Last week I posted a blog with the message that parenting during this pandemic is not easy, and at the end of my blog I shared some tips for parents to consider that might be helpful during this difficult time. While I stand by the tips that I shared, the reality is that many families do not have the time, maybe not the resources, or perhaps, the most important one, the mental and emotional health to take on these major changes in the household and in life. This isn’t easy and it increasingly feels more and more impossible as the days turn into weeks and weeks turn into a month of this social isolation.
Those of us who are lucky enough to work remotely have lots of work to do and many hurdles to overcome as we realize what a luxury it was to be at the office. School work is “real” now. Students are not just reviewing, they are learning new content and now parents really have to step up! Confession: As I am writing this blog I am multitasking between my role as Director of Prevention and Teacher/mom, my 7th grader needs to create a Bohr model and (at this very moment) is tearing our kitchen apart seeking items that can help her trace certain shapes. While I follow her around closing cupboard doors that she has opened, and putting away Tupperware that she has deemed as “unworthy” for her traces, I am also reminding her that our small glassware (that she selected) isn’t the ideal size for the nucleus as it won’t be big enough to label. Where was I? Oh, right...this is hard.
So what is the message for those who can’t adhere to the tips? Where is the support for those who can’t manage the stress? What do we do for the audience who is in survival mode and ultimately needs more than words of wisdom and advice? These are important questions and, as Director of Substance Prevention, I am aware of the potential negative impact if we do not figure out a way to help everyone through this. And I want to help everyone get through this.
Last Thursday I called a family meeting, the meeting was called due to some major moods bubbling up in our house and the stress was too much for everyone. My son had past due work in addition to his current assignments and he couldn’t get organized. My daughter needed help with her math but none of us were available to assist her. My husband (who is a teacher) wasn’t able to videotape a lesson that had to be in video format. Our toddler was needing normal toddler things (like help with potty training and guessing which snack was suitable today), and I was eyeball-deep in work. Where was I? Oh, right...family meeting.
In a moment of desperation and an attempt to get my family back, I literally hollered “family meeting!” and in true Michael Scott form followed up with “everyone in the conference room, er, living room in 5 minutes!” My kids reluctantly made their way to the sofa and my husband (looking very stressed) sat on the ottoman waiting for me to speak. “I know this is tough. I know that this is stressful. We can’t keep fueling this negativity and tension, so I need to hear from each of you what you need from each of us individually and as a family in order to do your work, in order to feel less stressed, and in order to get through this.” As instructed, each of us took turns and shared what we needed. The talk helped and everyone had a better day, and the weekend seemed a little easier too.
We are still navigating this whole thing. Even today we had stressful moments. But now we have mental lists and reminders of what helps one another and I have been seeing everyone use these reminders as ways to regulate the stressful moments. But this is still hard.
SO, what was the point of sharing the story of my family meeting? Because sometimes, even as “experts” we do not have the answers. Sometimes we need to ask others for the answers, just as I had to ask my family what they needed. So, Addison County families, what do you need? What would help you? What would make life just a little easier? What could your neighbors, your friends, your family ,your local United Way, your community do to help you through this time? We (as a community) may not always know exactly what to do or what exactly will work during these tough times, but I do know that Addison County is like a big family, and as a parent in this county, I am calling a community-wide family meeting, asking for parents to share with me, and the prevention staff, what they need to feel supported. Let us help!
Jesse Brooks, Director of Prevention
To contact the prevention team:
Jesse Brooks firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim O’Toole email@example.com
Jessica Hellyer firstname.lastname@example.org