Skip to main content

Clear Goal Setting, Allowing Failure Are Key in Supporting Childrens’ Virtual Learning

March 19, 2021

Setting clear and attainable goals, praising genuine efforts, and allowing failure are key in supporting children’s virtual learning efforts during the pandemic, according to a session presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America 2021 Virtual Conference.

“Kids have to be more reliant on themselves now and they have to be more accountable in order to be able to figure things out and complete assignments then they might have had to be previously when things were very structured,” said Jennifer Lynch, PsyD, director of training at the Renewed Freedom Center, Los Angeles, California. “So now kids have to do a lot more of these things on their own.”

The fight or flight response process can lead to irrational thoughts and lead kids to feel overwhelmed and prevent them from following through with assignments and procrastinate. There are “mind traps” that make students believe they “aren’t good enough” or will not succeed at their work. Planning backwards and planning in a sequential pattern is a way to help students combat these blocks, Jenny C. Yip, PsyD, ABPP, executive director of the Renewed Freedom Center told virtual attendees

“You want to break each of these tasks down and then figure out how much time you are estimating it will take. Then the next part is scheduling,” said Dr. Yip, who is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry.

Long-Term Effects of the Pandemic in Children and Adolescents

Utilizing a planner or a scheduler to gauge their time can help students to plan out their day instead of creating a daunting to-do list. Students should be made aware that this schedule isn’t set in stone, it is a skeleton to help stay on track, and parents can teach kids to embrace flexibility, Dr. Yip suggested. Perfectionist behaviors such as procrastination, having difficulty making decisions, and avoiding new things to avoid mistakes can stop students from succeeding in the virtual learning space.

Parents should nurture curiosity and “let a child figure it out instead of fixing or giving answers right away,” Dr. Yip said. “Parents start fixing things and we get into this mode of trying to fix everything because we aren’t able to see our children suffer.”

When parents refrain from this behavior it allows kids to have their own “ah-ha” moments, where they draw their own conclusions and build problem-solving skills that are encouraging. Embracing this discomfort strengthens grit, persistence, and endurance

“We have to allow our kids to fail,” Dr. Yip said. “We are teaching them that failing is not problematic as long as they are learning what works and what doesn’t. If we are telling our children that you cannot fail, what we are telling them is you have to be perfect because failure is imperfection."

Praising genuine efforts, allowing failure, and not rewarding for what is already expected will help to cultivate intrinsic self-confidence and an “I can” attitude.

“We forget how adaptable kids are. During this whole pandemic, kids are going to be learning and hopefully the message they are learning is that they can rather than they can’t. So, it comes from the parents first. We have to believe in them so that the kids can believe in themselves.”

—Meagan Thistle


“’I feel stuck’ helping kids manage anxiety and remain productive with remote learning”. Presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America 2021 Virtual Conference: Virtual; March 18, 2021.

Back to Top