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Parenting Now: Online Panel Recap

posted by Scott Williams

On May 20, 2020, we held the first of three online panel discussions celebrating our 70th anniversary. CTV’s Rosie Del Campo moderated a panel of local experts as they discussed the challenges and opportunities that parents and families have during the pandemic.

 

You can watch the recorded panel here

 

Diane McGregor, Director of Parenting Education & Supports here at KW Counselling Services, spoke about the extreme stress that both parents and children are experiencing at this time. She noted that stress is the body’s reaction to change and suggested that it is important to take the time to acknowledge the situation. The number one thing that can help make a positive difference is connection. Adults can reach out to someone they trust to talk about their feelings and the situation, and parents should make time to connect with their children to acknowledge the child’s stress and big feelings.

 

Barbara Ward, Mental Health Lead for the Waterloo Region District School Board addressed some questions about distance learning and how parents can balance working from home while kids are learning at home. Barbara emphasized that distance learning is not home schooling or online learning. Parents and children should just do their best. Parents can always email their child’s teacher if they have questions or concerns, but everyone should know that no child will be left behind in this situation. When everyone returns to school, teachers will be able to assess where students are and help to catch everyone back up.

Barbara suggested that this situation might give parents the opportunity to get a sense of their child’s learning style. Does the child respond better to reading? Video? Interacting with others? It is a time when parents can help model emotional learning skills for their children, helping children to build resiliency. When this is over, children will remember how they felt with their families during the pandemic, not what they learned. It is important to think about what one wants their pandemic story to be. It’s key to maintain balance between work, rest, physical activity, sleep, and play – parents should remember to incorporate play into their routines as well.

Barbara also recommends that parents check out a series of video conversations between parenting experts Jean Clinton and Ann Douglas which you can find here.

 

Angela Sider, Volunteer Chapter Leader for the Waterloo Region Parents for Children’s Mental Health spoke from the perspective of a parent of teenagers about the opportunities the pandemic gives us for connecting with our children. As a parent, Angela said she had to figure out how she would cope before working on how she could help her children. She likened it to being on a plane and putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others. Angela noted that flexibility and creativity are key. Families spending more time together at home can be a great thing, but it can also be challenging. Flexibility in routines is necessary in order to make sure everyone has the space they need.

Angela suggested that there are opportunities to think differently about learning. For example, there are key life skills that parents can help model through activities like housecleaning and gardening. These are just as important as the distance learning that teens are doing. Some days, we have to give ourselves permission to change our routines. There may be days when no “school learning” takes place. Angela also suggested that parents try to find creative ways to use the technology that we have become so dependent on. Are their productive activities that can be done on screens in addition to the recreational gaming teens do? Above all, having realistic expectations for yourself and your children is key.

 

Wanda Kampijan, Community Connector with YMCAs of Cambridge & Kitchener-Waterloo spoke about how parents can care for themselves, in order to make sure they are available to care for their children. Self-care and self-reflection are key to the journey of parenting. Parents should be intentional about planning and strategizing their self-care. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time each day, but it should take some time each day. Giving ourselves some regularity in self-care can be a way to get some control at a time when we have very little control. Self-care might also look different than it did pre-COVID. Wanda noted that some of our social activities obviously have to be different, but when we can’t connect with others, we still have the opportunity to connect with ourselves and understand ourselves as people. Wanda echoed what Barbara said about our story of the pandemic; how do we want that story to be written?

Wanda suggested some excellent resources from the Y on ways to connect with mind, body and spirit. You can visit thisisy.ca to find these.

Parents can connect with one another virtually through EarlyOn centres by visiting earlyyearsinfo.ca, or on Facebook at facebook.com/EarlyONWR.

You can also find resources at ourplacekw.ca, and at our local libraries (Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo).

Wanda also noted that, although these technological resources are great, not everyone has access to them. People can also call the EarlyON at 519.743.5201 to speak with someone who can help connect them with resources. The important thing is that people reach out, because we’re all in this together.

 

Barb Cardow, Director Children’s Services for the Region of Waterloo spoke about some additional resources for parents and caring adults in our community. People can visit Family Compass Waterloo Region at familycompasswr.ca. The site has a special COVID-19 resource section, but also has three “doors” through which people can search for services, find tools to address specific concerns, and also connect to ParentingNow.ca.

Barb noted that the organizations in the community have really come together in a great way to make sure everyone can access the resources they need. There are 60 different organizations with over 600 members on the Children and Youth Planning Table of Waterloo Region. Please connect with them to get the help you need.

 

Finally, Diane McGregor noted that parents who want to connect directly with other parents can email parentingnow@kwcounselling.com to interact with our staff, or to schedule a phone call. KW Counselling Services is one of six agencies in the Counselling Collaborative of Waterloo Region. You can find contact information for all of the agencies at counsellingwr.ca.

Our Executive Director, Rebecca Webb, noted that there are two more forthcoming panels in this series. You can find information about those at kwcounselling.com.