More than a year into the pandemic, parents are running out of ideas. What to do. How to cope. How to handle situations with our kids. If you’re like me, getting some words of wisdom from an education and parenting expert like Cathie Broocks can be just the jolt of inspiration you need to refocus and re-energize.
Broocks is an educational consultant and the founder of Rooted and Grounded Education. As a former teacher and independent school admissions director, she brings 35 years of experience in education and child development to her consulting job. She presented a zoom “Parenting in a Pandemic” for First Presbyterian Church’s preschool parents recently. In it, she spoke about everything from how to handle children’s emotional outbursts to how to meal plan for the week. I’ve plucked 10 of my favorite takeaways from her talk.
She was speaking largely to parents of young children, but I think her ideas apply to parents with children of all ages.
For the full Zoom, check out a recording here.
1. Temper academic expectations for the upcoming school year.
“Pediatricians, psychologists and counselors are begging parents to readjust your academic expectations…Please do not put another layer of worrying about getting your child up to speed. Just as we’ve had collective trauma, we’ve had collective delays academically. We need to give our children time to readjust. We need to think of learning in broader concepts (learning new life skills and developing interests.)”
2. Attend to our child’s emotional needs by letting it “R-A-I-N.”
R – “Recognize that our little ones do have valid emotions, even though they don’t have an emotional vocabulary. We need to help them by saying, ‘I see that you’re crying. Tell me what happened to you?’ Don’t ask a child ‘What’s the matter with you?’ Take the onus off of it being their responsibly but look for ways for them to describe what they’re feeling.”
A – “Acknowledge what they’re feeling. We want to allow that your child is disappointed. This year’s birthday party may not be what they had envisioned. Don’t discount (their emotions) with the comment ‘It’s going to be OK’ or ‘You should be happy, at least we have a roof over our heads.’”
I – “Investigate. This part is for us, as adults, looking for triggers. When did this feeling start? Why do you feel lonely? Let your child know that you are invested in how they are feeling.”
N – “Name it to tame it. We want to help children learn to identify the emotions themselves. The longer a child stays in an emotional state the more that state becomes their reality, so we want to identify what the feeling is and have strategies to move forward.”
3. When in doubt, read with your child!
“Children need concrete ideas, pictures and examples to understand abstract thought. Reading does so much for our children and is its own wonderful lesson. It enhances parts of the brain in language development, in comprehension…. Language and literature are the vehicles to develop emotional knowledge.”
4. When we run short on time to read, ask a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even older sibling to do the reading.
“It gets you a little time and them something invaluable: a special interaction and a wealth of education.”
5. Create a “calm-down place” using a basket of a few toys (Play-Doh, books, puzzle) and a beach towel, or make a tent out of card tables or chairs pushed together.
“When a child is tired or emotionally distraught, they cannot accept reason….(Tell him or her) ‘You need to sit down here and here are some things you can play with. When you calm down, we will talk.’ You’re not isolating them or punishing them for the feeling… (and) you’re not drawn into the drama. You’re modeling what to do with those deep emotions.”
6. Ease the late afternoon stress with simple meal planning.
“This is the time to buy cut-up fruit, to use meal services. When parenting and working fulltime, I would cook on Sunday night what we’d eat Monday and Wednesdays. Tuesday morning I’d do a crockpot meal for Tuesday and Thursday. Friday it was pizza. Saturday was ‘Dad’s night.’ I only had two meals to come up with each week.” – Cathie Broocks
7. Take advantage of the “Dad Factor.”
“Dads are so needed. They bring their own brand of parenting as a balance to many of us. Each (parent) has had a hard day. We need to find ways to work together. Moms, let them parent the way they want, read stories the way they want. They have ability to bring their own joy factor in parenting. And just one piece of marital advice: men are not mind readers. If we need them to jump in, it helps if we can share that in a calm voice.”
8. Create a chore chart.
“Children need to see themselves as a member of team family. And you need help.”
9. Include laughter in what you regularly provide your children (routine, good sleep patterns, and exercise.)
“Laughter is such an incredibly important gift that we can give children. It releases a lot of wonderful chemicals, not only in the body but in the brain. Be prepared as you would have flour and sugar in your pantry. In your family pantry, have some laughter ready. Print out some knock-knock jokes, put them in a jar. If things get tense moment, pull one out. Store on your DVR “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Seek out old sitcoms.”
10. Cultivate gratitude as a family, with a journal or just in regular conversation.
“Note during the week what you’re thankful for. Families grow together as they learn to recognize and express appreciation for one another.”