Families are struggling to balance work, child care, and self-care, while keeping worries—their children’s and their own—under control. With these worries come feelings of being overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s difficult to self-regulate, whether you are an adult or a child. As teachers, we see the everyday struggle of families as they work to maintain balance, and we wonder how we might support families through the changes that we are all experiencing this year. Where are the boundaries? What should support look like?
These questions drive the conversation as our Digital Learning Specialists and our special guest, Cherie Spencer, a Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator from Galveston, Texas, discuss the impact that the pandemic has had on families.
Join us for the fourth installment in our six-part series that focuses on providing social and emotional learning supports for teachers, students, and families. Today, we share practical tips that teachers can use to support families who are coping with stress, anxiety, and grief as so much is happening around them.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
Robin Williams, actor
The following are resources available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:
- Connect Positively With Families (article)
- Build Classroom Community to Support Your Students’ Social and Emotional Needs (article)
- Establish a Feedback System to Keep Everyone Informed (article collection)
- Celebrate: Building Community Beyond Your (Virtual) Classroom (podcast episode)
- Connecting With Ourselves and Others to Recharge (podcast episode)
Teachers are first responders.
During the pandemic, it has become clear that teachers are first responders. You have provided support to both students and their families—from how to access the technology necessary for distance learning to helping parents develop new routines to provide structure in the midst of chaos.
The usual boundaries between parents and teachers have shifted as we enter into the home to teach students virtually. We need to recognize that this is okay—and that it is okay to offer parents tips to help them develop structures and routines to support their new normal. Check in on your parents as you would your students. Be vulnerable as teachers and share common experiences. Now is the time to listen to empathize and offer comfort. Below are friendly reminders for all parents as we navigate the challenges that come with the pandemic.
Friendly Reminders for Parents: You Are Enough
- Remember that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” The pressures for parents to be perfect add up quickly. During a pandemic, the stress of perfection multiplies. It’s okay to not know all the answers. The fear and uncertainty associated with the pandemic can make it hard to say, “I don’t know,” in the face of your family’s fears, but it’s important to recognize that a sense of calm and a warm presence balance out the unknowns. Offer your children extra hugs and comfort.
- You are allowed to feel stir-crazy. People are social creatures. We weren’t meant to live in isolation from others. It’s normal to feel like a solo trip to the market would be the equivalent of a four-star vacation at this time.
- Routines are your friend. Since your and your children’s daily routines have been disrupted, it’s time to find new ways to structure your days. Look for ways to chunk your days that align to your at-home work schedule. But remember, expectations for you and your children need to be flexible now and subject to change.
- Take a breath. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. When you are especially stressed, try to take a few seconds to breathe slowly and deeply. Ask yourself: Where in my body am I feeling this panic? How will I feel about this tomorrow? Is this situation permanent?
- Have a dance party. Create a playlist that the whole family can move to and turn up the music. Dancing is great exercise and a form of creative expression. It keeps your heart healthy and provides an outlet for emotions. Music activates the cerebellum and stimulates the release of hormones to reduce stress and improve self-esteem.
- Give yourself grace. The best reminder to share with parents: You are enough.
Extend Your Learning
- When a Child’s Emotions Spike, How Can a Parent Find Their Best Self? (KQED)
- How to Manage Feelings of Uncertainty About the Future (KQED)
- Supporting Families During COVID-19 (Child Mind Institute)
- Resources for Helping Kids and Parents Cope Amidst COVID-19 (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)