Mother and daughter look outside during the pandemic.


Reflecting on Lessons Learned to Guide us During New Normal

Schooling, keeping kids active, parenting and more fundamentally impacted

It’s hard to imagine anyone who hasn’t faced some significant change of life during the coronavirus pandemic, especially parents. Not only have many of us seen major adjustments to our normal work life, but we’ve also been thrust into the role of full time teacher, while unable to engage in the social interactions that keep many of us feeling supported - and sane.

Quarantining during a pandemic has given moms and dads a crash course in 24-hour parenting, with no outside relief. For months, parents have juggled finding and preparing meals, keeping their kids entertained without allowing them to be with their friends, ensuring everyone continuously washes their hands, doing all the normal household chores and wondering if they have enough supplies. Hopefully, these times will soon be in the rear-view mirror, but most likely, we will emerge from this pandemic with a very different idea of what our safety, school, and societal needs are. With a little reflection, we can still take lessons learned as directions for going forward in a post-pandemic family life.

School May Never Look the Same
An early step taken in dealing with the novel coronavirus epidemic was closing public schools. This pivotal change called for parents to step in to support day-to-day teaching, filling a crucial gap at a critical time. But how did parents fare at giving children the kind of learning environment provided during a regular school year?

Unless you’re one of the few parents that have an endless well of patience and understanding, your family has probably experienced a fair share of meltdowns while adjusting to distance learning. From chaotic virtual classroom meetings to managing endless assignments that were of little to no interest to your stir crazy kids, schooling at home definitely had its trials and tribulations. The experiences gained can be invaluable in improving our relationship with our kids, but these times have undeniably altered our long-held views of schools with the roles of teachers, students and parents never being looked at the same.

So, what does the future hold for traditional schooling? According to a new survey by the National Parents Union, more than half of  parents said schools should use this time as an opportunity to make changes to education by coming up with new teaching methods. Some parents are considering foregoing traditional schooling altogether suggests a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll that found that more than half of parents surveyed said they were "very or somewhat likely" to consider home-schooling their children next year if schools do open up in the fall.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho acknowledges that parents are rightfully expecting a hybrid schooling model to be in place in the fall, with most students returning to classrooms and campuses at least part of the time, but also mixing in virtual education in some way. The new normal for schooling may include blended learning options where students are split up for classroom learning for a few days a week and online for the remainder. There may also be a transition to competency courses where students can move ahead at their own pace instead of logging into classes for the entire school day.

The Pandemic’s Positive Impact on Our Kids
It goes without saying that sheltering in place presented a number of hurdles, but for families that remained stable and had the resources needed for distance learning at home, the quarantine may be providing a much needed reset. By eliminating overly structured and rushed schedules, kids were granted plenty of time to try new things, such as discovering new interests, spending more time outside and with family, and learning in new ways.

These important practices in our kid’s lives understandably have parents and experts alike taking a second look at the future of our daily routines. “It’s almost an insult to the human spirit the way we have been raising kids,” said Lenore Skenazy, president of the nonprofit Let Grow and author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children Without Going Nuts with Worry. “Their lives were overly packed and structured before the pandemic. They had unforgiving schedules, and there was very little if any time on this unrelenting hamster wheel to just play outside or be bored,” she told WebMD. However our new future looks, it is important not to discard the lessons learned by parents and their children.

The New Social Networking
From endless hand washing and reminding kids (and yourself) to stop touching their face numerous times a day, these unprecedented times have definitely made us more aware of not only our own hygiene practices, but also our social interactions.

After the quarantine is lifted, it may be tempting to rush to the grandparents' house, plan park play dates and meet friends for brunch. However, kids and adults alike still need to take precautions and be responsible with all social contact for the foreseeable future. Just because a shelter-in-place is lifted, it doesn't mean that the threat of coronavirus is gone. “It isn’t like a light switch on and off, it’s a gradual pulling back on certain of the restrictions and to try and get society a bit back to normal,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explains to Time.

This doesn’t mean your family shouldn’t see friends and family. When stepping out into the new normal routine of socializing, just use common sense precautions, like washing your hands often and covering your mouth if you sneeze or cough. It could be a good idea to avoid hugging your loved ones or otherwise getting too close for the foreseeable future as well.

What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Parenting
So, what can we take away from parenting through a global pandemic? Despite all that has gone on, we as parents have a unique opportunity to pull some powerful positives from the world temporarily coming to a halt. It’s forced us to take a step back, think, understand and appreciate what it means to live and not just survive - and that’s something we hopefully can hold onto for a long time to come.

Every family has experienced the past few months in their own way, but there are some undeniable shared experiences we have all felt. Those bonds should bring families and communities closer together. For example, the resilience shown by children and parents alike, should give us confidence to face future complications, while the time confined at home has simultaneously made us harken back to simpler times when we had to make due with less while also looking to the future for virtual ways to learn and have fun.

Keep teaching your kids what you want to teach them, keep spending quality time with your family, keep checking in on your loved one's emotional well-being, and don't take anything for granted.