Q: Now that most schools in the area are going all virtual for the fall, do you have any tips for how to handle this gracefully in families with young, elementary-age kids and dual working parents (or single parents)?
A: Oh, if I only had this answer! Article after column after podcast after listicle attempts to advise parents on how to work with young kids at home this fall, but you are asking a more nuanced question. You are asking how we will handle this “gracefully,” and that, my friend, is a different matter entirely. To be graceful is to move smoothly, both physically and emotionally, as well as to be gentle and kind. Parenting gracefully through this quarantine is no small feat, but I believe there are a couple of simple steps parents can take with their elementary-age kiddos.
Use family meetings, and keep them short and sweet. The younger the children, the shorter the meetings (and attention spans). Emphasize what the children are doing well instead of highlighting what they need to change. Use these meetings to mention what the adults are doing well, too, because everyone needs a boost. If you are a single or solo parent, it is especially important to gracefully praise yourself.
Learn to apologize and mean it. There is nothing more gracious than a good apology, because it both humanizes us and makes room for mistakes and growth. To gracefully navigate the endless repetitive nature of quarantine life is to sometimes lose our patience. A good apology offers “redos” to everyone in the family.
Use routines as boundaries rather than punishments and praise. Sure, you will hand out some consequences when the behavior goes left here and there, but try to follow a weekly, daily or hourly routine with the children instead. All humans do better when they know what is coming, and you will offer the family much more grace by strongly leading the routine. Yes, it will get boring, and yes, you are allowed to break your own rules, but the more you allow the structure to guide you (rather than reminding, yelling or threatening the children), the more graceful the family will be.
To this end, make as many things visual as possible. Dinner charts, chore charts, fun charts, bedtime routines: Young children need visual reminders to get their brains to focus. Every family is different, so you will have to find your own mojo, but creating these charts with your children (and changing them as needed) will assist your kids in independence.
Lower your standards — in food, homework, housekeeping, tech time, you name it. It is a gracious act to know that you are up against something pretty big and to allow yourself to slow with it, rather than pretend it isn’t happening. Single and solo parents are allowed to do what they need to do to stay mentally healthy (eat dinner in front of the TV some days, allow kids into your bed at night), because we are in this for the long haul. By lowering your standards in issues that matter a tad less, you find room for more fun, silliness and forgiveness.
Every family is different, and every parent gets to decide how to navigate this stressful time. I would invite you to define what handling something “gracefully” looks like to you, and then match it against the developmental needs of your children. The beautiful thing about grace is that is does not imply perfection or inflexibility; instead, there is a forgiveness and an ease that comes with it. Discover what that means for yourself. Good luck.
Caribu is here for you and your family as you navigate working and schooling from home. Download Caribu to access thousands of books, games, and coloring pages for your kids to enjoy in an interactive playdate. Connect with friends and relatives in a Caribu video-call to share reading, puzzles, and drawing together. Plus, when you need a #CaribuBreak, set up a Video Read Aloud in the Caribu app for your kids to watch and enjoy while you take care of personal or professional business.
To support your family emotionally, take a look at Caribu new social and emotional learning category. Explore books about friendships, self-esteem, feelings, and loss. Share meaningful stories and discussions with friends and relatives about how to face challenges during difficult moments.
You can read the original article in The Washington Post.
Meghan Leahy, Parenting Gracefully Through This Pandemic? It’s Possible. August 12th, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/parenting-gracefully-through-this-pandemic-its-possible/2020/08/11/e8b94dd0-d721-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html