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Joaniko Kohchi, parenting expert and director of Adelphi's Institute for Parenting, shares her tips for parents on how to navigate this new normal more successfully and with less stress.

With the unknowns of COVID-19 still looming and the previous school year’s challenges still in mind, school-age children and their parents may be heading anxiously into the upcoming school year.

After the difficulty of adjusting to remote learning in the spring of 2020, when the pandemic began, parents are concerned about how they can do “better” this time around. Joaniko Kohchi, parenting expert and director of Adelphi’s Institute for Parenting, shares her tips for parents on how to navigate this new normal more successfully and with less stress.

“Preparing for a new school year brings excitement for its newness as well as shadows from past experience,” said Kohchi. “The very first thing parents, and their children, need to remember is that nothing is ever going to be like spring 2020. We were collectively in shock and had to respond the best we could—and the ‘we’ includes school districts and teachers as well as parents and children.”

Kohchi notes that through last spring’s challenges, school districts, educators and experts have learned and made adjustments to make things work more effectively in the future. “Teachers now know a lot more about remote instruction and what our children need in order to learn, and we parents know more about what we need in order to support our children’s learning as well as do our own work,” she noted.

She explained that no matter where and how school happens this year, preparing in advance, thinking about transitions, what will be different, and rehearsing it to prepare your child for new practices and routines are most important. Here are her tips to help parents and children manage the new school year.

  1. Cultivate kindness: Cultivating kindness for yourself and your family members will reduce your stress. This is probably not the time to judge achievements in the harshest light. We know that stress erodes our immune systems and our sense of self-confidence. Encourage accomplishment, but reduce criticisms that wear down a sense of self. For example: “I saw you make a good choice for getting your work done,” rather than “You are always so slow to get to work!”
  2. Don’t try to do it all at once: You can do more than you think, but probably not at the same time. Allow yourself a few minutes between appointments to build in a stretch, a glass of water, etc. Prioritize what cannot be adjusted (class time, meetings). Walk through your schedule to see if there are clusters of overlapping obligations, and then problem-solve as best you can. Remember that your overarching goal is to reduce stress.
  3. Don’t try to do it all yourself: Delegating is difficult for many parents, but dividing tasks into smaller bits may allow for children to help, too. A 4-year-old can fold washcloths, wash lettuce or stack cans and may enjoy having a real job next to their parents or older siblings. And don’t be afraid or feel weak by asking for help from family, friends, teachers and other adults. They can always say no!
  4. Places and spaces: Routines will be established with or without planning, and will punctuate and bookend your days. Many children need help managing time and transitioning from one activity to the next. Help them by announcing the next activity or task in advance and with positive anticipation: “It is almost time to make lunch! I’m getting hungry, what about you?”

In spring 2020, in response to the pandemic, Kohchi and the Institute for Parenting created a “Warmline” to provide support for parents and caregivers with nonemergency situations. The Warmline is still up and running, with parenting experts available by phone to assist community members who have questions about development, behavior, adjustment and family matters. The service is free of charge and can be accessed by leaving a message at 516.515.1948. Learn more about the Warmline here. In addition to the Warmline, Adelphi’s Institute for Parenting will be providing virtual professional development programming this fall on important topics for our time. One workshop will be “Socioeconomic Inequality and Brain Development” and the other “Psychopharmacology and Young Children.” Additional workshops are planned for spring 2021. Kohchi points to poet Maya Angelou’s words as a guide for families navigating this challenging time: “I learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Joaniko Kohchi has been in the news with parenting advice recently, including stories in Parents magazine and on News 12 Long Island.

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