Have you been feeling frustrated about teaching your children at home and stumbling over lesson plans, desperately in need of support? If so, then you’re not alone; the struggle is real with distance learning and homeschooling. While students slog through mountains of homework with the help of exasperated parents as teachers—many of whom find themselves either barking orders or bursting into tears—reality sets in; nobody seems to communicate effectively anymore. Adults have trouble accepting their newfound roles as both parents and educators, while young children and adolescents suppress their true feelings, not wanting to upset Dad or Mom; it’s a vicious cycle that needs addressing, and choosing words carefully is a step in the right direction.

Homeschooling peacefully goes hand in hand with speaking cautiously and exercising regularly; all three elements are needed to maintain harmony during the pandemic. When children are feeling mentally zapped after virtual classes, silently consider what’s best for them—as opposed to insisting they sit down to finish homework right away—and give them an opportunity to stretch out for ten minutes; let them run around the backyard, play basketball in the driveway, or dance like giggling monkeys in the family room. Children’s productivity will soar, once parents realize that strengthening family bonds and adding laughter to the mix are more important than enforcing perfect virtual attendance or getting straight A’s on report cards… although occasionally kids aren’t willing to do their part.

When uncooperative children change the dynamic of your family’s school day, imagine zooming out of the situation and seeing yourselves from a distance far, far away; how could you amicably resolve those petty grievances? First, remember who’s the principal, because in every school setting there are consequences for insubordination. Here is the crème de la crème, parents; when you lower your voice—instead of scolding angrily—who is truly in charge? Students need to feel the weight of your authority as an educator; that can be accomplished peacefully, and at the end of the day everybody will get a better night of sleep. Countless children are having difficulty focusing during the quarantine—God knows how many of them are hurting from social isolation—so parents who learn to temper their mood swings by scheduling family breaks and showing up to ‘class’ with positive attitudes can cope with distance learning and homeschooling much better.

If you sense your kids are burning out—when smoke is coming out of their ears after thirty minutes of doing math homework, reading, or writing essays—it is definitely time for a much-needed reprieve from schooling. Everybody should drink plenty of water, eat protein-rich snacks, and exercise for mental clarity. Definitely take off your teacher’s hat once in a while by loosening up, playing tag with them, coloring pictures together, or listening to each other’s stories. Then when it’s time to revert back to teaching, show authority, yet maintain lighthearted and fun conversations; be firm, yet don’t expect perfection; and reinforce accountability, yet give grace with unfinished tasks. Remember to be a parent first and foremost; while our planet is weathering coronavirus during this unprecedented time, your affection is what children miss the most.

Families can still grow together—not apart—even if N95 masks are jumbling everybody’s words. Bite your tongue and think before speaking, instead of blurting out hurtful statements; step away from heated discussions to cool down, instead of quarreling unnecessarily; and work with passion and a productive mindset, instead of nursing an inferiority complex, which trickles down to your kids. Accept homeschooling or distance learning by teaching children respectfully, watching for social cues, allowing mental breaks, and choosing words carefully. This time shall pass; but family relationships, whether good or bad, will leave lasting impressions… so be sure to choose your words wisely.

Gina Wileman is a published author (My Twisted Life In Middle School: Best Friends & Bullies) and the owner of EUREKA! Tutoring (EurekaTutoring-SMILES.com), where she offers in-studio and virtual tutoring sessions for students (grades K-12). She homeschooled her son for ten years (2003-2013) and was a networking group facilitator of hikes, field trips, classes, plays, and club events for homeschool families in southern California. Gina loves teaching and mentoring students, writing books and blogs, listening to personal-growth podcasts, furthering her spiritual development, and creating allergy-friendly recipes. Mostly, she cherishes time spent with her husband, son, and two shih-tzu pups.