By Julie Diamond
Coming up on a year since the world changed forever, has me reflecting on the year my family has had and thinking about what it has been like, overall, for other families especially those with children. With schools closed for months, playgrounds off limits, summer camps cancelled, so many jobs lost, there were a lot of tough challenges facing families. The families I spoke to were fortunate – they were able to meet their basic needs and some worked from home. While they expressed it was one of the toughest years they had experienced, many said it was also eye-opening. They said it gave them more time with their children who actually taught them how to be better parents. Here are some things these parents learned from their kids last year:
1. Every Child Learns Differently. The sudden switch to online school last March, and for many provinces again in December/January, proved challenging for parents and children. Many students, typically high-performing pre-pandemic, struggled to transfer their learning to the virtual space and needed the interaction with their peers and teachers. While other students, typically who struggled socially or behaviourally, excelled online. There were a lot of confused and frustrated parents left to piece together the online school assignments or teach their young children. A big takeaway from parents was their sheer shock at how differently their kids learn. A parent I spoke to with eight-year-old twins was perplexed at how differently the twins approach the same question but came to the same answer. There was a newfound appreciation for teachers across the board.
2. Simplicity = Happiness: When all the extra-curricular activities and summer camps were cancelled, panic set in with one parent I spoke to. She was not sure how her kids, 10 and 8, would react. Her kids were always on the run to some enriching STEM program or playdate. They were not used to sitting at home together. Surprisingly though, her kids not only came up with so many ways to entertain themselves but, for the most part, got along with each other (she said mainly because they only had each other). From inventing new games to creating an art museum to new dance routines, they proved that all they needed was their imagination, and some sick dance moves, to have fun together.
3. Family Is Most Important. A parent I spoke to in B.C., admitted that pre-pandemic, he worked way too much. He was typically away from home on business trips during the week. He consistently missed family dinners and quality time was confined to some, but not all, Sundays. When the pandemic hit last March, and he was furloughed, he was stressed at first. But he quickly realized that he now had all the time in the world for dinners with his family, Candy Land with his 6-year-old and making forts with his 5-year-old. While he is happy to be back at work now, he said that his time with his kids last year gave him new perspective. They grew closer and taught him that family is the most important. He is planning to take less business trips and make more time for play time.
4. Kids Are Rock Stars. We took away school, their friends and all extra-curriculars with one word: COVID. Regardless of your child’s age, it is hard to understand the complexities of a global pandemic. Even we as adults struggled this past year so imagine how impossibly difficult it has been for a child to understand and accept all the changes. Another parent, who has a 15-year-old and 13-year-old, was anxious about how her children would react to the loss of their lifelines as teenagers (friends, peers, and school). She said that they not only surprised her with how resilient they are but inspired and supported her to get through the tough times too.
Here is hoping we can carry over these lessons into the post-pandemic era. What has your child (or student) taught you this past year? Comment below.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant/social media co-ordinator at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.
Fun Fact: Her and Julie (see above) are also sisters :)