Pandemic Parenting

Posted on: 12/02/2021

As we enter this half term break, I want to congratulate every parent in our community and every member of staff who has supported the children through what has been the most unforgettable period of our lives, and one which we most certainly would never have imagined this time last year. For Heads, the winter months of school always bring that element of wondering if we might need to prepare for a snow day! Do staff need to be alerted that we may need to be sending work home for a day or two if school needs to close? Well, this pandemic has seen the school reach new heights as we have adapted and responded to provide what we feel to be the best education possible for your children under these circumstances.  

St. Helen's College parents have been phenomenal in the support you have given the school and your children. This week I read a blog from Elaine at the Parent Practice which really resonated with me. Her words neatly encompass what I would like to say to you all today, so instead of re-inventing the wheel I will share her words below. You may remember that I had asked parents for feedback after attending any of Elaine's webinars, and I am delighted to be able to share the reflections of one of our Year 5 parents below too.

I wish you all a restful half term - and I have hope that it may not be too long before we are able to welcome the children back to school.

Mrs. Drummond

Extract from Elaine’s blog:

Are you practising being a ‘good enough’ parent just now?

It's unrealistic to think you can do an eight hour working day whilst looking after kids and do home schooling. Something has to give. It's unrealistic to think you can be head chef, entertainment director, laundress, school teacher, employee, counsellor and coach and say “I’m ok” and don’t take time for yourself.  

We all need to give up the perils of perfectionism, as  perfectionism is unachievable. It’s a myth  - it’s about us being obsessed with what others will think of us. We need to give ourselves a break. Your biggest priority just now as a parent is to keep stress levels down, so if home schooling is causing untold angst and stress for everyone, you have permission to ditch it or differentiate the curriculum. The reality is that children’s brains cannot absorb academic work if they are stressed, as cortisol interferes with the brain’s higher function, so please parents lower your expectations and practise being a good enough parent.

My other big concern is with this determination that our children ‘keep up’ and return to school not being too far behind in their studies. The reality is, this pandemic is rewriting history.

What your children will have learnt over the past 12 months way exceeds traditional measures of educational success. They may have had to deal with grief, with the death of a loved one; with loneliness and being separated from their friends, and they have almost certainly had to deal with boredom having had their freedom taken away from them. We simply have to adjust our expectations and most importantly, we need to know how to listen to our children, validate their feelings, and let them tell their story.

My final message is you can't pour from an empty cup, so think of yourselves as an emotional bank account  - if you don’t make deposits, you can’t make withdrawals. You need to replenish the resource that you are, for your family.

From a Year 5 parent:

2020 was a year that changed so many things for everyone worldwide. We all made sacrifices that most of us took for granted. We couldn’t see our family and friends, we couldn’t hug our elderly parents and grandparents, most of us cancelled our holidays abroad, we couldn’t just pop to the shops as most of us had to queue outside for long periods and our children had to learn how to ‘work from home’.  

I had heard about The Parent Practice website through our school, and although I had signed up for their newsletters, I had never attended a course. I decided to sign up to a webinar and give this a go. After all, I had more time on my hands during lockdown! Within five minutes, Elaine seemed to describe both my children in one sentence and I was totally engaged for the rest of the webinar. She gave simple and good advice and shared her own parenting experience. 

The advice she gives works for primary school children and teenagers and gives parents ideas on how to ‘connect’ with their children. Do we connect with them how they want us to? My older son has always been described as the calm and quiet one, who was happy to work from home and be in his own company, whereas his brother missed his friends tremendously and couldn’t wait to get back to school and be in a classroom with his teachers and friends. Total opposites, but both totally normal.

Elaine gives simple advice on how to handle parenting in a more positive way, to help parents work with their children and bring out the best in them. As adults we are all different and this applies to children too. If something works for one child, it won’t necessarily work for another. Elaine provides advice on how we can do this by making simple changes. She talks about descriptive praise. Don’t say well done for getting 10/10 in a maths test, praise the effort they made to try to achieve the goal. If they didn’t hit the mark, it’s ok. They have still learnt something along the way. I remember saying this very often to my son, while he was preparing for his 11+. I could see the hard work and effort that he was making to try his best, and that was good enough. She teaches parents not to generalise praise, be specific with it. She talks about a golden book for each child, which you write things down that you have noticed that is done well, as we often point out when something has not gone well, and forget to praise what has. This gives children a belief that they are loved and accepted for who they are and not for who they are expected to be. She recommends that we use this for teenagers too. Even if the teenager is not openly thanking us for the recognition, they have read what we notice and what we think and that’s the most important thing. She suggests we play video games with our children or talk to them about a subject that interests them and help us connect to them. If we connect with our children, they will share their worries and anxieties with us. All these things seem quite obvious, but sometimes get forgotten as we all become set in our ways and busy trying to get through our day, and ready for the next. Elaine explains that we can be firm but fair and by becoming a fairer parent, it helps us to work with our children in a constructive way. 

I have attended two webinars and they have both been useful.  There is an opportunity to post comments in the chat box during the webinar and there is time at the end for Q&A.  Parents can access the webinar for a certain period of time afterwards to watch the webinar back.    

So would I recommend The Parent Practice website? Yes I would and I plan to attend more courses again in the future too.

I think of parenting as a wonderful gift and if we can take one positive from our experience with this awful pandemic, is that time is very precious, so we should make the most of it with the little people that matter the most to us.