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August 17, 2020

Back to (Online) School

Written by Dr. Sharon B. Kirlik, PhD, LCSW, Behavioral Wellness Therapist


HOORAY! In North Carolina, it is the final weekend of summer break. Parents and students are, no doubt spending their final days anxiously anticipating the changes this year’s online school format will bring. People who suffer from anxiety experience particular difficulty with the unknown. Here are some helpful hints to help start the online year successfully.

Overall, a child will adopt the attitude of their parents…so be especially positive, calm and reassuring. Everyone is embarking on a learning adventure. Everyone will be learning this new way at the same time, so mistakes are bound to happen.


1. Prepare a specific work space to do school that is inspiring and fun. Allow your student to pick fun school supplies with happy colors.

2. Adhere to a regular school schedule as closely as possible. Permit enough time prior to school to wake up, perform appropriate hygiene, dress for regular school and eat breakfast at a reasonably relaxed pace.

3. Be at the computer about 15 minutes prior to school beginning to allow time for any technical difficulties to be resolved.

4. Transitions are super critical. Make sure your student gets up and walks around after each hour. At the end of school, encourage your student to take a walk around the neighborhood to get out of the house, get some exercise and set psychological boundaries between school and home. (The typical trip to and from school will be eliminated. This trip plays an important psychological role that sets an emotional boundary between school life and home life. Try to recreate this for your student.)

5. Allow your student to have healthy finger snacks while learning. Not only will this keep their blood sugar steady, but it will also provide them something to fidget with while listening to instruction.

6. Process with your student at the end of the day, every day, to trouble-shoot any challenges they experience during the day. Coach them to advocate for themselves to appropriately address the challenge as soon as possible.

With some effective strategic planning, the online school year can be a fun and positive experience. Embrace the change and practice flexibility. Be positive, keep calm, and enjoy the ride.

Dr. Sharon Kirlik, PhD, LCSW graduated with her Masters in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Georgia. Later, with the adoption of her African American son and then, her Haitian American daughter, she realized an even deeper passion for working with children and families who were societally marginalized and oppressed. Her interests have compelled her to travel throughout the countries of Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and India allowing her to become immersed in the respective cultures. While completing her PhD with distinction, Dr. Kirlik was publicly recognized in Chicago for her programs created to improve the quality of life for foster care children. Her programs later took her to several countries throughout the continent of Africa, and have won acclaim and recognition among many South African organizations and other government leaders.

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