Science

Parenting in a Pandemic

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(upbeat music) – Hi, I’m Shelli Kurth andI’m here with my colleague, Dr. Nicole Asisi with our eighth installment of how to stay sane in these times of unprecedented parenting. – Together, Shelli and I are working moms with over 30 years of experience, teaching and leading schools. We’ve also worked as executive coaches, have taught at the university level and now like you, we are homeschooling parents. Over the past few weeks, we’ve met you here on this channel to talk a little bit about how to stay sane in times of unprecedented parenting and how to help your learner to thrive. Today’s episode is a little bit different because we go directly to your questions that you have had and have left for us in our comments that you have sent to us and our first question is as follows. I feel embarrassed that I am not doing enough with the kids. Everyone seems to be learning a new language or building a new bookshelf, am I doing this wrong? Shelli, do you have any advice for our viewer? – First of all, I think we have all felt like we’re doing it wrong sometimes. So I’ve said it before andI’ll say it again, try easy. Give yourself grace. You do not have to be a Pinterest parent. In fact, this is a moment to pause in our go, go, do, do, sort of way of being and allow some space, allow some boredom, allow some quiet and perhaps you might even have a little imperfection come in and that is okay. If you’ve fed yourself from the kids and found time to get a little exercise, you’re doing good. I have been caught up in that trap too and I have to remind myself, Pinterest is where you put your very best things. Social media is where you have your very best parenting moments.

So all of us are having hard days sometimes. I spoke the other day about some of the ways that you can set some ground rules and I loved this, a parent reached out to me and told me her family’s four ground rules. The first one is everyone’s out of bed by 10 a.m. The second one is everyone showers and wears deodorant every day. I don’t think we actually make that every day in my house. The third one is every family member takes at least one walk around the block per day and they all meet for dinner at a time to be determined. They don’t have to be big ground rules. You don’t have to be building a bookshelf. You’re actually doing okay if you just get out of bed and share some connected time with your kid every day. Don’t let guilt rule your actions. You do what you must and then let go of the things that you can’t get done. I know I’ve had a tendency at times to say, ah, I didn’t get to that thing that I told you we would do today. So we’ll have ice cream for dinner, do not do that. You don’t have to feel guilty about not being perfect. It’s okay, in fact, just remember to say you’re sorry, if things don’t go well. If you have a bad day or abad moment or a bad week, lean in, say you’re sorry, model for your children the way that you hope that they’ll react in times of crisis or in times when they’re not doing their best. That’s all right and again, be easy on each other. These are strange times, we’re all carrying a heavy load. You do not have to be a Pinterest parent to be doing it right. You just have to stay connected and do the best you can. We have another great question. Nicole, talk to us about something else viewers have been asking. – Yep, this question came up a lot and that is, what do I do with my kid when I’m working? I absolutely get it. We’re so with you because when we’re not recording these videos for you, our kids are all around and one thing that I wanna make really clear is that you don’t have to apologize when your kid interrupts the videos like, it is normal in the times of COVID that we’re all in the same spaces and cut other people some grace, give yourself some grace. It’s okay, our kids are around and we will figure it out. So that is one thing I wanna remember.

The second thing as cliche as it sounds, put the life mask on yourself first before taking care of other people. As parents, not only are we managing our work schedule right now but we’re also managing our kids’ school schedules, right? Some days I feel like my son’s secretary like okay, excuse me five minutes until your next meeting, sir. So take care of yourself, be good to yourself. Take a walk, have an extra cup of coffee, eat that dessert, be good to yourself. But let’s get practical, when you’re actually working, kids seem to have needs at the most inopportune times, especially our youngest kiddos and so we talked about this before when we were talking about scheduling. So I recommend you go back to that episode but if you have a younger student, try creating a visual schedule. So again, my son’s in kindergarten, he’s not yet reading independently. So his schedule is of pictures so he knows what to do next and there’s little check marks so that when he needs something and I’m on a call, I can point to where on the list he can go next to sort of help him move forward. Now that’s all fine and dandy if your kid is working on schoolwork but what about that unexpected call that you have, you didn’t schedule for it but you need to close this deal, you have an important work call, have a sort of grab bag or emergency special toy box that only come out at special times that you can pull from so that when in a pinch, you need your kid to be completely entertained, save those toys that he or she really likes playing with for that special moment, be okay breaking out the screen time at certain moments extra with that special game that only lives on your phone or whatever it might be, so that you can entertain them in those moments, because let’s be real, stuff happens and we need to improvise. And we need our kids to bequiet as a mouse sometimes and you need to keep them entertained.

