A Sunday on La Grande Jatte FACE

2020: Looking Up Close at the Beauty

Perspective makes all the difference in the way we view things as parents.
Dr. Matt Albert

It’s been quite a year! I’ve been speaking with other parenting experts to hear their thoughts on 2020, COVID parenting, and looking forward to 2021. This week, I had the chance to hear from Dr. Jenny Michaelson, a PCI Certified Parent Coach, about pandemic parenting.

Q: What’s been on your mind as we wrap up an undoubtedly difficult year for parents?

The scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at the Chicago Museum of Art keeps popping up, reminding me of how perspective can make such a difference in the way we view things. You know the scene, where Ferris and his friends are staring at George Seurat’s, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. The camera zooms in until you can just see the dots of color.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte Source: Art Institute of Chicago

When you look closely it’s beautiful individual brushstrokes of color. When you step back it’s a whole landscape. No one would argue that if we step back from our world for a wider perspective today it’s more like Picasso’s La Guernica than Monet’s Water Lilies. Right now life is chaotic, confusing, and messy. The pandemic has turned most of our lives upside down.

Q: What would you say to parents who are feeling down about their parenting during the pandemic?

You are not alone. Like a lot of parents I know, I have spent a lot of time thinking about all the ways I’ve failed my kids as I have had to balance working from home, distance learning, isolation, and the stress of living through our charged political and social climate. Like the time when I was so fed up with my son’s messy room, I screamed at him that not only was I going to stop doing his laundry but he was going to have to start paying me to use the washing machine! I am sad to say that not a lot of great parenting moments came out of my reflection.

Pandemic parenting stretched me to bend rules and make decisions for my kids I never would have in otherwise. I lost my temper more often, I let them stay on screens way too long and we ate more dessert in these last ten months than we did in our entire lives prior. 2020, right?

Q: Looking forward, what do you suggest parents consider in the new year?

As we gear up for more pandemic parenting in 2021, I realize that it’s actually not about taking in the wider view this year but looking at the details. I ask my clients to look closely at their situation to find the places in between the conflict and stress where things are working. Encouraging them to find positivity even in light of what they are facing helps bring hope and resilience, calm, and focus. So I took a deeper dive myself, to find the small moments in 2020 when I did ok as a mom.

What I found out was that while my kids ate a ton of dessert this year, they also learned to bake and clean up after themselves. While I lost my temper more than usual, I also modeled how to repair relationships by apologizing to them when I was out of line. And while they were on screens WAY more than I would have liked, I used that time to take care of myself so I could have more patience with my family. Taking the time to focus on sweet moments with my kids – even if they were few and far between – helped shift my negative perspective.

Q: Are you feeling hopeful about 2021?

My deep dive into the positive has psychological and physical benefits that I am hoping to feel more of in 2021. These include lower stress levels, better overall physical health, and increased coping skills. Until life can get back to normal and I can send my kids back out in the world to go to school, hang with friends and play, I’ll need as much of that as I can get in 2021.

We have miles to go before life looks anything like Seurat’s painting when we can lounge in the park without concern for our health and safety. Our challenge as parents as we prepare for what’s to come in 2021 is to continue to shift the frame, turn on the zoom lens, and focus on the colorful brushstrokes. Set the intention to reflect on your parenting by keeping track of what went right, daily, weekly, or even monthly. Pay attention to the small things that bring our focus to what’s good in your parenting and beyond. It will make the difference between just getting through it and feeling positivity, joy, hope, and satisfaction during these troublesome and difficult times.

Jenny Michaelson, Ph.D., is a PCI Certified Parent Coach®.  In her practice, True North Parent Coaching, she works with parents to uncover strengths and develop strategies to make transformational changes to overcome parenting challenges and bring more joy, ease, and fun back to parenting.

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