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  • Writer's pictureJenny Markus

Parenting dilemmas in a post-pandemic world


New and unique realities during COVID-19 find parents taking on the role of educator.


Parents are facing a unique set of challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic.


It is now a full year since the first US case of COVID-19 was discovered in Seattle, WA on January 20, 2020 and a few weeks away from the anniversary of the school closures that would sweep across the country. Workplaces would soon follow suit and millions of households would find life as usual no longer that. If you had children at this unprecedented moment in recent history, you were suddenly faced with parenting challenges that were unlikely covered in any parenting book you ever picked up.


A new way of educating

Having shut down school buildings in mid-March 2020, districts scrambled to get their academic programs online without much warning. In NYC, after a week or so of no sessions, schools “re-opened” on our tablets and laptop screens at home. Instructional programs, lessons, and teacher interactions were thrust onto a patchwork of online platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom and whatever else the school may or may not have begun to tinker with prior to the sudden school closures.


As school administrators raced to vet new virtual programs and train up their teachers, we hunkered down to support our school-aged children with their school work. No subject was left untouched — math problems, essays, music, gym and the (more than occasional) “hands-on” technology lesson — they’re going to have to figure out the whole single sign-on thing at some point anyway, right? A new era of parents as educators had unwittingly dawned on us as the globe wrestled to make sense of a raging novel coronavirus.


Now that parents have taken on a more prominent role in their children's education, we find ourselves wondering — could a remote learning environment really provide the level of engagement that a traditional face-to-face interaction does with a teacher? How do I know that my child is getting what she needs from these new modes of interaction? What else could I be doing to ensure that she is growing and learning? Questions abound as parents are thrust into their children’s classrooms.


The ever-elusive work-life balance

Parenting in quarantine presents a new breed of the work-life balance dilemma. From slim childcare options to work days that seem to be playing on repeat, the career and life are as entangled as ever. Right alongside the math and writing workbooks, we take our own work meetings and conference calls at our dining table turned coworking space.


For those of us fortunate enough to have found childcare solutions, the coordination it takes to organize a sufficiently safe in-person interaction with a “learning pod” or babysitter, is enough to produce more than a few grey hairs. And if by a similar fortune we have retained our jobs and can do them remotely, well now we face another challenge — how do we close the laptop screen and set those boundaries when the workday is done?


Some employers have recognized the new demands on family life, offering additional time off to care for sick family members and flexible schedules to accommodate school at home. Still, working professionals with school-aged children have discovered that aside from providing academic development, school performs a function perhaps heretofore taken for granted — full-time childcare. We ask: what can I do to manage these two full-time jobs? How should my family balance our competing priorities? What can we do to stay healthy both physically and mentally?


Social and emotional health

Though more and more data show that young children generally have mild physical symptoms caused by the coronavirus, they have certainly not escaped its emotional burdens. Social distancing is aptly named — physical distance from humans also means distance from the social lives that we have known our whole lives. That means extended family and friend get-togethers, sports teams, clubs, birthday parties and extracurriculars are all on hold until further notice.


As resilient as our kiddos may seem through this all, and as much as this roller coaster ride loops and twists, this extended social distancing is causing emotional and mental hardship for young minds the effects of which may linger for years to come. As parents, we worry: how can I ensure that my son talks to me about how he’s feeling? What are some strategies I can use to understand my daughter’s apparent acting out? How can we be there for our kids when we are struggling ourselves?


How do we parent from here?

With the distribution of the vaccine and the gradual slowing of the virus spread, glimmers of hope emerge for a return to some form of normalcy. Undoubtedly, this generation of parents will never again live in a world where work stays at the office and family is what you have when you get home. Our children will almost certainly see more backlit displays than pen and paper in their futures. And definitely they will never forget the time they could no longer high five their friends or hug them goodbye. Now more than ever, parents need tools and strategies to manage these complex new realities. As a parent myself, I wanted to do my part in supporting others in navigating these uncharted territories. So, I’ve joined a group of educators who want to help.


K20 Educators, a group of education professionals across the public school, private school, and higher education spaces, have also recognized this need and gathered a group of world-class experts in health, education and child psychology in an unforgettable weekend for parents all over the globe.


On Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11, 2021, parents will come together to hear live discussions and expert panels, participate in learning labs full of best practices, leading research, techniques and more at the Parent as Educators Conference. To learn more about this unprecedented parent-centered event, visit k20parents.com or sign up to attend and join the movement to support our children through these challenging times.


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