Life Interrupted – Parenting in Tough Times

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? – T.S. Eliot

Parenting for all of us has always brought challenges. But the pandemic has taken parenting to unchartered territories. Prior to 2020, August and September meant a new school year, new classrooms, new teachers, and from approximately 8 o’clock to 3 o’clock you trusted your child was in a structured environment. Each day’s schedule brought in patterns that parents trusted. Enter Covid 19.
I interviewed several teachers from various schools to include both elementary and high schools with a goal of giving best advice for a successful school year. The teachers I chose are seasoned educators, many who are in leadership roles and a few have been chosen teachers of the year. Each teacher provided advice as if they were working with their own son or daughter. I combined their ideas to capture best practices for a successful school year and also to manage distance learning.
First and foremost, Schools will open up again. Be patient. Be patient with your child and with the schools. As parents, teachers, tech specialists, and district administrators, quite literally everyone will make mistakes. It is a New Horizon and a new adventure and we are in it together. Communicate with the teachers and know what is expected of your child every day. The following are some helpful suggestions to set up a successful learning environment for your child.

1. Adjust your child’s schedule so that they are going to bed at an early time to be able to be up in the morning and focus. Establish a routine immediately.
2. Provide your child a quiet work area away from siblings and other distractions. That work station should include everything they will need. Depending on the age level of your child, it can be pencils, pens, and crayons, notebooks and calculators. (The phone should not be the calculator.). A strong Wi-Fi support for the teacher to communicate with your child is critical.
3. Help your child organize their material so they are within reach of her work area.
4. In an easy access area in a folder write down all the child’s login information and online meeting IDs with passwords.
5. In the morning, give them some snacks to access at their work area and water, just as if they were going to school and needed a packed lunch.
6. An adult in the house should be able to see the child to make sure they are not getting distracted or being disruptive.
7. If the child is older and there is not adult supervision, you can still do FaceTime Check in’s to monitor what the child has accomplished.
8. Structure is mandatory.
9. During their lunch break, encourage the child to do some kind of physical activity.

Another recommendation is to have your student create a schedule on Fridays for the following week. That schedule should include what time the zoom sessions will be, what projects are due, and what assessments are coming up. It is also important to have some direct human communication so possibly have a family board game night on Friday nights or Saturday nights. Take advantage of being a family again.
In communicating with your child, focus on the objective. What is the purpose of each assignment? Then talk to your child about what they are learning. You can say, “How does what you are doing help you reach the learning goal?“. The work your child is doing is not busy work. If parents ask open ended questions they are opening up their child to thinking and connecting what they are learning. As a parent, you do not need to know all the answers. Your questions are demonstrating curiosity to open analytical thinking skills for your child. Parents can be very supportive to their students’ learning if they help them refocus on the “why”. What am I practicing and why am I practicing this? Keeping the objective in mind will help the focus be on success in developing lifelong learning skills.
Keep in mind that you as a parent are not alone. Reach out to your neighbors and other school-age children. Remember that we are still a community even if we are in separate rooms. Students may be of different ages but the needs can be very similar.
It is also OK to allow your child to struggle. Allowing the opportunity to struggle, comes strength to develop troubleshooting skills and allows your child to develop resources, to empower their adulthood. Instead of providing your child the answer, continue to ask questions to push your child to develop problem-solving abilities.
What this time also brings is a rare opportunity for students to have appointments one on one with their teachers and use the new way of doing things to their advantage. Encourage your child to communicate.
The last piece of advice the educators understand is that parents are also frustrated about the situation. But if you lose your temper, you need to apologize to your child. Show children how to deal with stress appropriately. We don’t apologize enough to our children or students. We expect children to apologize but as parents and adults we don’t often admit fault to our children. The children need to know that as parents and teachers, we all mess up. We sometimes say or do things that are wrong and by recognizing and apologizing we are an example of how our children can deal with difficult times. It is about courtesy and respect. The best way to teach important life skills is by modeling that type of behavior.
As an educator and a life coach, I want to add the importance of active listening, , curiosity, and using parental instincts of any frustration your child may feel. Your presence for your child is the most valuable resource your child can have. Being your best sage is powerful. Interrupting life sometimes brings out the best. The skills we practice now are skills that can continue when school reopens. Let’s make this life interrupted a learning experience for all of us. Lets take this as a time to be our best selves.

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