Who thought that when schools started shutting down in March for COVID that we would still be dealing with it in fall?
I decided to find out how parents are planning to cope with online school this Fall. I spoke to Matt, a committed parent of 11-year-old twins who works full-time, as does his partner.
If you are wondering, “how will I manage having my kids at home this year?” check out their back-to-school at home game plan for some helpful tips:
- Set up specific desk areas. “I set up separate desk spaces that are solely dedicated to school for each of the boys.”
- Sleep routine. “School is about to start in a week, so we started a sleep schedule now so that they are used to getting up in the morning at the same time. This also included putting an end to all sleepovers.”
- Talk to school counselors before school starts. “I set up a call with each of the boys counselors to make sure they were aware of what each of them needed. Jacob is self-sufficient, but we wanted him to be acquainted with his counselor so that if there are issues he can go to them.
Devon is autistic. It was important that the counselor be aware that Devon refused to get on camera because it overwhelmed him. The counselor and teacher would need to figure out how to work that out and it would be stressful for both of them if they didn’t know this well ahead of time. This saved everybody, including me, a lot of stress.”
- Pick up all supplies ahead of time. “To minimize stress, we picked up all the supplies we would need a couple weeks in advance so that if something was missing, we didn’t have to handle last minute or, like what actually happened, I picked up the wrong supplies for Devon and had to go back and get the right ones.”
- Have their technology all ready to go and review. “We made sure we got the laptops from school as early as possible and that they were set up properly. We also went through the introduction to the portal to the school learning system so that they knew how to operate it without us and that all their passwords were set up.”
When I asked what Matt was doing for himself to cope he said, “Sticking with the calendar. I know it sounds so simple, but really this is what has saved me a ton of stress. I have both the kids and me on a schedule. Then I usually take several deep breaths and remind myself that this is all temporary. That I don’t have to solve everything. It is what it is. If Devon is not doing his PE or Jacob isn’t being rigorous enough in math, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Let the school sort out the kinks in online learning, I can only do so much. Assuming it’s not forever, I’m not going to sweat it. We will get through this, it could be worse. Breathe.”
As we started to talk more in depth about Devon’s refusal to get on camera, it began to feel complicated and stressful. “I started going over the online rules the school sent us with Devon,” Matt said, “that the camera has to be on you at all times. If you need to go to the bathroom, you need to raise your hand and if you’re not on camera, you will be considered absent. Devon started to go into a panic attack.”
In that moment, one of the big ideas of Soul Path Parenting came to mind – this idea that kids actually have what it takes to solve their own problems if we let them, if we ask the right questions, and give them plenty of space.
There are some great questions that could be asked here about the panic Devon was experiencing; however, I decided to focus on one of the more problem-solving questions from Amy Breeze’s guide.
Question #3 is “What do you want to do about it?” With this question, the idea is that when our kids face struggles or set-backs, like the challenge Devon is dealing with, we empower them.
In Episode 11, Michal Berg, CEO of Spirituality of Kids International, recommends asking open-ended questions when our kids face challenges. Let them struggle and learn, rather than trying to solve the problem for them. Our need to spare them suffering comes from our own ego.
So this is what I suggested to Matt, “How about you ask Devon what he wants to do about it? How does he want to make this work?” I said, “He loves solving his own puzzles and he loves technology. What if you told him the guidelines, i.e. the teacher has to be able to know you are there with the camera off, and see what he comes up with?”
This is when the conversation took on a whole new energy. Matt loved the idea and could see how it might actually work. “Oh my gosh,” he said. “You’re right. He would love to solve this problem!”
That night, when Matt asked Devon what he wants to do about it, Devon simply said, “I know. I’ll create an avatar.” So that is what Devon is currently doing as we speak, creating an avatar so that his anxiety over being on camera is gone and his teacher can know he is in class.
Suddenly, something that was complicated and stressful to Devon’s parent became an opportunity for a kid to come up with a brilliant solution. That would have never happened had Matt not asked a magical question.
My last take away about coping is that perhaps talking to other parents can also be a major stress reliever during this time. Had I not called Matt, we would have never come up with the idea about how to solve Devon’s “camera problem.” As someone who is not as immersed in Devon’s life, I was able to see the problem from a different angle and offer a possible solution. Perhaps reaching out to other parents, both ones that have the same age kids and ones who have older kids (hindsight being what it is), could also be a powerful tool in the coping arsenal during this unprecedented time.