Now, more than ever before, is the time to come together; rally, stand up and support our children and families in each of our communities. With all of the uncertainties of the state of health in our Nation – schools across America, and across the world, are faced with an unimaginable situation and seemingly impossible task of planning for our children to safely return to school. What does that look like? Completely remote, “distance learning” until Coronavirus isn’t so prevalent in our county? Is it a hybrid of part-time online schooling and the other time in school? What does it look like in the classroom? What are ALL. THOSE. LOGISTICS. that need to be figured out? Children needing to maintain a “safe 6 ft. social distance” from peers several hours a day? (yeah right!) Just the thought of that alone is heartbreaking, thinking about the time and energy teachers will have to expend enforcing that. Masks. Limiting communal space. Busing. There is not a “best case scenario” with this. Let’s face it, it’s worst and worser case scenario. But what happens when things get tough? Ingenuity arrises. Creativity emerges out of necessity. When we are stretched, we have to learn to grow. When we are challenged, we figure out how to persevere, and then the unthinkable scenario can actually catapult us into some unexpected silver-linings what would have never happened otherwise.
Schools are beginning, or have already, rolled out their plans – with many districts already making the decision to start back up with complete online schooling at this time. I don’t even know how that works… parents who have to work (which is the majority), now have their children home all day. What do parents do? Every single family with school-aged children are impacted right now with this… and this is where COMMUNITIES need to come into play… it takes a village!
Now! Right NOW! We need to build our villages and lean into them to support each other. Are you able to stay at home with your children? What a blessing it is that you’re in this position to be able to do so during these times. If you have to work, talk to your employer, maybe there is some flexibility around all this. But for ALL PARENTS – yes, it will be difficult! Yes, there are going to be tears and challenges, from all parties involved. Yes, it’s not ideal! Sure, you’re (probably) not a “teacher” – but I do beg to challenge that stance… parents, we are the ultimate teachers of our children, right? Well, at least we should be! This is taking it to another level, I agree. But we’re living through a “pandemic” and this is our reality right now. We can do hard things. This is something we’re all having to deal with, so it’s time to suck it up and start getting creative. If you’re at home – offer to help another parent who still has to go to work. And working parent, in return, offer to return the favor on the weekend to give that parent a respite break. Let’s have compassion for each other, let’s rally together, let’s get creative and GO OUT OF OUR WAY to help our neighbor, let’s stretch ourselves, let’s get uncomfortable.
If you choose homeschool, or have to deal with hybrid school pending the health of your community , let’s be intentional with socialization – for our kid’s social & emotional health. Let’s start a weekly book club for a few kids, or lego club, or dance club (You Tube videos abound)… call up a community center or a local church and ask if you can use their space 1x/week for a kids “meet-up group”. Maybe it’s even an evening homeschool co-op where a few families get together to teach their children. Please hear me… we need to Be. The. Parents! And please, don’t complain about all of this in-front of our kids. WE SET THE TONE! If we complain about having to teach them or about fear about their safety in schools, or anger about the whole situation, that all significantly impacts our kid’s mental health, and ultimately their well-being. We need to PROTECT their mental health right now and intentional guide them through all of this. We need to Be. The. Parents. Be encouraging. Be their safe space. We need to let them know it’s all going to be ok, no matter what happens this school year, either homeschool on in-school (because we know it’s going to be back-and-forth remote learning & in-person; all pending on that cough/fever/covid symptom that will inevitably shut things down – probably multiple times throughout the school year). Even, if anything they scrape by with basic academic instruction but learn more about life skills, have increased family bonding, learn coping skills, learn a new hobby, start a family devotional time, strengthen family life- how INVALUABLE would this season be?!
Now – this is where my heart is… it’s all fine and dandy if you’re capable to do all the above. But, as a Social Worker at heart – my heart is breaking for all the kids who are living in at-risk situations. If you are a parent reading this and have a hard time managing your anger. Or have a hard time tending to your kids needs, or are having a hard time just pulling yourself through this, or addiction has grabbed ahold of you – YOU need to reach out to your village the most! And unfortunately, I know, many don’t have “healthy” support systems to lean on… but we need to Be. The. Parents for our precious children – it’s time to GET HELP! There are so many non-profit organizations out there to help families who need it most. I know – I worked for a few of them as a Social Worker, Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist, and Family Services Coordinator for over a decade. Maybe you can check out a Celebrate Recovery program. Or reach out to get therapy or join a support group. Or call that neighbor/aunt/cousin/friend and reach out! It takes some humbling, for most anyone to ask for help… but it’s going to be a loooooooong school year and we need to start thinking about how we can support our kids and our village through this. If anything, if you need someone to talk to – please contact me. I’d be honored if you reached out and I can try to help you create a plan, or find some resources in your area. Let me be the 1st in your village.
I say this all with love and empathy as I have 2 school aged children and we’ve grappled about school plans as well. We are a 2 working-parent household and have hard decisions to make. We decided about a month ago to keep our 1st grader home for homeschool and I am looking into partnering with a few other families for a more enriching experience for my daughter, my 8th grader is still undetermined. But we both work. So how does all of that look? I don’t know. If it has to be “evening school”, or “weekend school” – I’m getting stretched and am having to get creative as well – but I have faith that some beautiful silver-linings will be illuminated and we’ll all be stronger because of this challenge that we WILL persevere through!