In these trying and stressful times, you are likely facing a new challenge as a parent: supervising your child’s education. Based on our empirical research on boredom and education, the Boredom Lab is here to offer you some tips and tricks for helping your child navigate through this new form of e-learning:
1) Give yourself (and your child) a break.
These are uniquely stressful times. Many parents are out of work, or are trying to juggle working with helping the kids with homework and lessons. As a parent, set your expectations to a reasonable standard – it may not be possible for you make up for all the lost learning time. Teachers are trained professionals and it is not fair to expect yourself to become one overnight, especially while also tending to all your other responsibilities. Try to stay informed about what your child’s teacher expects your child to be working on, and remember that e-learning is new for them as well. If you, or your child, are struggling to keep up with the assigned work, let the teacher know.
2) Learn new skills.
This might be an excellent time for your children to learn about non-academic pursuits as well! Perhaps your child can take on some new household responsibilities, which might also provide them with some additional avenues to burn off some of that energy (and you with some additional time). Can you help them with some life skills (e.g., lawn care, ordering groceries) that will be sorely needed down the line? Additionally, when children are working on their schoolwork, help them ponder if there is a special interest they might want to explore through their e-learning. (Dinosaurs? Creative writing?)
3) Help your children monitor and cope with their own boredom…
As adults know, boredom is a part of life and cannot always be avoided. This is a wonderful time to teach your children the ‘skill’ of dealing with boredom. Research shows that helping students reflect on the value of their learning task is a crucial way to reduce boredom and support academic success. For example – if your child would like to be a scientist and they are bored by their math lesson, they might think about how learning math now will help them with statistics later when they are a scientist.
4) …and step in when the boredom has gone on too long.
Our research (Hunter & Eastwood, 2020 – see citation below) shows that boredom can affect academic performance if it persists past the state of being bored in the moment. In particular, when students begin to judge the learning task (math worksheet) as boring or start to find many situations boring (‘boredom proneness’), academics suffer. Ponder if there is something in the environment that can be changed (is your child sitting for too long? Do they need more frequent breaks? Are they distracting themselves by playing on their phone?). On that note…
5) Don’t allow off-task phone use when children are completing their schoolwork.
The research shows that distraction typically leads people to perceive the task at hand as boring. Encourage your kids to focus on their schoolwork without accessing their phone for off-task purposes. In addition to helping with focus, this sets up a boundary between leisure time and work time so that your kids don’t feel that they are endlessly completing homework.
Hunter, J. A., & Eastwood, J. D. (2020). Understanding the relation between boredom and academic performance in post-secondary students. Journal of Educational Psychology. Published online March 26, doi: https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000479
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