Within a few short weeks, many of us have had our lives turned completely upside down. As humans, we have an incredible resiliency and grit. These characteristics means that we fight hard to figure things out as best we can in a rapid amount of time. However, just because we are figuring things out and doing what we can with a very challenging situation does not mean that this is a NEW normal. For parents, we have a double whammy of managing our own psychology while also making sure that we are creating the best environment for our kids that we can.
New normal suggests that things are going to continue on like this forever. While there have been structural changes after big economic dislocations like The Great Depression, The 1987 Stock Market Crash and the 2008 Financial Crisis, the current public health crisis related to the COVID-19 is very different. Even after the 1918 influenza pandemic, society did not continue to social distance while in public, wear masks and eliminate interactions with friends & family for long periods of time.
By narrating the events of the last several weeks and the adjustments parents have made as such is disingenuous. It creates additional anxiety and stress on those who don’t feel like they’ve successfully adjusted. Newsflash: there is no one that has figured this out. Everyone is just doing the best they can.
Earlier this week, I shared the following post on my Facebook page. It reads as follows:
“Shout out to everyone just making it through the day.
Maybe you're not baking bread. Maybe you're not starting a new business. Maybe you're not launching a new podcast. Maybe you're not remodeling your home.
Perhaps, you are just making it through the day. That's good enough.
You're parenting. You're homeschooling (not sure if that's true if you are also working full time). You're cooking. You're cleaning. You're trying to keep your family safe. That's it. That's enough.
Don't let the narratives have you to believe if you don't crush it using society's definition of pandemic success that you are somehow less than.
You are more than enough. Making it through each day is the accomplishment. Anything more than that is just icing on the cake. And, BTW if you want to have cake for breakfast or ice cream for lunch, so be it!
And, if you are struggling to make it through the day.....holla at me. Let's talk about it.”
As I expected many of my friends felt the same way. They were rejecting the narrative of success that baking bread and managing their full time job while home-schooling their children was the NEW normal. This is not to say that if you are baking bread and finding joy in that that it shouldn’t be celebrated.
Instead, it’s a request for everyone to maybe take expectations down a notch. We’re all trying to figure this out. And, we can show kindness by letting everyone know that it’s ok if you haven’t figured out a daily color coded calendar of activities for your kids.
Below I’ve outlined some tips that I’ve found helpful to managing through this situation in my own home. Ideally there are elements here that others will find useful as well.
5 Tips for Better Managing Through This Temporary Situation
1. Log Off Social Media
Right now, it seems like social media is a great way to connect with those who you aren’t able to see in person due to social distancing. Let’s be honest though, much of social media is now filled with crazy conspiracy theories, depressing news about the increasing daily cases and deaths from COVID-19, and barely funny memes that are attempting to bring humor to the situation.
It’s much better to connect with those you are concerned about through more direct means. Give people a call on the telephone. Send them a text. Write them a letter. Or, setup a FaceTime chat. These are going to be infinitely more useful to your well being than seeing what the social media algorithms are promoting on a given day of the week.
2. Reject default video calls for every meeting
Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should. While technology has advanced to a level that enables us to have high quality video conference calls with large groups of people, the reality is often times these are not necessary.
Personally, I’ve had the privilege of working from home for the last decade. And, most of the time, meetings are better handled through 1:1 phone calls. For those that can’t be handled directly, a written memo outlining a strategy that the team can poke holes in is often far more efficient.
Within organizations that are just now experimenting with working from home, the default is to setup meetings that would’ve normally been held in person to be handled via videoconferencing.
This places an undue burden on those who are caring for children, older adults or those who have less than ideal living situations. If your organization cares about equality and equal treatment, setup a conference call or ask yourself does this really require having everyone meet via video for the discussion.
3. E-Learning is guidance not a requirement
Similar to many workplaces, schools have quickly setup e-learning/remote school options for their students. For those who have done this, you are amazing. For the parents on the other side, please realize that educators are simply trying to provide an option for students to continue learning.
If your child is not able to learn in this environment, their mental health is far more important than any progress they may make with the curriculum from their school. To ask students who have typically had a teacher and their peers to suddenly transition to packets and worksheets is a bridge too far for many.
With many schools still figuring this out, I’m confident that administrators in districts around the country will find some way to make sure that the entire school year isn’t lost because of the temporary dislocation away from the academic environment.
4. Relax the screen time rules
Many of us have read the studies that say that screen time may be harmful to our children. While the data is still being analyzed and the variety of screen time options are now being considered, the reality is that this is a temporary situation.
If your child finds joy in watching movies on Disney+, so be it. If your child wants to spend more time playing Fortnite, great. Or, if your child wants to create a new game in Scratch that’s ok.
The time for parents feeling shame or guilt about their kids spending more time on devices needs to stop. Once kids are able to go back to school and hang out with their friends, they will likely want to be as far away from their devices as possible.
In fact, I’m predicting a renaissance movement for in-person experiences for all of society especially our children. So, feel free to lean into what every helps you and your child get through the day and maintain your sanity.
5. Find someone you can talk to
For many of us, we are so used to handling things ourselves and trying to figure it out on our own. The reality is that no one has a playbook or a guide for the current situation. Collectively, we have a lot of empathy and so it’s important that we tap into those who are around us.
It can be pretty easy to have increased anxiety and depression during times like this. We see the news all around us and no one has a clear sense of when or how this is going to end.
In circumstances like this, sometimes the best thing to do is just find a friendly ear that you can talk to instead of playing it back in your own head and trying to figure things out.
For those who may not have someone who is close to them or perhaps doesn’t want to share a sensitive situation, feel free to reach out to me directly ([email protected]
or seven-seven-three-five-five-eight-five-four-five-one). I’m available to talk about anything and everything that anyone might be dealing with. We are all in this together. And, we are collectively stronger than any single one of us.