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Rachel Simmons On Pandemic Parenting: The Road Back

On August 27, 2020, as we got ready to open our doors to the new school year and the challenges of a hybrid learning model, bestselling author and expert on leadership development Rachel Simmons helped our parents to be thoughtful about supporting our students’ return to the classroom.
Our whole notion of school and what it looks like has changed significantly in the last six months in ways that have created uncertainty and anxiety for children and adults. Ms. Simmons reminded us that the current situation is not the norm, that families are operating under the stress of this time, and that we need to reframe our thinking and expectations of ourselves and our children accordingly.

Ms. Simmons shared some important advice to help parents support their children through this continuously changing landscape by encouraging us to “reframe our discomfort” and consider the opportunities that challenges can create. She explained that how we respond to situations can be impacted by our “stress mindset.” This mindset is defined by whether we believe that stress in our lives has enhancing or harmful consequences for our performance, productivity, well-being, learning, and growth. Rather than getting weighed down or paralyzed by the challenges we are facing, Ms. Simmons feels that developing a “positive stress mindset”, and modeling it for children, can help parents and kids to see stress as an uncomfortable and inevitable, yet useful part of life. 

She gave the example of a student who is nervous about presenting in front of a class. Rather than allowing the student to be overwhelmed by those feelings, we should acknowledge their discomfort, empathize, and encourage them to see the positive side of their feelings: “being nervous means you care about doing well, and your quick heart beat means you’re also excited; use that energy to help you do the best you can!”

It's also important during times of uncertainty to “create structure and routines, and provide unconditional love” to our kids. These are the things that help them to feel safe and secure. We should also do our best to give kids as much choice and control as we can.  Allowing them to design and outfit their own homework area or giving them a regular responsibility or chore can create structures that help kids to feel more in control of their lives and their home, even when the world around them feels unsettled.

“The good news,” said Ms. Simmons, “is that our kids are unbelievably resilient… they have the ability to bounce back more quickly than we realize.”

It was great to have Rachel Simmons with us again at Nashoba Brooks this fall. Her warmth, wisdom, and practical advice, drawn from her own “pandemic parenting,” were a welcome dose of optimism in our start to the new school year.
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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.