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Why I'm Inspired by This 'Hard Email' a Mom Sent About COVID-19 and School Work

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I’ll start with the plain and simple fact that the worry, grief, anxiety or depression you are experiencing right now is real. All of it.

How we are living life right now isn’t normal — none of it. It’s not something you could have imagined or planned for, and it is taking its toll on you and everyone around you. That’s all very real as well.

On top of the fact that you may be caring for yourself or a loved one, or that every aspect of your daily life has been changed overnight, you’ve also been asked to educate your child or youth from home.

For some of us, this comes as a welcome distraction. A sense of some normalcy.

But for many, this only brings more disappointment, more inequity and one more thing we are having trouble achieving.

Yesterday, I saw a tweet that inspired me. I saw parent and professor Sarah Parcak politely tell her son’s teacher that he would not be participating in his online work. She made that decision because she recognized her limits as a parent at this time, and that her mental health and managing a household during the pandemic was more important. More importantly, she realized her child’s mental well-being was more important than anything else as well. Her child is still learning through activities, but it’s just not through more traditional formats.

[Image description: Tweet that reads, “We just wrote a hard email. I told our son’s (lovely, kind, caring) teacher that, no, we will not be participating in her “virtual classroom”, and that he was done with the 1st grade. We cannot cope with this insanity. Survival and protecting his well being come first.”]

Yes, educating your child or youth is important, but your mental health is more important right now.

If you feel you cannot take on more challenges, then please don’t. Your mental health as a parent to your child is so much more crucial than learning concepts that can one day be learned under non-traumatic conditions. 

Please read that last line again — aloud.

As a teacher and a parent of a child with disabilities, I want you to know that when your mental health is taken care of, you can then care for others. I am used to not being able to educate my son with more “traditional” methods, and I am used to having to balance what is best for me and my child. I have come to learn that my mental health comes first, because without it, my son will not have the best of me.

My message to parents today is this — do what you can with what resources you have. If you want to participate in some of the work, then do so. But if you are finding it all too overwhelming, I am telling you have good reason to be making that decision. You are living in a world where you have to line up for groceries, you cannot see your loved ones, you can’t do the things that would once help you cope, you can’t get the help you need, maybe you’ve lost your job, or your health or the health of a loved one is at stake. And so much more.

So please do what you can, pick and choose what you think is most important right now. Take out the Play-Doh, the sports equipment, the bikes, the board games. Teach your children life skills like cooking, cleaning and taking the dogs out for a walk. Think about the things you can do by reading books and watching online educational films and documentaries. Take your time perusing apps online; some will work, some won’t. Better yet, ask your child what they want to do or learn about today.

I’ll leave you with something I know for certain — even in these most uncertain times. I know that when this is all over, your child and mine will be OK. They will jump right back into learning at school, they will thrive in their recreational programs and take in what they missed at their special programming studies. It may be bumpy at first, but they will get there.

I know this, because your children and mine are resilient. And so are you.

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Originally published: April 11, 2020
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