional resources. 

For example, encourage parents to set up a designated workspace for their teen. If parents are on a budget, show them how to use discounts and online coupons for desktops and laptops, headphones, tablets, and more. Also, suggest free apps and programs that can assist with time management, so teens are better able to keep track of assignments, due dates, and exams.

Foster independence

When appropriate, provide your students with the kind of support that empowers them to achieve goals on their own. When you start seeing their resilience building, start gradually reducing support. For example, some teachers have to remind students about assignments much more frequently. Instead of reminding them, show them a few student-centered apps and tricks they can employ on their own to stay on top of their work. 

Think of your role as a scaffold. You may have to be more present and aware during virtual learning, but with consistent feedback and guidance, you can help them feel confident in controlling their learning process. Once you see them taking small steps toward success, gradually pull back but always remain available.

Encourage their strengths

While teenage students may be struggling in some areas of virtual learning, these trying times can also bring out new and surprising strengths. Produce engaging content that keeps them focused on the areas where they excel. This will build their self-esteem and keep them motivated to conquer areas where they may be weaker. Take every opportunity to let them know that you see these strengths and that their efforts are meaningful, however big or small.

Teens can transfer skills quite easily. If your student is very tech-savvy but is often tempted by procrastination, give him assignments that will lean in to his strengths in technology while also boosting his ability to stay focused. Gamification is an exceptional tool for this. You can help students build on their strengths and transform weaknesses with games that focus on strategic thinking and decision making.

Teachers, counselors, principals, and other school leaders are all adjusting to this new way of learning, just like students and parents. The important thing to keep in mind is not getting too fixated on the way things should be or the way things were. Focus on the way things are and you will naturally find ways to support student success. Don’t forget to visit the TEEN TRUTH blog often for regular insights on education and stay inspired.

JC Pohl, LMFT
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH

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