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How to avoid parental burnout as pandemic lingers

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Remote learning and the dangers of the pandemic have caused parents to become physically and mentally exhausted over the past year. Now, as we begin to approach the end of the school year, experts are giving tips on how parents can avoid burning out while their kids are home for the summer. Parenting and education expert Dr. Karen Aronian joins CBSN's Elaine Quijano to discuss.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: While many children and teens continue to suffer from the effects of the pandemic, parents are struggling significantly, as well. A survey from the American Psychological Association shows 75% of parents say they could have used more emotional support during the pandemic. 24% of parents were actually diagnosed with a mental-health disorder in the past year.

The report also found mothers were more likely to report mental-health decline compared to fathers. For more on all this, let's bring in Dr. Karen Aronian. She's a former New York City public school teacher and education consultant. Doctor, welcome. Thanks very much for being with us? What type of long-term effects could the past year of remote learning and the pandemic have on both children and parents?

KAREN ARONIAN: Certainly, there's been a tremendous loss with academics. We know this. We have reports that have told us already that we're looking at one year where students have not even been in a classroom, in some cases. And that, according to McKinsey, has led to reports that give us information where students are eight months behind in learning, and in marginalized communities, up to 10 months to a year.

So these numbers give us this information, of course, that we have to hurdle back in. And, of course, as we know, social-emotional health has been on everyone's minds as children have had to deal with what the pandemic has thrown at everyone this year.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, well, the end of the school year is approaching, which means a whole new rhythm for kids with the structure of the school day gone. What are some ways, Karen, that parents can best manage that adjustment, both for themselves and for their children over the summer months?

KAREN ARONIAN: Right, well, coming right off of what I was saying, Elaine, is that we're going to look to get into these summer schools. At least 50% of states are offering something this summer. And these camps are more of a hybrid, if you will, of camp and summer school. So they're bringing in activities. They're reimagining education with some fun, OK? And so that's a place to be.

And camps are opening up. We have camps in person. And we have virtual camps from last year to depend on and reach out too to community supports. Because there's something happening in every town. And you want to get signed up now.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, a lot of people, including many single parents and frontline workers, do not have the ability to take time off to tend to themselves. What advice, Karen, would you have for them?

KAREN ARONIAN: Very true. For themselves, my goodness, everyone needs self care right now. It's very important to reach out to family, reach out to friends, even reach out to the workplaces that you're in and ask what kind of support services they may provide. In cases, there's extra child care. And, again, back to those community supports, asking who can give a hand at this time?

You know, parents and firstline responders, they just need so much care. One great tip, though, is turn to other mothers, turn to other friends, and really look for take-my-kids-all-day scenarios, which will give parents a reset as opposed to, like, a short window of a playdate for two hours or so. You know, take my kid all day is a option to have lunch, have dinner with another family, and get that reset, get that chance to recharge the batteries.

And so this is something to barter and trade off with other parents. And the kids love it. Because who better than other kids to have time with your kids? And they play on the same level and enjoy it so much. So kids get a break from you. And they also-- you get a break from that. And you come back together re-energized.

ELAINE QUIJANO: At the same time, of course, the fight against the pandemic is still ongoing. So how can parents keep their unvaccinated kids safe while they start returning to pre-pandemic life?

KAREN ARONIAN: True. When kids are coming back into pandemic life with families, right now, we're hopeful, with knowing that the 16 and younger children have yet to get that positive that they can get a vaccine. However, the 16 and older are on their way and are getting those vaccines. So we have a step in the right direction. And hopefully, this summer, that age group will pick up.

But be mindful of people around you if people are wearing masks and they're social distancing. This is an individual thing that you want to mirror what's comfortable for other people, and keep safety protocol for your family and your friends, and be outside-- you have that opportunity in the summer outdoors. And when inside, keep every window open, stay ventilated, and stay safe.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, some children may still be experiencing anxiety about the dangers of the pandemic and resuming in-person interactions. What advice do you have for those whose children may be dealing with this?

KAREN ARONIAN: Sure, children do have a tremendous amount of reclamation underway that needs to happen. It has been beyond-stressful year for families, for children, for parents, for guardians, for educators, dot, dot, dot. With this anxiety, it's a time now to slowly take baby steps back into socialization. This is going to help so much with children's mental and emotional health.

And it's baby steps. It's setting up a meet-up with a friend, outside, one to one, and growing it, and scaling up from there, going to places that give you an opportunity to dip in and dip out in short time. So visiting a house of worship or going to a recreation center, these activities outside, taking a walk down Main Street, or going to the beach, where you can go, and you can leave after a short time, and get that reacclimation back into society and reclaim those friendships and connectivity we desperately need.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, ease into it. Karen Aronian, Karen, thank you very much.