The term “pandemic parenting” has been floating around the last few months leaving a trail of fear about our children’s future and semi-desperate uncertainty about our own security. With kids home, distance learning, and work to do, families have been struggling to rise above the fray. Parents need a plan—a parenting strategy—to help combat the exhaustion that comes from the mental and emotional effort it takes to constantly adapt to these new circumstances.
“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” -Michael Porter
What is a parenting strategy?
A parenting strategy is a framework for your actions. It includes a set of values, intentions, or guiding principles that, when practiced within the family, allows each member to make positive desirable decisions. A strategy gives you an outline of how to spend your time as well as your financial and emotional resources to achieve your desired goals.
It simply isn’t possible for us as parents to equally spread our attention between work, our children’s education, and the social/emotional needs of ourselves and our families. That’s been the great societal fallacy of these past few months and it doesn’t seem to be going away.
Viktor E. Frankl famously said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” So what to do? Read on.
In this article we’ll provide:
- Guidance for absorbing your child’s education into your regular routine
- A video discussion of the entire Birth2Work team discussing how they are learning to adapt to the “new normal”
- Free downloads to support you on your journey of developing your own unique pandemic parenting strategy
The future of your child’s education is in your hands
Just like your employer demanding ever more productivity, teachers everywhere have had administrators and regulations requiring them to deliver curriculum to your children. They have been deeply concerned for their students and have had no real way to help. Many teachers are parents themselves dealing with the very same things you are.
Here we are in May with the school year nearly over and no clear picture of what’s going to happen next fall. The recently released CDC guidelines for reopening schools have left many parents without any faith that traditional school settings, even those that adhere to the new guidelines, will be appropriate for their children.
There are several options for families with school-aged children. Some will choose to embrace some version of independent or co-op homeschooling and leave the world of distance learning behind. Others will wait and see what happens in September and most likely learn to navigate hybrid education programs with some in-person and some online instructional time.
Decide on your intentions
Many parents started out trying to guarantee the completion of every single assignment, attendance at every video meetup, and simultaneously maintain their own careers, relationships, and general life responsibilities. And then they gave up. Is there any reason to think next fall is going to be all that different?
Maybe your intent going forward will be to teach broad topics through everyday experiences. Perhaps you’ll strive for 80% of assignments to be completed and let the rest be optional. You may still want to be sure your children complete every assignment, so you’ll consider reducing your hours or proposing a new level of work with your employer.
No matter which route your family chooses, the demand on parents’ time to be consistently and actively involved in your child’s education will continue for the foreseeable future. If the thought of repeating the behaviors of this past spring fills you with dread, you’ll want to take a look at our tip sheet.
Strategic tips for approaching distance learning include:
- Adjusting your expectations
- Setting appropriate time limits
- Establishing priorities and setting boundaries
- Creating dedicated work and learning spaces
- Making accommodations for your child’s learning style
Get our complete list of tips here including extended explanations and actions your family can take right now.
Knowing how to strategically approach home learning during the pandemic will help you and your children move from surviving to thriving and help you create a learning environment that feels more comfortable and natural.
Seek advice from other parents.
Are you wondering how those tips transfer to real life? In the video below we interviewed our entire Birth2Work team on how each of us is handling our individual family needs during the pandemic. Together we represent eager-to-help grandparents as well as exhausted but optimistic parents of toddlers through junior high students.
The video is full of relatable real-life struggles and successful actionable steps to address many of the issues families everywhere are facing.
You’ll also get to hear our thoughts on preparing for what life will look like when schools open again from a member of our team, Tamie Neu, who is an award-winning master teacher with 28 years of experience in the classroom.
>> Watch our video breakdown of solutions for parents needing support as teachers during the pandemic
If you’re in a hurry:
Download this PDF with topic breakdowns and time markers so you can jump to the sections most important to you.
@5:05 – Somer (with 3-year-old son) shares how she approaches education for her son and the activities she uses to help her husband be engaged with their son
@11:00 – Tamie (master teacher) talks about the importance of parents understanding their child’s learning style
Approach family life as a leader
We happen to believe that society and life as we knew it will not be returning for a long long time, if ever. Perhaps that’s a very good thing.
The abrupt change in society we have all faced presents an unprecedented opportunity for parents to radically overhaul their approach to the education of their children as well as develop new habits and new skills.
All this quarantined time together has likely caused you to seriously reflect on your family relationships and how you function (or not) as a cohesive team. If you’re tired of handling the onslaught of daily tasks with a random defensive strategy and want to become more proactive then adopting a leadership mindset is your best move going forward.
What’s happening right now is generally a chaotic mess of doing everything at once. That approach is not mentally, emotionally, or financially sustainable. While there is no magic fix to every family’s struggles, there are ways to transition your family dynamic from insanity to stability.
To move forward with intention, keep these things in mind:
A parenting strategy for your family’s future is a framework for making decisions.
It’s not about having a detailed schedule for every 20-minute increment of the day. Having a plan and staying focused on that plan one day at a time helps alleviate our own doubts and helps put order back in our lives. Put a schedule in place that allows you to work, teach your children, and engage the family in the same day. Know that the amount of time on any of those three activities will likely not be as much as you would like, but you can flex back and forth throughout the week.
Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by worry and indecision.
Trust yourself to make the right decisions and to move forward. You know your family better than anyone. If your job is in jeopardy or may go away, reach out to find a job and/or credit counselor. The National Financial Credit Counseling has a toolkit, and their hotline number is 844.865.1971. Finding or changing jobs will be a bigger challenge. Have a plan and write it down! Engage your network, take a temporary gig, and make sure you customize your application for each job.
Your children are looking to you as the family leader.
Remember, they have their own very real and valid fears and concerns. It’s your time to be their model. Think about how you want them to see and react to what’s going on around them. Share your plan with them each day so they understand what is expected of them, what the priorities are, and how they can help support the family team. Your actions and modeling will serve them for a lifetime by giving them a sense of possibilities and confidence to go forward, no matter what they face.
Follow Your Values.
Values are the ideas that you believe in and form the basis for making your decisions. When frustrations get to be too much, pull out your list and use that list to set your priorities. While COVID-19 may have you wanting to go hide in a closet for a few minutes, your children only grow up once. And you now have some parenting strategies to help.
What the world will look like even a few months from now, let alone a few years, is anybody’s guess. Yes, we have to wait and see what happens, but we don’t have to be swallowed up by fears, worries, and indecision.
The media is full of reasons why we should be afraid and feel helpless. But that is not who we are, nor is it how we want our children to become. We are their model for how to move forward. Let’s assure their future by confirming our own.
It’s time to take back our role as responsible citizens and family leader by moving forward with intention and a parenting strategy! Will you rise to the challenge?
Somer is the Chief Content Officer at Raising Families living in Southern California with her husband and five-year-old son. She spent 10 years in the architecture field as a designer and medical planner and now applies her love of integrative thinking and big-picture planning to her family and career. Read full bio >>