For the rest of the time, here’s some other simple hacks to think about especially with younger kids because we know with older kids, they can sort of figure it out and they know when you’re busy but with younger kids like howdo you structure this time? In my house what we do we build a lot of forts. You might remember that for us school is in the garage. We call it garage school but we figured out how to create a fort in garage school. We’ve actually figured out how to create forts pretty much anywhere at any given time. So invest in some extra big sheets, get those blankets and cushions from different places outside, inside and let your kid create a fort under your table while you’re working. You remember as a kid, forts are just really, really fun and allow for imaginative play and buy you that extra time. So another fun thing to think about that we do in our houseis we do found art. We basically take recyclables, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and when you have a hot glue gun, a lot of things can become treasure. So we use our hot glue gun to build masterpieces of art and for older kids, now don’t get too scared when I say this but consider letting your kid paint the walls in their room because you know what, why not? If it buys us some sanity and if the worst thing that can happen is that the walls don’t look really pretty, why not? So go to town with asharpie, create some artwork on the wall, design something new and cut yourself slack that it will be okay. So these are just a couple of ideas to help you stay sane and let’s move on to another question. Shelli, this viewer had a question that had to do with anxiety and the question is, I am worried about my kid being anxious during COVID. I don’t know if it’s just related to these current times, or whether it is something bigger than that. What advice do you have for me? – Well, I think first and foremost, I am not a doctor. So if you are really concerned about your child’s mental health, definitely go to a doctor. Here’s a crisis line here if you need it but that is not what I’m addressing but what I can address and what I am an expert in as a longtime educator and parent is sometimes these new environments, new routines, this time is causing me, us, adults anxiety, it is certainly causing our kids some anxiety.

This change in their everyday life would be something that would cause anxiety. So you’re right if you’re thinking is my child anxious? That’s a really great question and sometimes that anxiety might trigger some unexpected behaviors and that is, again, would be a normal thing to see. I think it’s really important to know that getting to the root of those behaviors and thinking, ah, I think they might have some anxiety, this seems really strange for my child is the first great place to start. Setting your family up for success can alleviate some of that anxiety right away. So if you think that’s what it is, go back and think backwards. Do you have a schedule, a routine that you’re following, that your child knows about? So that they know what’s expected. This is one of the very first things to help alleviate some of that anxiety and you’ll probably immediately see some changes in the way your kid is acting and talking and feeling, that gives them something to expect. So keep that routine and create it with them if they’re old enough. Make sure you’re eating, you’re sleeping and you’re getting exercise. Again, those basic needs are being filled and again, that will help with some of those unexpected behaviors. Catch your kiddo been good. So you can find times to celebrate. It’s really easy to see the things that they’re doing that we’re concerned about and to voice those concerns. Make sure that you’re finding more times when they’re doing the right thing. And most importantly, especially if you’re feeling like your family’s been affected by some anxious thinking and these strange times, make time to connect with each other. Connecting is so important if your child’s anxious about the changes in their routines. It allows you to help them put words to their feelings. It will help you understand the root of their behavior and remember, naming those feelings and validating those feelings does not mean that you’re validating the behavior that might becoming with those feelings. So name them, validate them.

Kids can feel anxious. Yeah, this is really different and it’s really strange. You can even tell them that you sometimes are feeling sad about not seeing your friends too. It’s okay to relate that way but that doesn’t mean that you’re validating unexpected or behavior that you don’t want to. You have to have a family that functions. So we spoke a couple of episodes ago about some ways to help deal with some unexpected or problem behaviors but my very favorite is to be really clear, to say it, to mean it and to follow through. So even in these times and even when your kid’s feeling anxious, the most important thing you can do is to speak really clearly with them about expectations, mean what you say, don’t have that changing all the time and then follow through in whatever you say. That gives them a peace of mind that what you say is what you mean and it gives them a peace of mind that things aren’t going to change. These are tricky times and we all have a little bit of anxiety. So embrace that talk about that and make the moves in your family so that you can have a family of harmony. Especially I think this conversation comes up when we’re talking about students with some special needs. I’ve had a lot of families reach out to me and Nicole, why don’t you talk about, you got an email the other day that was particularly thoughtful, want to share the question? – This was from a mom with a kiddo who has significant special needs or a signal disability and need some extra support, things were hard and I know what that’s like.

We just held my son’sIEP a couple days ago and supporting any kid is challenging, supporting a kid with a unique learning profile, some neurological differences, a learning disability, some medical needs, that can add extra stress and I want you to know that even with all my educational experience, my time as a teacher, a coach, hey, in my house, we’ve got good days and we have bad days but you know what? We just take the days as they come. We try to figure out, look, what is the single most important thing that we want to work on? And you know what that is for your kiddo. Look back at their IEP, look back at the thing, even if you have a student that does not have special needs or does not have a disability, think about that one thing that is really, really important to you, is it managing their day? Is it reading? Is it problem solving? What’s the one thing that matters most to you? And hang on to that one thing. Don’t try to do 100 things. Don’t try to boil the ocean but figure out what’s most important to you and prioritize that. One of my mom friends, her child has autism and the only way that she’s able to help her son regulate and get things back to sort of normal and calm is to drive by the school that’s closed and so everyday, they get in the car. They drive over to the school and they stay there in the car maybe for 30, 45 minutes and that helps and that’s not bad. There’s nothing wrong with that, help your kid re-regulate. The other day I was chatting with a mom friend about water play, we’re using a lot of water play.

