As working-from-home parents during quarantine, we don’t have much time for reflection these days. We are inside with our families. All. The. Time.
But, let’s be real, if we’re all healthy, is there really anything to fuss about?
Sure! This is hard. But we’re parents and we were made to do hard things. Let’s talk about how to thrive (and help our children thrive) with love and empathy during this unprecedented time.
Given that we are now homeschool teachers, if we focus on one vocabulary word through this time, it should be empathy.
em·pa·thy (/’empəTHē/) – the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person
Practicing empathy makes us better people, partners and parents. And modeling it for our children makes the world a better place. It really is that big of a deal.
So, as we settle into “quarantine fatigue,” let’s remember the reasons we’re doing this. Our decision to stay home keeps our families safe and has a direct impact on keeping the larger world safe. It’s majorly important. And what a luxury it is to also be able to work from home while doing the right thing.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
So how is a parent to stay sane? I don’t know all the answers, but here are some ideas to stay grounded while parenting during COVID.
1. Take a Walk in Our Kids’ Shoes
There are segments of our society hit much harder than others during this pandemic. Medical workers and essential workers of all kinds are risking their lives every day to save ours. Let us not forget the socioeconomic, racial and age disparities that, although present before, are now exacerbated.
Now for a moment, let’s think about the children. Practically overnight, they’ve had to adjust to an unprecedented situation and find a new normal, which can be incredibly difficult for people of any age. Six weeks ago, my children went to school on a Friday, ate in the crowded cafeteria and sat in groups in their overcrowded classrooms. And then they just never went back to school on Monday, or any day thereafter.
There was no transition. There were no goodbye parties. No chance for the teachers to prepare the students to leave school. My son’s favorite hoodie still sits in his Kindergarten classroom. The one with dinosaur scales down the back that makes him look like “a real stegosaurus.”
Psychology research is consistent in the fact that transitions are a big deal to kids. Transitions like moving to a new city or changing schools can shape children’s psyches. Even seemingly smaller transitions are important, like turning 13 or graduating from elementary school.
So let’s think of our kids as heroes during this pandemic too. Because they are. They have transitioned fast and without warning. They are enduring living with parents who are potentially stressed, annoyed, tired and anxious. And they’re learning a new way to learn. Be in awe of your children. They are resilient and powerful. Just like their parents.
2. Ditch the Perfectionism
As parents, we are not only quarantined. We are quarantined while working from home, while homeschooling our children. Some of us (including me) are just not cut out to be teachers. It’s a job on top of a job. And let’s be honest, teaching is for saints. Teachers are cut from a different cloth. Teachers are better than all of us.
So what’s a parent to do?
Keep expectations realistic about academic schoolwork. But raise expectations around emotional learning.
Aside from not being trained as teachers, most of our kids do not want us to be their teachers.
Instead of stressing about whether children will forge through this with exceptional academic achievement or whether they will be behind next school year, focus on emotional learning—how to be a good person, how to not fight with siblings, how to not interrupt when mom or dad is on a work call. All skills that will carry our children through life.
3. Eat Together
One simple way to support emotional health during this time and to connect with our kids is to sit down to dinner together each night. Turn off the TV’s, put away the phones, silence the notifications. And talk. About anything– the weather, Minecraft, Legos, where we want to travel one day.
So often we go through the days without having real conversations with those we live with. These small and simple connections and conversations mean everything to our children. And it will fill your cup too, I promise.
If issues seem too big to handle, or kids don’t want to talk, try setting up a meeting with the school counselor. My older son loves his school counselor. We’ve set up an ongoing meeting once a week while quarantined. It helps him to vent to someone outside of our family and the counselor gives him tools to cope.
4. Does Anyone Need Stitches?
I grew up with four siblings and if someone wasn’t arguing, then hell might have frozen over.
Parents, let’s forgive ourselves. If our children are not getting along, but no one needs stitches, let’s call it a good day. Maybe stock up on butterfly bandages (like I did) and realize that, without recess or social outlets, the kids might bicker. Consider a day a success if everyone is healthy, fed and not in need of stitches.
And feel free to use my line: “We’re not going to the hospital for stitches, so think about that before you stand up in that hammock!”
Or this one: “You’ll look tougher with scars anyway.”
I’m a boy mom. What can I say?
With the loss of structure given to us by school and office, some of us might not be getting enough sleep. Make sleep a priority. Yes, you, mom and dad.
Tip: Put away your phone and computer at least one hour before bedtime.
Sleep makes everything better. Put kids to bed at a normal time and then have a quiet dinner with your partner. Reconnect with one another.
In conclusion, remember our word of the day—empathy! Empathy for our kids, and don’t forget empathy for ourselves. We are navigating uncharted waters. And it’s going to be ok.