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Parenting in a pandemic: The power of positivity

Published June 4, 2021
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A Parent’s Reflection

By Ruthie Muller, Senior Outbound Marketing Manager and Systems Portfolio Manager
rmuller@pitsco.com

Millions of working parents were faced with a struggle like never before in March of 2020. Some of the words I’ve used and have heard used by others to describe this struggle include overwhelming, stressful, impossible, and exhausting. Working from home plus schooling from home, or not being able to work from home but having to figure out supervision for children to complete their schoolwork, added stress and anxiety to an already stressful and unfamiliar time. If you’re a parent, I need to say no more.

A recent Hechinger Report called Parents Fighting, Teachers Crying: Grownup Stress Is Hitting Kids Hard by Kavitha Cardoza tells stories of the impact the stress of COVID has caused. The report tells several stories and points out the acknowledgement from the American Psychological Association that the negative mental health effects of the coronavirus will be “serious and long lasting.”

These stories are real. The stress is real. There are lots of statistics and articles out there that tell of the negative effects of the pandemic. After all, most of the information we have been given about the pandemic has come directly through the media. And negative news gets ratings. The problem I’ve experienced with getting information through these channels is that it shifts my focus from my immediate sphere of influence to a much larger scope that feels too big and too scary to make an impact.

Amid this uncertainty, my husband and I zeroed in on what we could impact – our kids. We made the decision to keep our attitudes positive and not allow the negative and sometimes scary news all around us take away a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience our time together as a family. We cracked open our parenting tool kits and embraced the situation we were given.

In my tool kit, I had Brené Brown’s “Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto” (download here) and her 10 guideposts for parenting:

  1. Cultivate worthiness in your family.
  2. Be vulnerable with your children.
  3. Embrace imperfection. (Focus on healthy striving, not perfectionism.)
  4. Allow your children to struggle. (Tenacity and perseverance through struggle contribute to hopefulness.)
  5. Model gratefulness and joy.
  6. Set and maintain boundaries.
  7. Be creative. (There are people who use their creativity and people who don’t, but there is no such thing as non-creative people.)
  8. Play as a family.
  9. Value respect and hard work.
  10. Being cool kills learning.

Some of these were much easier than others. Number 4, piece of cake. Number 5, however, was challenging in such an uncertain time. I had Number 10 perfected before I ever became a parent. And, Numbers 7 and 8 were probably our favorites. Board games, puzzles, and living room karaoke occurred regularly. We even built a geometric dome out of cardboard that eventually became a silent reading spot and then a time machine (in our imaginations, of course).

In my husband’s tool kit, he had lots of podcasts and books – The Art of Manliness, The Rooted Parent, He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself to name just a few. He also had actual tools and a woodshop. “Everyone out to the shop,” he declared one afternoon. “Today, we are making birdhouses.” The first step was for all of us to declare out loud (myself included), “My birdhouse does not have to be perfect.”

With one girl (age 13) and two boys (ages 10 and 8), we got to experience firsthand how boys and girls learn differently and need different learning environments and strategies. We gained a new appreciation for teachers and differentiated instruction. From cooking together, planting a garden together, and building projects together, we discovered how hands-on instruction works best.

As parents, George and I – and many of you – used the skills and tools we had at our disposal during this trying time. Just as our children learn by utilizing the skill sets, tool sets, and mindsets acquired through school, books, observations, and the like, we also learn this way as parents. Just as our kids learn through failure, we learn this way as well. And, just like the birdhouses, we certainly weren’t perfect.

Ultimately, we learned there is great power in positivity and the value of time spent together as a family. In modeling gratefulness and joy and embracing the struggle, parenting during the pandemic, though stressful at times, has been a blessing.

“Young learners benefit from the quality of Pitsco products. The straw rockets, tape measure racers, bridges, KaZoon Kites, as well as straw structure activities allow them to question, explore, wonder, create, and investigate while learning.”

– Rena Mincks, first-grade teacher, Jefferson Elementary, Pullam, Washington

We enable young learners to develop the mind-set, skill set, and tool set needed for future success.

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