Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Aftereffects of the COVID Lockdown on Students and Families

Helping today's students requires finding new ways to learn and teach.

Key points

  • During the pandemic, students attending school online often did not have enough structure and support to learn the subject matter.
  • Even with supervision, many students got away with defiant behavior in order to avoid online schoolwork during the COVID lockdown.
  • Helping kids make up for lost educational time due to the pandemic can begin with clarifying what they need to catch up on.

The lockdown created serious difficulties and aftereffects for the educational community, which was previously based in-house with a face-to-face curriculum. The in-house staff, including teachers, school counselors, and administrators, with supporters of parents, extended family, tutors, and therapists, were suddenly responsible for a highly compromised situation. Just improvising and standardizing how to educate students virtually was complicated. Frankly, teachers and administrators were placed in a difficult situation without much, if any, previous experiences to fall back on.

While it was a relief to have online learning to prevent the spread of the virus, this pragmatically developed methodology was certainly not the same as classroom learning. Two problems that virtual learning created were a lack of peer interactions and teacher-student interactions. Students often did not have enough structure and support to learn the subject matter. The consequences related to getting student work completed and checking students’ work were not attended to effectively.

Often, students did not pay enough attention to the lessons they were supposed to be working on. Some students played games on the phone or computer or talked to friends when parents could not supervise what their children were actually doing under the guise of being “at home in school.” Even with supervision from teachers and parents, many students got away with defiant and unacceptable behavior in order to avoid schoolwork and do their own activities.

Even highly motivated students found virtual learning problematic and even boring. Students missed their friends and teachers and the fun and hassles of being in school. Teachers had different reactions depending on how comfortable they were with technology. In general, I would say that teachers experienced online learning as a necessary evil. Parents adjusted the best to virtual learning because they did not have to get their kids ready for school. Pajamas and very casual clothes took away the “getting dressed and getting out of the house” problem. Not having to pack lunch was a sweet additional pleasure.

But the rewards or payoffs of virtual learning, which were focused on not having to drive your children to school, were not long-lasting. The same old problems of getting ready for school came back when school started again. And the going-back-to-school routine was more difficult because students had been able to avoid it for so long.

What Was Lost in the Lockdown

Learning skills—social, cognitive, and emotional—were lost. Students lagged behind in the socialization skills that are normally learned day in and day out. Academics were not monitored effectively. Being in an actual classroom helped students remember that they had to follow school rules and requirements or expectations. Respect for authority dwindled because of the lack of attention to the completion of students’ work.

Online learning removed the necessity and importance of human interactions in accomplishing educational goals. Overall, we have serious social and academic skill problems to correct because of virtual learning. How educators will overcome all of these new problems is truly a mystery at this point in time. Plus, fear of the virus still lingers in the hearts and minds of many children and parents, and teachers.

What I am trying to say is that an unmeasurable amount of learning was lost with virtual instruction that is impossible to evaluate in an objective way. While we know that math learning and other academic subjects show a decline in achievement, I am most concerned about the loss of learning and experiencing “social reality” in school life. I am also aware that fearfulness has been a serious issue. Students seem to be more anxious and less confident since the coronavirus hit. Parents have been forced to relate to new school problems because some students think that they can get away with not doing their work, which was fun for them in the short run. In the long run, however, lagging behind because of a lack of skills or knowledge has become a burden for students as they proceed in school now.

What Can I Do to Help My Son or Daughter?

First, we need to understand that all students have been affected by the lockdown because of fear and drastic changes in teaching strategies. Specifically, students are concerned about being behind, which is paradoxically coupled with figuring out how to get around the work they don’t want to do. This is a complicated situation for parents and teachers because student helpers should be encouraging, empathic, and open-minded about how hard it is to get schoolwork completed, while at the same time explaining that students need to catch up and finish their work no matter what.

Students say there is just too much work, and the teachers and school counselors report that the workload is the same as last year. I suspect that students got used to an easier way of getting through whatever grade they were in. But students will be more unhappy later if they don’t work hard to catch up. I guess teachers, administrators, and parents have the difficult job of being sensitive to this dilemma without giving in to the shortcuts that were taken during the pandemic.

Helping today's students involves accepting what they have been through. If you ignore or make light of students’ fears and reservations about the importance of school and getting educated, they will feel misunderstood and alone with their problems. If you overreact and give in, you are not helping either. Catching up is necessary, but the cost to the student cannot be overwhelming. Try your best to come up with reasonable solutions that involve both encouragement and acknowledging what actually needs to be learned.

Strategies to Make Up for Lost Time

  1. Make sure you know what your son or daughter needs to catch up on. This may be harder to do than you imagine. Students have learned from each other how to avoid doing work that they do not want to do and will be less forthcoming with their problems, fears, and inadequacies in all areas that need to be worked on. Stay focused on what you think they are not telling you and even see what their teachers have to say.
  2. Develop fair consequences for avoiding or ignoring academic and social learning.
  3. Make sure that your consequences are clear and that you follow through.
  4. Remember that ignoring problems will not solve problems but actually make them worse.
  5. Be positive with make-up work.
More from Barbara Klein Ph.D., Ed.D.
More from Psychology Today
4 Min Read
Polymathy, the pursuit of knowledge across multiple fields, is increasingly seen as necessary for success in the 21st century.
More from Barbara Klein Ph.D., Ed.D.
More from Psychology Today
4 Min Read
Polymathy, the pursuit of knowledge across multiple fields, is increasingly seen as necessary for success in the 21st century.