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Two Ways to Survive Pandemic Parenting

We are in the last month of this “unprecedented” (how I HATE that word) year. It’s cold, lonely, and dark. These are the shortest days, longest nights, and a really, really hard time to be a parent.

Not only is 2020 not normal, but, as Historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote recently, “For those who cannot see it: we are in one of the most profound crises of American history.” For parents, trapped at home with our children, doing school and work, worried about family, jobs, friends, community – we are so busy surviving each day, we cannot fathom the historic magnitude of 2020.

There is light ahead – literally and figuratively. The shortest day of the year is on December 21st after which longer days will return. A vaccine is on the horizon. A boring and “precedented” political duo will take office and do boring, competent things to make the country run again.

But let’s talk about how to survive December 2020 - dark, lonely, and frustrating in epic and historic ways. Hard parenting seems harder in December 2020 – but only if we cling to the old rules. Instead, embrace new ones – Let Go and Build Up.

Let Go

2020 defies traditional measures of success. Not much will be gained from doubling down on parenting circa 2019. If your child (or you!) watches a little more TV, plays in the snow instead of doing homework, plays an extra video game, or makes - and eats- yet another batch of sugar cookies – why not? We are immersed in the social, political, and public health upheaval of the century.

This December, you have permission to back off your children and yourself. Our priorities shift with necessity. Is homework more important than neighbors? Is math more important than hunger? Unless you’re talking about life milestones (think college applications) - let the pressure go for December.

Build Up

Instead of checking boxes, build up relationships and focus on caring. Reach inward and enjoy time with your children. Plan fun family events - build that gingerbread house (which your local government will surely condemn!), drive to see holiday displays, binge watch The Office, or Mighty Machines, or football, or whatever brings your family togetherness and joy.

Reach outward and give back to your community. Use the last month of the worst year to spread joy (for ideas, click here). Community joy will alleviate our own isolation and anchor our attention on what matters most – getting ourselves and our communities through this crisis.

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