It’s hot right now where we live and so for a minute, I was going gosh, the environment matters to me, I’m wasting water but guess what’s more important than wasting water? Is my sanity, my ability to keep my family functioning. So give yourself some grace and remember, Shelli already mentioned this but schedules are super important. They create predictability. Anytime when you have a kid who experiences anxiety, having a schedule, knowing what’s coming next is really important, especially when you don’t know what’s coming next and when you’re going back to school, or you don’t know when you’re gonna see your friends again. At least knowing what’s coming next in your day is super, super important. So give yourself some grace and find opportunities for connection because at the end of the day, building a relationship with your child is incredibly important and that connection will last a lifetime and whatever learning you get to or don’t get to, it will be okay. So if you’re struggling though, I wanna encourage you to reach out for help. A lot of times we assume that people understand what we’re going through and they don’t. So when you reach out to your child’s teacher, their occupational therapist, their speech pathologist, whoever it might be that also supports your kid be specific, they don’t know what you need. So tell them what is hard and they might have some ideas for you. I think we’re all feeling a little drained with screen time. So one of our viewers said, can you help me? What do I do with too much Zoom time? Specifically, it was my daughter is over-Zoomed. How can I help her stay connected with friends, with family while also honoring her desire to get off camera? Shelli, what have you got? – Oh, my goodness over-Zooming is real. So many people are feeling that way right now. It feels like we’ve sort of forgotten about the other kinds of communication that we use before we started Zooming. There’s gonna be times when your child will have to Zoom of course, with school.

I know a lot of classroom teachers are leaning in and utilizing Zoom but remember those old school ways of communicating like telephone, FaceTime, text message and even that social media, those are other ways to connect that aren’t Zoom and are actually so pleasurable after you’ve been on a bunch of Zoom classrooms, right? Also remember that it’s okay for your child to say no and it’s okay for you to say no to invitations from friends for Zoom play dates and different things like that. In fact, it’s okay if you need to cut your Zoom classroom short too. Remember, I mean, it’s really important to do as much school as you can and also this is new. Teachers are learning too what is the right amount of screen time and Zoom time and independent time. So lean into that conversation with teachers if you’re feeling like there’s too much Zoom classroom. Just have a good conversation with your teacher and see if you can work something out with that. One of the cool things that I’ve been finding, I have a teenage daughter, there are all kinds of things and ways to connect out there that I did not know were possible that are not Zoom. We do these game night apps. There’s free apps, one of them is called Pogo and it lets you play those traditional games like monopoly and Scrabble with a friend. There’s also something calledPlay Uno and Pokemon Go and they sort of revamped, Pokemon GO is revamped for COVID-19, so things are around the house more. These are things where you can communicate and play with friends and have connection with friends but it’s not in that traditional Zoom way. Movie night with friends. I know that is a big thing that we’ve been missing.

Netflix party is part of the Netflix subscription and you can just add this free, it’s through Google Chrome. It’s an extension into your Netflix and it synchronizes the video playback with your child’s friends, so they can all watch the movie together and there’s even a chat box so they can chat while they’re watching the movie. Again, no Zoom doing something that they probably used to do and it’s really fun. I have not used it but my daughter swears there’s something called Airtime that does something similar for online TV shows and videos. So that would be something to check out if you don’t have Netflix. There’s community scavenger hunts across neighborhoods. I know that there’s a bear hunt that’s going around. I know a lot of neighborhoods right now looking for teddy bears. This is another way to get out in your neighborhood and still feel community connection without it being on a digital device. You could even create one or start one in your neighborhood and my very favorite thing that we’ve been doing lately to connect is writing old school letters. This has been really fun. Letter writing really seems to be a lost art now. So writing the letter is fun but actually getting a letter back in the mailbox is a really a celebration.

So I encourage you to try that and don’t worry, spreading that virus through mail seems to be something the CDC and the WorldHealth Organization say would be really, really hard. So we’ve been really enjoying that letter writing. It’s been fun to try to think of new ways to connect and brought some new things into our lives. Nicole, you wanna close this up? – Absolutely, well, I just wanted to tell our viewers that you might have other questions, or maybe you were hoping we would answer your questions. Sorry, we couldn’t get to all of them but here’s what we’d love for you to do. Leave a question in the comment area and we’ll include it in one of our upcoming videos in a few sessions from now. We appreciate you tuning into listen, to watch and again, wish you all the best homeschooling, distance learning and hope you’ll join us next time, bye for now. – Thank you. (upbeat music)

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