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Connecting with Rachel Kramer: Parenting in the context of COVID-19

On Wednesday, April 29, Lower School parents were invited to join a discussion with Dr. Rachel Kramer about parenting in the context of COVID-19.
Dr. Kramer is a local child psychologist and dear friend of Nashoba Brooks School. In private practice, Dr. Kramer has spoken with and guided many families in navigating the challenges of parenting young children during this time of physical distancing.

Dr. Kramer began the session by acknowledging that the recent announcement from Governor Baker that schools would need to continue remote learning for the remainder of the academic year, forced us all to shift our mindset from pacing ourselves “for a middle distance run” to recognizing that the course we are on is, in fact, “a marathon.”  With this in mind, Dr. Kramer shared several practical strategies to support parents in supporting young children. 

She encouraged parents to speak with children in an age-appropriate way using limited language about the fact that they will not be returning to on-campus schooling this spring. Dr. Kramer notes that it is best to be honest, simple, and clear. Keep it simple, and allow time for children to ask follow up questions that they may have, but resist the urge to provide more detailed information than children really need, which allows the children’s questions to guide the conversation. 

Dr. Kramer noted that it is helpful to remember that children take their cues from adults, so it is important to try to remain calm and reassuring when speaking with children. Dr. Kramer uses a poignant metaphor of a thermostat and a thermometer, and encourages parents to try to be a thermostat that responds to the energy or “heat” in a situation by regulating to help re-establish equilibrium, rather than a “thermometer that rises with the heat in the room.”

To help children manage the broad range of emotions that can appear during this time, Dr. Kramer suggests that parents help children to:
  • recognize and name their feelings by posing questions (I wonder if you’re feeling…”), sharing observations (“I notice that you…”), this provides an opportunity for children to agree or disagree and share how they are feeling.
  • reflect or mirror feelings by making simple statements (“I am sad that we can’t see Grammy right now…”).
  • allow time to sit with their feelings.
  • make a plan to take action and move through their feelings. 
Dr. Kramer reminded participants of the importance of being compassionate with ourselves and others during this time, noting that it is important to allow time to experience feelings (even those that are negative), but to also have strategies for managing through challenges. In helping students develop skills that will help them navigate through difficult times, we are helping them to build empathy and resilience in the face of adversity—skills that will benefit them for years to come. Dr. Kramer noted that adults will make mistakes, particularly in times of stress. This is an inevitable part of parenting, but it is also an opportunity to model for children by apologizing, making amends, and moving on. 

Dr. Kramer also acknowledged the palpable tension that exists in the messages we hear each day, “create stability and structure” but also “be flexible and adaptable.” She encourages everyone to try to maintain healthy habits around sleep and exercise to ensure that we have the emotional reserves and physical strength to grapple with these inherent inconsistencies. 

Finally, Dr. Kramer encouraged participants to think about the resources that fuel positive energy and those that do the opposite. As an example, she encouraged parents to consider their own “social media diets” and whether they contribute positively or negatively to the energy needed to manage in challenging times. 

Following her presentation, Dr. Kramer fielded questions from participants about topics that were top of mind for families. Dr. Kramer concluded the session with a reminder to the group that it is important for adults to care for themselves in order to be best positioned to care for others. 

On May 12, Nashoba Brooks School will host a session for Middle School parents with Dr. Jennifer McLean focused on parenting adolescents in the context of COVID-19.
 
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Nashoba Brooks School is a coed Lower School from Preschool to Grade 3 and an all-girls Middle School from Grades 4 to 8 located in Concord, Massachussetts.