We’re nine months into the pandemic and remote school is wearing on students. Boys, who are at greater risk of falling behind academically than girls, are having an especially tough time with all the hours spent behind screens. The challenges of staying focused and motivated in remote school carry even higher stakes for adolescent and teenage boys, who face more academic pressure than younger ones.

I reached out to child psychologists and education experts to find out how parents can help their sons—and daughters—remain focused and motivated in virtual school. They all said the first step is for parents to examine their own expectations and reactions to their children’s struggles. Here are some key pieces of advice:

Enlist your child in developing solutions

“What you need to do as a parent is try to stay away from your own catastrophic thinking and use your foremost consultant, which is your child himself,” said Michael Thompson, a child psychologist and author of “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.” He added, “No one knows more about what he likes and what he hates about school than he does.”

How do you elicit meaningful feedback from an adolescent or teenager who responds with one-word answers? It’s all about how you ask the question. Dr. Thompson suggests saying something like, “I see you’re struggling with math and English. How can I help you with that?”

Experts caution parents against being accusatory. If a teacher has alerted you to missing assignments, you can say to your child, “I heard you’re having a hard time turning things in. What’s happening?” suggests Jeffrey Selman, vice president of clinical services at First Children Services, a behavioral health and special-education services provider for children in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This post first appeared on wsj.com

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