In both the United States and Canada, the first Monday in September is Labor Day and represents the unofficial end of Summer. Ordinarily, the weekend would offer one last opportunity to enjoy time in the great outdoors in the company of family and friends and to reminisce about the Summer that was.
Circumstances this year did not allow me to return to my home country of Canada, but that didn’t stop me from reflecting on previous summers this past weekend. In doing so, one particular story came to mind…
Since the time my daughter, Haylee was very young, I’ve shared my love of sailing with her. She would often accompany me pleasure sailing in our Sunfish or in races on her grandfather’s Mirage 25. She had always enjoyed the experiences and for many years she had essentially been along for the ride, but watching and learning all along.
That all changed when she was ten years old. One day, I returned to shore after an hour of windsurfing and was greeted by Haylee. She announced it was time. She wanted to windsurf.
Without giving it much thought, I immediately came up with a number of reasons why I felt she wasn’t ready, including the fact that she’d never sailed before on her own, couldn’t read the wind, and wasn’t physically strong enough to hold the sail. I did so as an overprotective father that didn’t want to see her fail.
To her credit, Haylee wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, after demonstrating a few elementary techniques, I put her on the water, not fully sure of what to expect. Initially, she struggled with her balance and had trouble lifting the sail. I encouraged her. She fell in the water. I encouraged her again. Through it all, she remained determined and before you know it, she had lifted the sail from the water and was windsurfing! Haylee couldn’t have been prouder, nor could I.
I learned an important lesson that day. I realized that Haylee didn’t want what I thought she did. She actually wanted the struggle and she wanted the fight because she wanted the best feeling of all. She wanted the feeling you get when you overcome a challenge that does everything it can to beat you and you beat it!
There may be a lesson for all of us here. As much as we want to protect our children, we should also encourage them to challenge themselves so that they may realize their full potential.
Rather than always being comfortable, they need to be provided with opportunities, academic, athletic or otherwise, in which they are comfortably uncomfortable and that allow them to push themselves to even greater heights.
In doing so, we are encouraging them to be risk-takers who are resourceful and resilient, who at times may fail, so that ultimately, they will succeed. It is through this process that self-discovery occurs and the magic happens.
Barra Upper School Principal
Starting the year in Distance Learning has been a challenge our entire community is rising to meet together. It has been a joy to see how our students have connected with teachers and friends again. Their smiles are contagious and their energy is high!
Many parents wrote to us about this social connection in the first week of school, sharing their enthusiasm (and relief!) at how happy their children are to see their friends again.
Naturally, parents worry about how they can keep kids connected during isolation, and build their social and emotional skills while dealing with the fears of too much screen time and months of not interacting with peers in person. While distance learning is not equal to in-person socialization, it does bring social opportunities, especially for kids who have felt lonely or disconnected over the school break.
But many parents are asking us, “What more can we do to support our kids socially and emotionally at home?”. Here are a few recommended tips to support your children at home:
Tip #1: Try (Virtual) Teamwork or Play
Supervised online playdates, game nights, and social events using technology platforms can get kids collaborating together and playing online.
Tip #2: Daily Check-Ins
Checking in with daily conversations, journaling, or writing to name feelings and talk about what kids like about the specific people they miss is one way to connect offline.
Tip #3: Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Acknowledging children’s’ feelings with statements such as, ‘I know this must be hard for you,’ helps children feel seen, heard and understood.
Tip #4: Add an Activity
Helping your child research or explore a new hobby, passion, or idea to learn online outside of schoolwork can generate excitement for new interests.
Tip #5: Get Kids to Talk!
Guiding children to talk about how they are feeling and helping to name and identify emotions gives a sense of control and teaches children they are capable of managing their emotions.
Tip #6: Foster Independence
Help your child gain confidence in their growing independence, encouraging them to come up with strategies for combating social isolation together. Praise your child’s newly developed abilities in distance learning and connecting with peers.
While social isolation is a challenge for everyone, children are remarkably adaptable and resilient. Together, parents and school community members need to be vigilant in observing the expected behavioral changes and difficulties children might be having during this time.
Finding intentional ways to support children to build their core social and emotional skills at home is possible at home with parents, siblings, pets, or new ways of connecting with peers online. Making time for these experiences is a fantastic way of supporting students’ social and emotional development, in partnership with what we are doing at EARJ in terms of community, connection, and confidence this year.
Interested in reading more?
Common Sense Media: Online Playdates and More
Coronavirus Isolation: How to Help Children Feel a Little Less Lonely
Expert Advice: Keeping kids social at home during lockdown
Barra Lower School Principal
It is hard as a parent to say NO to your children in normal situations, but with all that is going on in the world, it is even harder. There are many books on the market that help teach parents to say no. David Walsh wrote a book called No: Why Kids – of All Ages – Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say and I had a parent group read it in the past. It was interesting to hear parent stories about how hard it was to say no to your child.
We have all been at the store when your child asks you to buy something like a candy bar. It is hard to say no, but there are times when we must. Saying no doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent and students need to learn that they can’t have everything. I wrote before about giving my daughter control over her money and it really helped with not having her ask me for everything. She now has to decide if she wants to spend money on the candy she sees or save it for the iPhone she wants. This will be a great skill to have when she is older.
We are hearing from parents that they are struggling to get students to work and stay off video games and youtube. Some adults are struggling to stay off of Facebook or other social media sites. It is OK for you to make a rule that there can be no technology used for pleasure until school work is done. We use this rule in our home and it seems to work well. It was hard to get started, but it was worth it!
One other problem we are hearing about from parents is students struggling with issues relating to technology used at night or on the weekends. Many students are online using apps and social media sites that are age-restricted above their age. Some even have their accounts open to the public and can be viewed by anyone. Why do we as parents allow them to use these sites? Here are some examples:
Facebook – Age 13
Instagram – Age 13
Whatsapp – Age 13
WeChat – Age 18 [age were considered a minor] (13 and older with parental approval)
Youtube – Age 18 (13 and older with parental approval)
TikTok – Age 18 (16 and older with parental approval)
Most of these restrictions are set by US law through the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and are designed to keep children safe. Some children are not ready to deal with the content or the interactions associated with having these accounts. Many times when I have met with parents and students about their online behavior, parents tell me they either didn’t know there was an age restriction or they just couldn’t say no. Every parent should spend some time on the Commons Sense Media website to see what you can do to support your child.
Take a few minutes and go into one of your online accounts now and look at your photos. Could someone find you? Could they find your child? Did you ask your child if you could post their photos? Are there things in the background or is there writing on your clothing that might indicate where you are or where they might find you? Are you OK with others knowing this information? If not, check your privacy settings. You would be amazed at how many people have their accounts with no restrictions on them. Please watch this video about Sharenting. Have you asked your child if you can post their image? I just did this with my daughter and her graduation photos. We sat down together and discussed which ones could be shared.
I am telling you now that you as parents can say NO. Your child needs you to say NO. If you have already opened the door for these online apps, you might want to sit down together and look at the privacy settings. You could also talk about how your child is using social media and what they should do if they get into a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. I speak from experience that this is not easy, but remember, you are not alone in this struggle. Good luck!
Gávea Lower School Principal