AIR Informs Episode #3: Creating a Safe, Supportive Learning Environment at Home

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Image of David OsherResearch clearly demonstrates the importance of a safe, supportive learning environment in student’s academic success. With so many children now participating in online or distance learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to create such a learning environment.

In this episode of AIR Informs, David Osher, an AIR vice president and Institute Fellow, explains the science of learning and development, as well as how parents can create a safe, supportive learning environment at home while their children are away from school during the coronavirus pandemic.

The science of learning and development points to a number of key factors that influence a student’s success. One important finding is that having positive relationships with parents, family members, teachers, mentors, and other adults is critically important to children’s educational success.

According to Osher, safety is another key component of creating a safe, supportive learning environment. It consists of five components:

  1. Physical Safety: Ensuring your children feel safe from germs when they’re at home, but also not getting caught up in family conflicts.
  2. Emotional Safety: Worrying about failing, disappointing parents, or feeling embarrassed in an online learning community can detract from your child’s academic success.
  3. Psychological Safety: Avoiding triggers for children with a history of trauma, who tend to be particularly sensitive and can become distressed easily.
  4. Sense of Identity: Providing an affirming environment and allowing children to develop their sense of identity both inside and outside the family, as a member of the community, a citizen of the world, and a learner.
  5. Intellectual Safety: Encouraging your children to think creatively as they solve problems.

Even if parents are unable to provide the academic and technical support that children might need to learn at home, it is perhaps more important for them to provide emotional support during this time, Osher says. He suggests four things for parents to keep in mind.

  1. Relax. Remember that the most important thing you can do is support your child in feeling safe as they do their work.
  2. Focus on your children’s needs. Since you first became a parent, you had the ability to understand your child’s needs, even when they couldn’t talk. This is still an important part of providing support, even as they grow older, and you still know what your child needs.
  3. Know that you’re not alone. You may be feeling additional stress and pressure. Stressful events, like a pandemic, can exacerbate that. Tap into your networks and family for support.
  4. Take time to breathe. Practice meditation or spirituality. The more that you can remain calm, the more that you can sense the needs of your child, which can decrease the likelihood that your child will act out to provoke you.

Keep an eye out for specific, science-backed resources for parents on safe, supportive learning.