School looks a lot different this year not only for families in Raleigh, but for families across the nation. In March, U.S. schools were not prepared for an overnight shift to virtual learning. Now, months later, virtual learning is still looking like the best option for many many families amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
However you are feeling about back-to-school plans this fall, there are ways you can move forward in positivity and strengthen relationships with your children this school year. Here are a few tips from Foundations Family Therapy’s Founder Jamie Criswell who has been homeschooling long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focus on Quantity over Quality
The age-old debate about which is more beneficial, time or quality, is never more at play then when you suddenly find yourself struggling with both. How do I possibly give my child well planned out instructional time, fun time, family time etc. while also working, taking care of their younger siblings, cleaning the house and learning how to help with online learning?
We believe that “done is better than perfect”, which also translates to quantity (the amount of time) is better than quality (the perfect way to spend time) in this case. That could mean spending 10 minutes doing something your child/teen enjoys with them. Maybe build in a quick break between online learning for a walk, or turn up the music for a quick dance session.
Perhaps a 10-minute play session with Barbies or legos is just what your child needs. A simple block of just 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day can go a long way in letting your child know you care and enjoy spending time with them.
Have Lots of Grace
This whole online learning space and being home more hours than away is still new (even if you’ve now been doing it since March). You and your child are likely still coming to terms with things not being back to “normal” like we all hoped they would be by now.
Your child could be grieving the loss of what they thought school would look like this year. Lack of sports and other activities can also be disappointing.
Understand that they are missing their friends and are likely frustrated that this fall will likely not bring a return of those social interactions in the way they hoped.
You may be dealing with frustration and fear over how you’re going to juggle working with online learning and childcare. We understand! Give yourself and your child some extra grace. Be quick to forgive and recognize that each of you may be more easily agitated, angry, or sad. Acknowledge these feelings for yourself and help your child acknowledge theirs. Let them
know that you’re trying your best too and that while it may not look the way either of you wanted, there are some good things that can come from it. Try to focus on those, maybe even listing a few positives from each day with your child.
Talk it out
One thing that is sure to happen is miscommunication. Practice using the speaker-listener technique with your child to make sure that you both are feeling heard. Use “I” statements, feeling words, and short statements to describe what you would like to say. The listener can then reflect back on what they heard to ensure clarity. It goes like this:
Speaker: “I am frustrated with this assignment and I need help with understanding it”
Listener: “I hear you saying that you are frustrated and you would like for me to help you?”
Speaker: “Yes, that is it”
Though it may seem like a simple exercise, we often don’t practice it and both parties end up feeling not heard. It probably looks something like this:
Speaker: “I can’t stand This, it makes no sense!”
Listener: “What do you want me to do, you have to do your work!”
Speaker: “I’m done!”
This scenario may sound familiar and often ends in frustration and anger for both parties, with each of you feeling unheard, helpless, and not supported.
Taking the time to practice speaking and listening can help a lot when things become difficult or emotions are running high. Helping each person feel heard and understood goes a long way in building and protecting your relationship with your child (this works with partners too!) and leaves everyone feeling more connected.
Above all this school year, go easy on yourself! Remember that we all are doing the best we can! Find a plan that works for you and your family. Create schedules and routines that can help keep you on track and don’t hesitate to reach out for support!
A big part of reaching out for support is making your emotional health a priority as we continue to face these challenging times. If you or someone you love is struggling with adjustments to the new normal, we have therapists in Fuquay Varina, Raleigh and North Carolina providing in-office and telehealth services to help you thrive.