Team Up! – Distance Learning Tips for Parents

COVID-19 has made the importance of flexibility abundantly clear. As the school year begins with students in distance learning, anything parents can do to be a calm, stable presence and mitigate uncertainty through routines is helpful, says Maureen MacLeod, S+Well department chair and advisory teacher.

While it’s easy to focus on how different things will be, children are adaptable and often settle into their new routines quickly, says third grade teacher Jerusha Hagen ’90 Tabori. “We have to focus on the new and exciting things the new school year always brings, and less on comparing it to previous years.”

Here are suggestions from Punahou faculty on how parents can help their children with distance learning.

All Ages

  • Focus on what is the same, rather than different, modeling calm within the storm. “Worry less and model more,” MacLeod says. “Be the person you want your children to be.”
  • Manage your own anxiety through mindfulness and positive thoughts. “You’re doing the best you can,” says Lauli‘a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong, a K – 2 counselor. “We all need compassion for how challenging things can be in this critical time.”
  • Reach out for support. The counselors, deans and teachers are here for you, because now more than ever, we’re all in this together.

Early Elementary (Kindergarten – Grade 1)

  • Focus on the emotional needs of your child. “Your child’s social emotional health is top priority,” first grade teacher Jodie Kelekolio says.
  • If your child is struggling with learning from home, take a break and come back to it later. Breaks will slow the pace and provide children time to think and process information.
  • Allow children to make choices when learning from home, like completing math before reading.
  • Encourage movement, exercise and play. Breaks can help ease stress and allow children to think and process information. Create lots of unplugged and unstructured play time.
  • Read and discuss stories with your children daily.


  • Regularly do even a 10-minute check-in, where your child verbalizes what needs to happen that day, rather than you telling them.
  • Be a bridge between your child and their teacher, and if you see an opportunity for collaboration, explore it.
  • Make sure your child’s study space at home is conducive to learning. For instance, is there a comfortable chair and good reading lamp?

Middle School (Grades 6 – 8)

  • Ask your child to show you around Canvas (the online hub used by Punahou). If your child doesn’t seem confident navigating Canvas, reach out.
  • Encourage kids to take a break from screens with activities such as drawing, cooking, swimming and dancing.

Academy (Grades 9 – 12)

  • Ask teens what they need to do each day. But remember, gentle reminders work better than directions or orders.
  • Without micromanaging, help them devise daily routines, including creating a schedule to manage assignments and commitments. “Keep in mind that the same schedule may not work for every child,” Erin Wilkerson ’89 Maretzki, dean of the Class of 2023 says.
  • It may feel awkward for students to meet teachers during virtual office hours, so brainstorm questions with teens beforehand. Sometimes, teens just need help getting in the room with their teacher, and then teachers can take things from there.
  • Self-care is crucial. Encourage teens to take breaks, and to get enough sleep.

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