To quote that famous philosopher, Adam Sandler, “If I’m teaching math to my kids, this country is in trouble!” This is a sentiment shared by many parents as they have been forced, unprepared, to step into the role of teacher/teacher aide in this time of remote instruction.
Some parents have lamented the fact that they are having problems balancing work-at-home with home instruction, that they do not remember how to teach math or narrative writing or science. Some feel like the home instruction police department as they must monitor their children so they attend online classes and complete assignments. Many feel guilty about allowing or even encouraging kids to play games online so they can work or get a break-something they would limit in regular times.
Most of all, parents feel exhausted, frustrated, and worried about their children’s education, and feel guilty about the less than optimal job they feel they are doing. Catastrophizing about the long-term effects of their efforts consumes them and they are anxious about how their kids will be able to catch up.
While all of he above feelings are certainly valid, they are only feelings. To use the metaphor of the airlines instruction to parents accompanying children on a plane, grownups need to put the oxygen mask on themselves first in the event of a loss of cabin pressure-otherwise they will not be available to assist their children. Similarly, in this time of virtual instruction, parents need to give themselves a break and take that deep breath they need to sustain themselves.
This is not to say that their worries are not valid. However, focusing on their own as well as their children’s mental health is paramount because without it, no one would be available for instruction. This means recognizing the surreal times we now live in and taking as objective a look as possible as to what they are able to offer. Kids learn the most from the school of the family. They learn most through internalized images. Parents faces are like mirrors and the reflections are internalized. Consequently, even if parents cannot remember how to solve a math problem, the reflection of their supportive, caring demeanor can go a long way to soothing the shared frustrations of online learning.
Parents need to trust that teachers and schools recognize the limits of virtual instruction and are already planning how to “catch-up.” So, while I would not say that parents should not worry, I would recommend that they keep their worries to themselves, and, instead, try to put on an academy award winning performance so that kids will not worry more than necessary. Just as you assure them you are doing everything to keep them safe during the pandemic, your reassurance about how you will keep them safe academically-since school is really their kids’ “job”-because when kids do not feel safe at school due to feelings that they cannot master the necessary skills, they feel frustrated worried, and even depressed.
This does not mean that kids should be told that it is all right not to do any work. Doing the best you can is in order now as it was during more normal times. It is imperative that parents do not beat themselves up. They are very likely doing a yeoman’s job. Moreover, they are teaching their kids patience, increasing their tolerance for frustration, and building resilience. These are invaluable skills. We will all get through this-let’s just stop beating ourselves or our kids up or in the process.