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What is “Shelter-in-Place” Parenting?

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

And how will Silicon Valley families adjust to life under the coronavirus quarantine?

Unless you’ve been under a rock the past few weeks (and even if you have), you’ve no doubt heard about evolving national and local directives for keeping the coronavirus (COVID-19) at bay. We’re not Italy yet, but the rules are tightening day by day.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley, within a matter of days, we moved from guidelines that shuttered all large gatherings (over 250), to mandated gatherings of no more than 10–50, to a new “shelter-in-place” directive, effective at midnight tonight. What does this mean? And what are families supposed to do, as we face “shelter-in-place” parenting?

As a longtime educator and founder of The Parent Venture, a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality parent and community education, I have a front seat to the mayhem these new directives will bring. I am watching schools, community centers, childcare providers, and public health experts alike try to figure out our next steps. The ‘right thing’ is a moving target, and everyone is doing the best they can (we hope).

Given the complexity of closing elementary, middle, and high schools, we understand why many public schools waited until the last moment to shut their doors. Independent schools, typically smaller and more nimble than the public schools, were quicker to implement school closings, whether for thorough cleanings or to isolate students and families. Our local public schools closed on Monday, giving teachers the chance to implement distance-learning protocols for their K-12 students.

No matter what, school as we know it may never be the same. Standardized testing? Maybe not this year. Distance learning? Sure, let’s give it a try! Online learning? Now it’s for everyone. High school seniors getting ready for AP exams? Good luck to you! SAT tests? We’re cancelling the May test and crossing our fingers for June. If colleges are waiting on your kid’s last SAT score, they’re gonna have to wait a little longer.

In her prescient new book, Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, psychologist Madeline Levine, PhD, advises parents to take the long view: when we try to shelter children from discomfort and anxiety, we are setting future generations up to fail spectacularly. In a world that is increasing disturbing, unfamiliar, and even threatening, parents need to raise kids who are “prepared, enthusiastic, and ready to face an unknown future with confidence and optimism.”

Our children are watching us, now more than ever. As parents, we need to model positive mental health, gratitude, and emotional well-being. If we are anxious, fearful, and negative, our children will be similarly anxious, fearful, and apprehensive about changes to their daily routines. You may want to try meditation or other mind-calming exercises — this is a good time to put on your oxygen mask first. A less anxious you will be a less anxious parent.

Let’s consider what is NOT cancelled: family, friendship, love, caring, taking a walk, going to the grocery store. As parents, let’s remember to look up (the sky is still there) and remind our kids to be grateful for what they have— rather than dwelling on the things they don’t have, or the things they can’t do.

We can do this, together. The sun always comes out after a storm, and we will weather the storm…

. . . .

Written by Charlene Margot, M.A., Founder and CEO, The Parent Venture. Palo Alto native, mom of two young adults, lifelong advocate of kids, schools, and families.

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