In your wildest dreams, did you ever imagine you’d be begging your children to stare at a screen for eight hours during virtual class time while you try to make lunch, supervise, and get your own work done?
Probably not. How could you have?
Parents have been lamenting the state of the educational system for years, from complaints about lack of funding, to poor heating during the winter months, to the banality and rote memorization required in standardized testing, and even to the wacky way kids are taught their multiplication tables these days.
And when the pandemic first struck back in March, and students were sent home early, many parents realized they’d taken for granted the space that brick and mortar schools allowed in their own lives for work, home making, and peace. Without it, there was no caretaker for their children, no one to make lunch, keep up disciplinary standards, reinforce learning…
No one except for parents, that is.
Now, in most places around the country, the fall semester has already begun. Most states are hybrid learning, meaning some counties’ schools will be fully open with virtual options or class time will be split between in person and online learning. Because there’s very little uniformity and a notable absence of a national plan, homeschooling numbers are expected to grow 10% from the existing 2.5 million students already enrolled.
That’s a lot of big change, in a short period of time. It’s stress most people never imagined they’d have to prepare themselves for. It’s just one more unprecedented aspect of 2020 (which is starting to look less like a strange anomaly that may soon go away and more like a call to amend our collective behavior moving forward.)
Kids wear their hearts on their sleeves – if you’ve got a stressed out, confused, panicked, or lonely kid, you likely already know.
It’s the job of parents to not only provide an anchor for their children, but to set precedents when things are unprecedented. (We make the rules now, right?)
Here are a few ways you can provide structure while remaining a source of warmth and understanding for your virtual-learning kids.
Dismantle the Story You’re Telling
When you react to your child – their one stress, their lack of focus, their tantrums – are you reacting to your child, or to the story you’ve told yourself about what is happening?
That if you fail to guide them properly, and they fail to travel in the direction you’ve instructed, the result will mean something about who you are as a parent and a person? That it will mean something about your kid, their smarts, their behavior, and their social futures?
For example: classes transitioned from math to science with a break in between, and your child got frustrated at sitting for so long and didn’t join the next class. You, and all of the thoughts you’ve ever had and anyone you’ve respected has ever had, got together to create a story, to attach meaning, to this event – they’ll miss the lesson and fall behind because I don’t have enough resources to stay focused on their every move, and then when they grow up and don’t understand science, it’ll be because I failed them.
That story isn’t real – only the thing that happened is. They found it difficult to transition to a new class in an unfamiliar setting.
Recognizing What is Happening Rather Than What “Should Be”
This year feels like collective mourning for all of us. Vacations lost, lives lost, jobs lost, homes lost – to the pandemic, the fires, the protesting, the hurricanes.
Comparing where we are now to where we think we should be or would have been if not for all this pesky apocalypse-feeling stuff is so easy.
But when we succumb to comparison misery, we’re not only being much harder on ourselves than is productive, but we’re missing out on where we actually are.
And where we actually are might be spending much more time together than we ever thought possible, getting to watch our children socialize and learn right before our very eyes, and being available to support them in a way we hadn’t been before.
That is historic. It’s immense. And if we’re not careful, we might miss it
Remaining the Adult in the Room
You’re suffering, too.
You’re confused, out of your depth, and frustrated, too.
When your child is acting irrationally, refusing to cooperate, or melting down, it can be tempting to join them in the muck and unravel.
But you’re the adult in the room. Stressfully reacting to your children will only reinforce the senselessness your children are already feeling.
That might mean enforcing self-care time for you so that you’ve got the internal resources to keep your head on straight, training yourself to interpret misbehavior as a request for extra love and attention, or counting to 10 before you have any reaction at all.
The most important thing for your children while they navigate online schooling and a different world than they’ve ever known is that you don’t stop being the port in the storm.
They need to know that you’ll love them through this frustration, and that together, you’ll stay whole.
Fall semester 2020 is certainly no walk in the park…
And everyone has different ideas about how to handle it. What we all have in common, however, is that we want to raise healthy kids.
That was already a challenge before the pandemic shut the world down and forced us to reevaluate our parenting. Now?
It can feel like Sisyphus pushing his eternal boulder up a hill.
If you feel like you could use some extra support navigating our new normal as a parent, Pedram and his wife designed a course to help parents struggling to do the right thing for their kids – just like they are. Click here to find out more about it.