On an early day in March 2020, the PEP staff came to the office as usual, forged ahead with a robust schedule of webinars on new topics, recruited several volunteer families to film new role plays and made final touches on the Spring in-person class schedule. Little did we know that that day would be our last normal day for a long time.
As the Covid-19 pandemic struck, we had to adjust to our new reality and quickly put together webinars to support parents in facing the uncertainty with their children – and have it all done remotely. One topic we weren’t sure about adding was “parenting strategies for children schooling at home” since closing schools seemed so drastic at the time. Yet, what seemed impossible came to be the reality all our families had to face.
Those weeks in March and April seem a blur now, and schools did indeed close with everyone going into shutdown mode. Our carefully crafted program schedule pivoted to focus completely on helping families face new realities like schooling and working from home, social isolation, racial inequality, loss and grief, and health worries.
As we reflect on the year, we learned that the timeless tools of positive parenting are as important and relevant as ever. It’s comforting to know that parents can rely on time-tested, practical strategies to support their families in times of great hardship.
This year also sparked new and necessary conversations around racial equity and inclusion and a heightened focus on self-care for both children and adults. Our 2021 programs will continue to offer opportunities to explore these critical issues together.
Above all, we were inspired by the thousands of parents who joined us in 2020. You asked insightful questions, shared your many challenges, encouraged each other, demonstrated wonderful creativity, and reminded all of us to stay resilient.
Here are 20 of the most memorable parenting tools and aha moments from PEP programs in 2020.
- Listen. The simple act of listening and acknowledging your children’s feelings shows them that you are paying attention and empathize. Listening builds connection and cooperation. When children feel understood, they are much more willing to cooperate. – How to Talk to Your Kids about the Coronavirus, March 2020
- Connection, connection, connection. Dr. Michael Bradley describes the parent-child connection as “the invisible lifeline that builds resilience more than any other factor.” – Motivating the Unmotivated Teen, November 2020
- Defuse power struggles. During those inevitable moments of conflict with your children, parents can say, “I love you too much to fight.” Then drop the rope and refuse to play tug of war. – Parenting Essentials for Schooling at Home, October 2020
- A limit worth setting is a limit worth upholding. Pick 2 or 3 limits based on what’s most important in your family and focus on upholding those in a firm and friendly way. – When to Set Limits and When to Let Go, November 2020
- Let the snarky comments go. “You’re ruining all my fun!” “Why do I have to do everything?” Kids often won’t be happy about the limits you set, or the chores you ask them to do, especially during this time of heightened distress. When in doubt about upholding a limit, see #4. – Help Wanted! Getting Kids to Take on Household Tasks, May 2020
- Share family stories of resilience. Each generation of your family has lived through pivotal moments in history. Connect with your family’s history through those stories and talk about how they overcame obstacles. – Kids & Anxiety, February 2020
- Learn about your own culture and explore other traditions. As we embark on a journey towards racial equity, explore your culture of origin by practicing traditions, displaying cultural symbols and artifacts in your home, and/or learning the language. Then explore other cultures through multi-sensory experiences. Spend time with people from other cultures. Discuss differences and similarities. – Carol Muleta, Cultivating Racial and Cultural Awareness in Children, October 2020
- Children learn about racial differences starting at a very young age. As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences. By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias. By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs — giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding. – Dr. Linda McGhee, Cultivating Racial and Cultural Awareness in Children, October 2020
- Examine what you learned as a child about racial inequality. What kinds of messages did you learn from your parents and the community you lived in about racial differences and inequality? What role can parents play in addressing racial inequality with children? – Karen Fleshman, White Parents, Let’s Talk: Doing our Part to End Racism, August 2020
- It’s important to breathe. The simple act of breathing with intention brings focus to our body awareness and helps regulate our nervous system. During those moments when we feel overwhelmed, breathing brings calm to cope with stress. – Keeping the Peace, March 2020
- Play with your children. “My #1 recommendation is to spend 10 minutes doing a pillow fight or wrestling. Especially before online schooling or a structured activity, this high-energy play gives children a chance to feel powerful, connected, to laugh. Children really love when parents are less dignified and join children in that world of wild abandon.” – Dr. Lawrence Cohen, Helping Kids Find Safety in Challenging Times, July 2020
- Family activities are helping everyone cope. When we asked parents “what’s going well in your house this week?” many responses involved being outside and exercising. Long walks in the woods, bike rides, gardening, play time in the yard, and chalk drawings on the sidewalk. Parents also reported more satisfying family meals, cooking together and game nights.
- Screen time is a top challenge and a major source of conflict for most families. Stay connected with your child (when in doubt, see #2). Don’t punish by taking away technology (usually a child’s favorite activity) for an unrelated infraction. Identify what pushes your buttons around technology use and come up with solutions with your children. Remember that this isn’t forever – they will go back to school one day. – Taming the Electronic Beast, COVID Edition, June 2020
- Start with the end in mind. Want to raise a kind, empathetic, independent, self-assured adult? Keep those attributes at the forefront as your children grow. Coaching your child through fixing a mistake, making good choices, and upholding limits will help them embrace the characteristics you hope for them. – Eileen O’Grady and Liam Zeya, Promoting Well-Being During COVID-19: A Mother-Son Conversation
- Build a Resilience Toolbox for your family. Self-Care, Connection, Spirituality, Humor, Art and Beauty. – Building a Resilient Family, September 2020
- Share your genuine self. For high school students thinking ahead to writing college essays, the kinds of stories students share will be shaped profoundly by the events of 2020. Focus on what you want admissions officers to know about you. What three things do they learn about you from reading the essay? – The College Application Process: Helping Your Child Navigate Today’s Ever-Changing Journey, September 2020
- Being intentional is what kids need. Create predictability for your kids through routines. Secure attachments to parents and predictable structure helps kids feel safe. Even when kids misbehave, they are communicating important messages – tune in to discern what they need from you, especially in times of distress. – Tina Payne Bryson, What Kids Really Need from Their Parents During COVID-19, September 2020
- Gain cooperation by problem solving together. Identify the problem in 2-3 words, leaving people out of it. For example, “there is too much screen time happening in the house” instead of “you are spending your whole day on the screen.” With your child, brainstorm all possible solutions and pick one to try for a few days. Revisit as a team and tweak as needed. Kids feel ownership of the solution and are more likely to follow through when they have that positive power. – Improving Family Life While Working from Home, June 2020
- Parents have shown incredible resilience, creativity and courage in 2020. “I have LOVED these webinars and honestly look forward to them. They provide me with a sense of confidence in my parenting and a sense that I am not alone but that you all have my back. Thank you!”
- Encouragement is powerful. That’s why it’s our middle name! The most rewarding and satisfying moments come when we know parents feel more capable, confident, and calm at the end of a program. “I didn’t know how much I needed this. Thank you to PEP for making it free for us.”
We wish you a safer and saner 2021, and hope to see you soon.
PEP is here to support your parenting journey. We offer 4-week online master classes, live webinars, on-demand videos on dozens of common parenting challenges, and a free Critical Topics in Parenting series.