Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

3 Things To Remember To Help You Keep Your Sanity This Autumn

In the U.S., it's still summer, but some children are already back at school and others will begin very soon.  Whether you're sending your child into a classroom, remote learning, or home-schooling, you've probably spent a lot of time thinking (worrying? agonizing?) about how to make things work for your family this autumn.

There are no easy answers this year, as we have all learned the hard way. There are only learning opportunities, for us -- the adults -- as we try to make the best decisions we can in the face of uncertainty.

But there are a few things to remember that will help you stay anchored in what matters most, regardless of what path you're taking.

1. This does not have to be a permanent decision.

Maybe you decided to home-school but you end up realizing that it doesn't work for you. Take a breath, be honest about what isn't working, and make a different decision. Maybe you'll change your approach to home-schooling. Maybe you'll enroll your child in the local public school, either in person or remotely. Maybe you'll take the year off school and set up a play pod with two other families so you can each work full or part-time. The point is that you can change anything that isn't working, including remote learning or in-person school.

2. Don't sweat the small stuff.

It's a pandemic. Of course you want what's best for your child, but this isn't the year to obsess about academics. A child who is curious and loves to learn will easily catch up in school, with a little support. So remember what matters most for your child's emotional and intellectual development:

  • Supportive family relationships so your child develops emotional intelligence and the ability to manage emotions.
  • Interesting conversations so your child develops curiosity about the world and the ability to express herself.
  • An ongoing experience of books as a doorway to wonder and excitement, so your child loves to read and develops reading comprehension.
  • Plentiful opportunities for creative expression and independent play, so your child learns to access their inner passions. 
  • A love of nature so your child can always ground himself in something deeper. (This is also an effective foundation for faith if that is part of your value system.)
  • Parents who maintain their own emotional equilibrium and emotional generosity, so they can help the child work through whatever struggles come up.

Notice that school is not necessary for these priorities. Did I leave important learning off this list? Yes, of course. But a child who loves to learn and can manage their emotions can easily catch up with math and history.

3. Children are resilient.

Wearing a mask all day at school is super-hard. Staying engaged in learning remotely is probably even harder, although in a different way.

But your child can do hard things, if you give them enough support. We don't need to remove most obstacles from our child's path. We need to acknowledge that the obstacles are hard, and then give our child enough support to tackle them. That's what raises a resilient child.

And what if there is simply no way to give your child enough support so they can stay focused with remote learning? What if despite your best efforts to prep your child, the mask is just impossible for them and they keep getting scolded at school? Remember points #1 and #2, above. Your child's emotional well-being and love of learning is the foundation of all future academic achievement. If what you're doing isn't working, stay open to new options. Your autumn might not look like what you thought it would look like, but if your child is experiencing the bullet points in #2 (above), you're giving them a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning. And that matters much more than whatever lessons are part of the curriculum in a given school year.

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