Parenting in a Pandemic – Lower School Coffee Tips for Raising a Resilient Child

Parenting in a pandemic—could there be a more relevant topic to cover in this week’s Lower School Parent Coffee? On Tuesday, parents and guardians of Beasley students gathered online over Zoom to hear about this important subject in their first Parent Education Event of the school year. Thank you to the Parent Education Committee for helping plan this week’s event! With coffees in hand, attendees listened, shared, and asked questions as Lower School Learning Specialist and Counselor Ashley O’Toole delivered her helpful presentation called “Parenting in a Pandemic – Raising a Resilient Child and Supporting Growth During Distance Learning.”

During the talk, Mrs. O’Toole discussed several ways to find empowerment in times of challenge and uncertainty. Perhaps you and your Beasley student will find strength in some of these reminders:

  • The power of mindset
    Mindset is everything. The way that we view particular situations, our life, and the world is linked very closely to how we feel and act. As adults, we can greatly impact our own lives by carefully curating the narratives that unfold within our own minds, and we can help our children learn to do this too. Taking time to listen carefully to our own thoughts and to theirs, noting patterns and reframing when necessary, can be particularly helpful in times of change, stress, and unease.
  • The power of self-care
    During times of change, many sometimes neglect self-care. In turn, this makes us less able to support ourselves, our families, and our coworkers. By committing to disciplines of caring for ourselves (sleeping well, exercising, limiting media consumption, etc.), we are better able to not only function throughout the day ourselves, but we are better able help others do so as well.
  • The power of deep breathing
    When we are stressed, our breathing often becomes shallow and rapid. Studies show that deep, slow, diaphragmatic breaths help us feel calmer while enabling us to slow down our thinking and slow down our bodies. As a result, we perform better in our daily activities.
  • The power of automaticity and routine
    Even though many of our routines continue to be tossed about due to the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, this can be utilized as an opportunity to show children that we can be okay with change. Developing a new routine can take time, but being able to find our way and eventually automate what we can in a new, routinized way is a great skill to develop.
  • The power of flexibility and resourcefulness
    How many of us have thought, “This is not what I expected?” Teaching kids that we can pivot and adjust no matter what comes our way can help build resiliency. When times like these occur, we can help guide kids in learning to be resourceful. They can learn to search for the resources they need like where to go for help, support, and restoration in times of challenge.
  • The power of family norms and values
    Families might be making different decisions right now, but what matters most is that each family makes their decisions based on their own family’s priorities and values. With this in mind, it’s great to stop and define what your norms are as a family, giving a voice to each family member in the discussion. Mrs. O’Toole shared several questions you can ask as a family: “What are your boundaries? What’s good for you and your family? How do you operate?” Then, she advises that you think about what’s important to you. Do you value quality time, your culture, being respectful? Keeping your norms and values as a family as a north star for your head and heart can help bring a sense of power and comfort with which you approach any situation.
  • The power of validating feelings
    Listening to what your children are saying is of utmost importance now and always. Try to understand the subtext and hidden information that they relay with their word choice, emotions, and gestures. Make sure that they know they are in a safe place when sharing their feelings. If they aren’t able to talk about how they feel, you can reflect back to them what you notice, perhaps saying, “I’m noticing the frown on your face and that you are looking downward. I’m wondering if you may be upset. Is this how you are feeling, or are you feeling something different? How would you describe it?” It’s important to let kids know that all feelings, whether they feel positive, negative, or neutral, are okay. Then, you can help them channel and release emotions in healthy ways. If they’re angry or mad, they can squeeze a pillow, draw a picture, talk to you or a sibling. Opening up opportunities for the full spectrum of feelings will help them sort out any convoluted thoughts and emotions they might be experiencing. You might also help give them the vocabulary to help them better process their emotions.
  • The power of problem-solving and family meetings
    Sometimes, it helps to come together as a family to talk about what’s going on and how things can improve. Here are some bullet points on how to run a family meeting:
  • The power of playfulness and joy
    You might think that play goes to the wayside when we’re stressed, but the truth is that we all need times to let loose, be silly, and be excited or happy about things. These things that bring a smile to our faces keep us motivated and moving forward. “Even in the darkest of storms, there is always a silver lining,” shares Mrs. O’Toole. If kids can learn to make the most of any situation and keep joy in times of trial, that will give them such power and resilience in daily life.

Some of these tips directly applied to some of the challenges shared by parents and guardians at the Coffee. Some shared that other families are more okay with being out and about more than they are, so they feel a sense of pressure from others. Others talked about how challenging it is to keep their kids motivated. Another talked about not knowing how much screentime was too much. O’Toole acknowledged that all of these challenges are very real and that remembering to stick to your family’s priorities can really help give a good foundation to what decisions you make.

Throughout the talk, Mrs. O’Toole reminded the listeners that we all have a “circle of influence.” Our circle of influence is the area immediately around us that we can impact, our inner circle. She compared this with the idea of our circle of concern which is the wide range of concerns you have in your life. When we can’t change what’s going on in the greater world or change the weather (in our circle of concern), we can focus on what we can control which is what’s in our circle of influence. Mrs. O’Toole states, “We can make up our minds to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be and impact our immediate family or friends.” Another example is that we can’t fix COVID-19 overnight, but what’s the next best step we can take? Perhaps we call a grandparent or be respectful of one another’s space.

Mrs. O’Toole also talked about how to support kids along their educational journeys. Here are some helpful tips for those learning from home.

A lasting takeaway from the Lower School Coffee was what Mrs. O’Toole said about resiliency. “There’s so much for the kids to take and learn from this experience about being resilient. How we respond to that as their parents, guardians, or caregivers is so important. This will create stronger, more resilient children as they grow up.” Due to the pandemic, kids are learning that they can get through tough situations. If we pause to notice how far they’ve come or help them acknowledge their resiliency when faced with future challenges, they’ll be primed to know that they can handle whatever comes their way.

Thank you to all of those who joined us for the Lower School Coffee this week, and thank you to Mrs. O’Toole for reminding our Lower School families of the power we all have in ourselves and as we take care of our Beasley kids! Click the following link for the full slide deck of the Lower School Coffee. Here’s to our silver lining of the times in growing as a more resilient Beasley and MICDS community!