As a protective measure, I usually just skim headlines for a minute or two before starting my day, not wanting to be influenced by the fear and negativity most articles contain. However, there was one headline that stopped me in my tracks: "'Stretched Too Thin': With staff 'exhausted', schools cancel class or return to remote learning". As a strong supporter of education and advocate of children, I was compelled to read further.
The article went on to describe the urgent measures to which school districts are resorting to ease the extreme fatigue plaguing our nation's teachers - from extending scheduled vacation days to completely shutting down and returning to distance learning! It makes sense that teachers are buned out. Not only are they responsible for the usual duties - lesson planning, lesson presentation, assessment, classroom management, parent conferences, and grading - but now, they are being called to be Mental Health First Responders, Covid Health Monitors and tutors during their already critically short down-time. One teacher in my family is known for leaving the school building after security and administration goes home! Daily.
This story made headline news because, well, teachers are TEACHERS and not mere mortals. They are the Head of the class and have the power to pass (or fail) people. Many parents, even in pre-pandemic days, bi-annually dusted off their knee pads and earnestly prayed for Summer and Winter Breaks to pass quickly because teachers have been their seemingly untiring, unfailing backup caregivers. How many parents expressed initial concern over sending their children to a possibly infectious school last Spring only to quickly switch their concern to "what if the schools DON'T open in the Fall!" by Summer? Jason and Freddy combined could not conjure up the amount of horror seen in the eyes of bewildered parents faced with the continuation of home learning.
"I don't know what to do with/I just don't want to deal with my child!"
"I need a break!"
"I don't have the patience (intelligence, motivation, etc.) to teach my child!"
"I don't have the time or money to effectively teach my child!"
were the cries of many frazzled parents. Well, guess what moms and dads? Many of your children's teachers are crying the same things! So, if children's primary and secondary caregivers are depleted of energy, in addition to other essential resources, who is watching out for the children?!
Stress is at an alll-time, all-encompassing high and there is plenty to go around - including the children. Unfortunately, they ofttimes lack the ability and/or opportunity to articulate their distress. So children are brilliant illustrators of the concept that when you are not feeling heard, simply turn up the volume. And they do, through their behavior - or misbehavior - in ways that are commonly referred to as disobedience, disrespect, lack of motivation, laziness and bullying/aggression to name a few. The last thing they need
is to feel like is the rope in an intense tug-o-war.
Whether you're a homeschool or public-school parent, the following are critical questions to answer, preferably as a family. For the biggest impact, I suggest you do so in this order:
A) First, you and your partner or co-parent answer for yourselves
B) Then, schedule a family meeting to ask them the questions based on
- how they feel you are doing, and
- how they feel they are doing
1) What are my stressors and how well am I managing my stress?
For your children: What are your stressors? Why?
2) Am I modeling positive or negative stress management to my children?
For your children: Do you worry about mom/dad, teacher?
3) In what ways is my stress affecting how I engage with my children?
For your children: How is your stress impacting how you get along with others?
4) What underlying message is my engagement with them communicating to them?
For your children: How well do you feel mom/dad, teacher, etc. is dealing w/their stress?
5) When was the last time I asked my children how they are feeling about recent events?
For your children: Do you feel safe to come to me/us about your (negative) feelings?
6) How am I validating their concerns?
For your children: How can I help you cope better with your stress?
8) How would they say I am supporting them as they navigate stressful events?
For your children: Do you believe that I care about your feelings?
8) What outlets have I put in place for my children to vent or physically release their stress?
For your children: Let's plan a play date/something fun! What would you like to do?
Regardless of how well you think you are doing, I am confident that this conversation will leave everyone feeling more supported.
Whether your children are homeschooled or public-schooled, every family is trying to navigate the constant stress of today's world. I am a Parent Educator who have helped many families develop stress management skills. If you'd like support in helping your children effectively deal with toxic stress, please schedule a free Clarity Call.