At Yale Child Study Center we spend our professional lives thinking about children and families, but things have taken a turn that we did not predict. As is the case with families all over the globe, the coronavirus has drastically and abruptly caused a collision between our professional and home lives. The reality of the “new normal” leaves parents suddenly faced with the unprecedented dilemma of having children at home 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.
Folks, this is intense.
As days move into weeks, articles abound advising parents how to set up enriching learning and academic activities for their homebound children. Facebook, local news, national news, parent newsletters, and other sources have myriad suggestions for academic programming to keep children learning and “on track.” Without question, school is important; however, excepting those parents who deliberately opt to home-school their children, parents are not teachers.
These are strange days. We are noticing that parents everywhere are feeling guilty, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted because there seems to be a growing expectation—even pressure—to replicate school-day teaching activities at home. Moreover, many parents are dealing with this unreasonable expectation while simultaneously trying to work. The pressure is untenable. This may seem obvious, but we feel it bears stating in no uncertain terms:
Parents, you are not required to become teachers, nor are you expected to recreate school in your home!
We encourage you to let yourself off the hook. We encourage you to encourage other parents to give themselves a break. We empathize with the extreme stress parents are facing as they cope with potential health fears; serious financial worries; and unknown circumstances for the future.
Please parents, be gentle with yourselves. Know that your children will be fine even if you do not put your Zoom meetings on mute to create science experiments and art activities in your kitchen. Know that extra screen time may be a reality in these incredibly challenging days. Know that your children will eventually go back to school where they will engage in structured academic activities guided by adults who have trained for (and have time for) such work.
In the meanwhile, to support your functioning and that of your children, we do suggest creating a schedule to guide your days. Even very young children benefit when they help to decide what they will do first, next, then, and last over the course of a day. Offer structure or a schedule for the household, and maintain norms such as waking/sleeping times, meals, and exercise of some sort. Realize that the schedule may be derailed, the best laid plans are subject to change, and children are resilient. No one predicted families would spend weeks on end away from the normal daily rhythms of life. We remind ourselves, and we encourage you to accept: It’s okay to give up on assuming roles you are not able to fill.
Leah L. Booth, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language Pathologist at Yale Child Study Center (CSC). A member of CSC multidisciplinary evaluation teams, Leah’s work focuses on communication across the life span, including supporting families and caregivers. She has particular interest in social-communication and the impact of communication disorders on a person’s home, school, work, and community settings.