Let me see if I’ve got this straight….now I’m my child’s parent AND their teacher?

This is the question that millions of parents are asking themselves, and the world, right now. During a time when schools have been forced to close, when routines are turned upside down, and families are under tremendous stress and anxiety, parents–many of whom are trying to work from home–are also being required to teach math, science, social studies, French, PE, Music, Art and a host of other subjects. Additionally, schools are striving to deliver a top-notch education through their laptops, eagerly attempting to have their students “grade-level ready” in the event that schools do not reopen before the academic year comes to a close. It is a tall order amidst a tug of war of emotions and expectations. What are we to do?

Schools are rooted in traditions. There’s the Mother’s Day Tea and the Spring Sing and the High School and College Graduations and the Student Council Elections and the Eighth Grade Washington DC Trip and all of it is hanging by a thread, due to the coronavirus pandemic and everything that it means to us as human beings. Many of these beloved celebrations will undoubtedly be canceled and there is a very real sense of loss for students, their families and certainly the schools. Roll all of this up with the enormous sense of fear and lack of control impacting each of us and we are faced with an insurmountable level of uncertainty. As an elementary school principal and mother of two students (one in high school and one in college), I am “living the dream” right along with you! Through my work with teachers, students, parents and my own family members, I have put together a couple of strategies and suggestions to help navigate this unusual experience.

Have compassion for yourself and for those who love you and whom you love.

This is a challenging enough situation without turning on ourselves. It’s easy during times of loss or stress to begin to experience feelings of self-doubt. Try to stay positive and set the tone in your own living space for productivity and light. Those who are counting on you will benefit from this, too, and along with coronavirus, kindness, love and humor are also contagious. Be the carrier!

Your child(ren)’s teachers do not expect you to be an expert in classroom curriculum or instructional techniques.

This is the truth, I assure you. What is required, fortunately, has always been required, regardless of a global pandemic. We need partnerships between our families and schools. Communicate with your child’s teachers when things are difficult. Most schools will be reaching out to make sure that your family is healthy, safe and that your child has access to technology, especially if they haven’t received any work from your child. Also, encourage your child to participate in any opportunities to connect with the teachers. If there is a Zoom classroom meeting or discussion, set your child up for success. If there is a class art project, set aside a time to do it together, especially if you are yourself working and trying to meet deadlines. If you don’t have access to a laptop or device, reach out to your child’s teacher and/or principal and let someone know. Chances are, there is a school device that could be delivered to you, at least for this period. Most of all, if your child is hungry or if your family is in need, please make the school personnel aware of these challenges. There are amazing resources available through schools, religions organizations and communities.

Create a realistic schedule for the day.

Most families who homeschool under normal circumstances will share that they strive to have 1-2 hours of learning in the mornings and 1 hour in the afternoons. Lunch, snack and play/breaks are also an important part of the schedule that students would have during the school day, too. Get outside each day, while practicing social distancing and adhering to the guidelines set by local and state governments, and encourage your child to move (run, skip, play catch, walk the dog). This will help mood, health and will reduce anxiety/and or loneliness.

Set realistic expectations for children – and parents – and teachers.

We’ve heard these words, like “unprecedented” or “uncharted” or “uncertain” regularly from our news sources and leadership around the world. Daily life is not immune to the impact of these terms. Rather than expecting perfection from students, parents, teachers, store clerks, our neighbors, let’s set the bar at a realistic level and extend grace, compassion, kindness and love to those we encounter. A smile goes a long way when people are living in isolation. And, if today’s lesson on Medieval Europe doesn’t go according to plan, trust me when I tell you, this happens to seasoned educators in the classroom everyday. We roll up our sleeves, reflect, hit reset, and try again. This is truth and applicable across all settings during a pandemic.

I heard a trusted advisor who happens to be a pastor (I’m a Catholic school principal) that I admire and respect say that this quarantine is, and I quote: “an opportunity”. He went on to say that it’s a great time to slow down, to reach out, to call someone who might be lonely, to practice patience, to pray. Hearing the global pandemic described as an “opportunity” was a lightbulb moment for me. If we can shift our collective mindsets from grief to possibility, we might have a brighter outlook. Here’s to brighter days ahead for all of us.

Author: Dr. Molly Cinnamon

The team at Erika’s Lighthouse knows how challenging and difficult this transition is on our teens, educators, parents and others. We are here to help and support our young people. We have launched an exciting new campaign that will provide meaningful, practical resources for teens, educators and parents.