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Schools re-opening a mixed bag of emotions

Schools re-opening a mixed bag of emotions Schools re-opening a mixed bag of emotions
Sandra Schiele, Counsel House

With schools re-opening, many of my parent clients are both worried yet relieved. They are worried about the spread of the virus increasing and their child and family contracting it. Yet, they are relieved to not have to home school.

This stress of juggling work and home education is a serious issue. The added time home with their children is a huge stressor. For these reasons, some have expressed relief in their children returning to school. It’s almost like they’ve resigned themselves to the reality that the virus is here to stay and schools and employment have to continue or else larger issues will arise and escalate such as child abuse/neglect, substance abuse and financial strain.

Other parents have chosen to home school. These parents have set up structured time for school, spent time teaching their children and have expectations of compliance with follow through of discipline should these expectations not be met. The rationale for this decision is that they fear their child will contract the virus in the public education system.

I think it’s worth pointing out that children need structure. Sure, they balk and complain, but we need to see past this and not give in because we feel guilty, exhausted or intimidated. Structure provides a sense of security. We may not like a 70-miles-per-hour speed limit when we are rushing to get somewhere but to have no speed limit would frighten some of us as we see just how far some people would take it.

The same concept applies to children. Home schools need to be set up as much like public schools as possible in the sense that there is a schedule, there are expectations that the child will be focused on the material and not their electronics, offer scheduled breaks to rejuvenate, set aside time to study, communicate the expectation that grades are important and apply positive and negative reinforcement to shape desired behaviors.

Parents have to be involved in order to ensure the structure is maintained and to assist their child with questions about the school work.

What are positive and negative reinforcement? Positive reinforcement is something we give that a child wants for a behavior we are attempting to shape. For example, a child gets a B on her math test so the parent gives her 30 minutes of electronics. Negative reinforcement is the removal of something a child doesn’t want for a behavior we are attempting to modify. For example, a child gets an A on his English test so the parent reduces his week-long grounding by one day. He doesn’t want to be grounded so his reward for the good grade is to reduce the number of days he is grounded.

Later, we will discuss, in more detail, rewards, reinforcements, punishments and extinctions as avenues parents can take to achieve the behavioral results they desire from their children.

If we can be of assistance to you or a loved one, contact us at 812-738-3277 or via email at [email protected]

Editor’s note: Sandra Schiele is a licensed behavioral health specialist who practices at Counsel House in Corydon.

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