How Parents Can Deal With the Stress of Virtual Education

Stressed mom

Getty Images

Online schooling has been an option for many K–12 students for a number of years, but even in the best of times, a virtual education comes with significant challenges for parents and students alike. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents found it more stressful than ever to deal with the hurdles and hiccups of online school.

Experiencing technical difficulties, having limited access to teachers, and worrying about your child’s social development—as you try to do your own work or responsibilities around the home—can be very overwhelming and stressful.

Most students are now going back to traditional in-person school, but some will continue with virtual learning or return to it periodically (either by choice, due to hybrid schedules, or because of local outbreaks). If you're feeling frustrated and not sure how much longer you can manage virtual school, here are seven ways to hang on to your sanity while your child does school online.

Take Breaks

Kids aren’t the only ones who need recess. Taking breaks is critical for parents, too. When the stress of your child’s virtual schooling threatens to overwhelm you, give yourself some space.

If your child is too young to be left alone, take a 15-minute breather in another room or step outside for a few minutes to clear your head, if you're able. Or, to take a break with your child, try going for a walk, pausing schoolwork for a quick game, or dancing to a favorite song.

Can’t squeeze in a break during the day? Use the hours after school to refill your mental and emotional reserves.

“Work on your own self-care routine—[such as] taking deep breaths, learning how to let it go, working on choosing your battles, or listening to calming music,” says psychologist Nekeshia Hammond, PsyD. “The better you take care of yourself, the more productive and mentally well you are for your children.”  

Keep Communicating

Many virtual education stressors stem from a lack of communication. Be sure to keep open lines of communication with your partner, your child’s teachers, and school administrators.

If you have a partner, try to work out a schedule for sharing the load of assisting your child with schoolwork. Speaking up with concerns about your child’s learning style will give teachers better tools to help your child get the most out of online education. Making your voice heard—and getting your questions answered—will keep future frustrations to a minimum.

Get Social

When you’re feeling aggravated, it can be tempting to take to social media to vent. But rather than express your frustrations en masse, carve out some one-on-one time with a friend.

“To help your mind and body release some stress, talking to others can be a good start,” says Hammond. Studies show social connection helps us create resilience to life’s difficulties.

Even if your friend of choice isn’t a parent, their listening can still be a much-needed support. Choose someone you can trust with your true feelings and don’t hold back.

“Most people describe talking to someone who is supportive as a sense of relief and helpful, as opposed to keeping stressful thoughts inside and not sharing them,” Hammond says. 

Ask for Help 

It’s tough to admit you can’t do it all, but asking for help can make a major difference to your mental health as you navigate online schooling.

“Right now, it is critical to ask for the support that you need to best help your family,” says Hammond. “The support you need may come from a friend, partner, family member, or another close person in your life. Most people want to help, so do not be afraid to accept emotional support, financial resources, and/or childcare help during these challenging times.”

Celebrate the Wins

You’re juggling a lot. Regardless of the size of your family or whether you’re working or not, online education can be time-consuming and fraught with challenges.

So try to focus on the wins, no matter how small. Did your child get a great grade on an assignment? Did you get through a day without losing your cool? High five!

Acknowledge the positives and give yourself kudos for dealing with a difficult situation. Research shows an optimistic outlook promotes mental and physical well-being.

Help Kids Manage Their Stress

In the midst of our own adult anxieties, it’s all too easy to forget that kids are undergoing stresses of their own. The more you can help your child deal with any underlying tension or worries, the smoother online education is likely to be for them (and you).

“Know that your children are stressed too by all the changes, and their brains process stress differently than an adult,” says Hammond. “Many youth are struggling to keep up with all of the changes.

Above all else, children need to know they are supported. So make time for more one-on-one conversations to stay close. In addition to talking things out with your child, provide an outlet for them by allowing them to play outdoors or arranging for safe interactions with a friend.

Don’t Take It Out on the Kids

As you manage increased stress levels around online schooling, perhaps the most important principle of all is this: Don’t take it out on your kids. You and your children are in this together. No child deserves any additional anxiety from parents melting down.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you have to pretend everything is hunky-dory. “Be honest with them that you are doing the best that you can to help them while also balancing multiple roles,” advises Hammond.

Again, when stress gets the better of you, step away from the situation and give yourself a mental "timeout." Even a few minutes away from the computer screen may give you the mental reset you need to get back in the virtual saddle. 

A Word From Verywell

The longer your child does virtual education, the more everything about it will become second nature, for the whole family. Gradually, the intensity of the stresses will recede. In the meantime, if online schooling throws you off your emotional center, practice good self-care, keep communicating, and give yourself some credit for doing your best.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. Social support and resilience to stress: From neurobiology to clinical practicePsychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(5):35-40.

  2. Conversano C, Rotondo A, Lensi E, Della Vista O, Arpone F, Reda MA. Optimism and its impact on mental and physical well-being. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2010;6(1):25-29. doi:10.2174/1745017901006010025

By Sarah Garone
 Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.