Q. I’m trying to find the balance of working from home, homeschooling my 8 yo, and watching my 15 yo to make sure he gets his work done and doesn’t spend all his time on YouTube and video games. The hardest part is seeing the effects of this shut-down on my teen who has lost all his social interactions. I feel like I suddenly have to change from parent to homeschooler and police officer. I don’t have the right tools. What do I do?
A. Those jobs descriptions are enough to drive anyone mad who hasn’t chosen them. And you’re right, you don’t have the tools for being a homeschooler and a police officer. This new world is enough to make us all feel ill-equipped. But family has not changed—only how it is conducted. It requires adjusting but not learning new skills.
First of all, you are not a homeschooler. You are a facilitator of your child’s online learning. When you fear your child is going to be far behind when he returns to school, then you must become a homeschooler. But ask any homeschooler and you will likely find that aside from curriculum, much of their children’s learning comes from exploring and discovering their environment. That’s why they homeschool.
I feel such compassion for the teacher’s job when school resumes. Children will be at different levels of preparedness. I hope there will be plenty of remedial teachers on hand for review. But that doesn’t mean you are responsible for your 8 yo to be at the starting gate. Guide him and facilitate the work his teacher presents. But it is not your job to teach it. You are correct. You don’t know how.
Think of this time as an opportunity to see what he wants to learn—how he learns in different ways. Gather projects that involve math and science using what is around you. And read together as much as you can. It is not your job to make sure he is where he would be if he were in school.
Next, no one wants to live with a police officer in the house. Your job in parenting your teen is maintaining the best relationship you can while still honoring his need and desire for privacy. What he needs from you is your love and understanding. Share your experience with him because they are not unlike his. Have a good heart to heart about your frustrations, your exhaustion, how hard it is to help both your kids keep up with school as well as their spirits when it’s hard for you. Let him know the frustrations you have in working from home. Tell him you understand that his friends are the most important part of his life and how sad and isolating it must feel to be cut off from them.
Make a list of all the things that totally suck about this corona pandemic. For both of you. Let him know that you get it that his only way of connecting with friends is online and that you want him to maintain that connection. Then tell him what you don’t want about it and work toward some agreements.
We have so many fears about screens and gaming. We see it so differently than our kids do. The more your teen knows you understand what he gets from it, how it feeds him, the less likely it is he will delve into the darkness of it. The darkness is an escape from the pressures and judgements of his reality. The less pressure and judgment, the less need for escape. But the darkness is where he will go if he feels unsuccessful in his world.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to maintain relationship with your kids all along the way. A connected relationship is the #1 preventive measure against anything you fear in the teen years. When you have this, your influence remains the most important—and he will even like you.
The hardest job of all is being a parent and knowing that you do not have the answers and you cannot control the outcome of anything—especially your children’s lives. The hard part is learning to let go.
I read recently, “It’s what you do with what you can control that really shapes your children.” When you try to be someone you’re not and don’t want to be, you will deplete yourself, do a poor job, and then fail. So give up the jobs of homeschooler and police officer and put your efforts toward being a parent.
If the voice inside your head says I can’t do this, then you will be drained by fears of failure. But if it’s I can do this to the best of my ability, then your expectations will adjust, and you will more likely be better at managing what you can control.
If you believe it’s up to you to do it all, you can only fail. Control what you can—yourself and your thinking—and let go of the rest.
Because you’ve already parented for a number of years, you’ve lived with less sleep than any human should, you’ve had to clean disgusting messes off your kitchen floor, you have had to play characters you know nothing about, you’ve had to juggle 20 things at once and save the dinner from burning at the same time you saved your child from breaking a leg. You are enormously flexible and have risen to occasions you never thought possible. Here’s another one. You’ve got this.
We learn a lot about ourselves and our capabilities in a crisis. We live hour by hour. Don’t try to think about what you have to do 2 hours from now. You have no idea.
We punish our children in an attempt to keep them from pushing our buttons, often escalating the original problem into a cycle of anger and blame. When Your Kids Push Your Buttons is not about what to do to your kids to get them to stop pushing your buttons. This book is about how to be the parent you wish you could be-the parent that only you are holding yourself back from.