How can I help my child learn independently and stay motivated?

How can I help my child learn independently and stay motivated?

Many of these strategies come from Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health Study Without Stress (SWOS) Program.

For some parents/carers who are working from home, the list below may feel overwhelming. We would suggest selecting one or two strategies that might work for you and your child.

Time Management

  • Structure: Plan a day that is similar in structure to a school day. Ensure your child maintains a regular wake-up time and help them to develop a timetable that works for them. Break tasks into small manageable chunks, as this can help with their motivation.
  • Regular breaks: Encourage your child to take more regular breaks than normal to introduce a change of pace throughout the day.
  • Physical activity: Include some physical activity at several points throughout the day, as being in front of a computer for long periods can be more physically difficult on the body than being in a normal classroom.
  • Connect: Try to find time for children to connect with friends and family. Use apps such as FaceTime.
  • Ask for help: Remind your child that if they feel unsure, then it is OK to ask for help. This is a new way of learning for all of us.


Motivation is something we look for before starting at task. This is a fallacy. It is better to simply make a start in a small way, and then motivation kicks in. Time management can help, too. Here are a few additional to help build motivation:

  • Break work into small chunks: Some children may need help with this.
  • Plan and encourage rewards: Provide a reward when your child completes a task. A reward could be a favourite meal, a fun game, going for bike ride etc.
  • Encourage teamwork: Some children will be missing the energy of classroom interactions. Encourage them to work together, if possible. For example, form small study groups and/or have virtual play dates after school.
  • Tailor learning activities: Consider if it is possible for children to work on things that particularly interest them.
  • Overcome hurdles: If getting started is difficult for your child, encourage 10–15 minutes focus on a task, and then allow a short break, if needed. Motivation often builds as we begin an activity, not before it.
  • Study space: It may help to have a regular place to study.
  • Listening: If your child seems to be more worried than usual, try to set aside time to listen to their concerns. Sometimes, kids don’t want us to solve their problems; they just need to know we really hear them.
  • Normalise: We’re all in this together. If your child is worried that they are falling behind because of the changes in schooling, reassure them that everyone has been affected by COVID-19. There will be opportunities in coming months to recover any learning missed.

In the video below, Lesley Smyth from Centre for Emotional Health, and Department of Psychology at Macquarie University talks to parents and cares about how they help their children during  the COVID-19 restrictions to stay motivated.

Watch the video or download the tip sheet.

Video - How can I help my child learn independently and stay motivated?

Content owner: Centre for Emotional Health Last updated: 14 May 2020 2:07pm

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