Sept. 2, 2014 should have been the first day of school in B.C., but this significant date has arrived without any discernible movement in the public teachers' strike. It is with great disappointment that many parents received the news that there would be no school today, and no end in sight to the contract dispute.
Many people have ideas and thoughts on what needs to happen, and who is to blame for this situation. This focus on blame brings to mind a book I used to read my children from the Berenstain Bears series called the "Blame Game." After a frustrating day of each family member blaming each other for all the things that were going wrong, Papa Bear pointed out that things were going nowhere and that there was "more than enough blame to go around."
Blame generally does not help resolve issues, and it is a poor platform to negotiate from regardless of the issue. Blame is not going to help us get our children back in school, nor is it going to assist us in dealing with the reality that is about to hit.
We have to start the frantic search for childcare, juggle work and childcare, assist our children in making sense of this situation, deal with our fears about how to squeeze the curriculum into the year, address potential academic decline and somehow stay functional through all of this.
No parent is immune to the impact of the strike, and this situation is taking a significant toll on both parents who work and parents who stay at home. We all want our routine back in place, and many parents are feeling angry, helpless and worried about what is coming.
Even though this dispute puts us in limbo, it is time to start making some movement ourselves. Feeling stuck and powerless to change things is a horrible feeling. It is easier to deal with a tough reality, than to feel helpless and hopeless.
It is time to put an Action Plan in place and create a routine, even without a resolution to the dispute. So what are parents to do in this situation? Here are some practical tips and tools that can assist you in creating a plan to get things moving again:
1. Talk with your children about what is happening. Recognize and approach this situation as a learning opportunity for you and your children. We can use this situation as a platform to discuss dispute resolution, labour relations, government and public education. There is no better education than a real-life experience in which to learn from.
2. Demonstrate to your children that even when others are stuck you do not have to be. Allow them the experience of building resiliency by involving them in the planning of an Action Plan. Resiliency is one of the cornerstones of maturation; as school is truly relevant to children, working through this challenge can be one of the most impactive resiliency building opportunities available at this moment.
3. Look to the village for support. Talk with other parents and hear what they are doing. What resources are they drawing upon, and what ideas do they have? Can you exchange childcare and resources to support each other? In general, we thrive when we are contributing to others, and here is a great chance to do so.
4. Bring together children of different ages and let them teach each other. Children love to feel significant, and if they are able to contribute to their siblings, or other children, they will feel a sense of belonging and significance that is not just conceptual but actually based in reality.
5. Start study groups amongst your children's peers. Talk with other parents and arrange for your children and their peers to get together and review what they did last year in school. You can have the children be involved in some research and then start on some of the curriculum for this year. You can rotate the group and involve different families. The Internet can be a helpful tool with this.
6. Bring in a tutor that can assist children in a group or individually.
7. Remind yourself and your children that even without school there is still a routine in place. Many children are involved with other activities that are completely independent of school, and many of these activities are starting this week.
8. Take the children to the library. Or if your children are teens, schedule it into their day and let them have the responsibility of getting there themselves.
9. Keep the children physically active. Physical movement keeps us all healthy, happy and assists us in getting a good night's sleep.
10. Do your best, and let go of what you cannot control. There is no doubt that the lack of resolution is affecting everybody, but sometimes we just have to remind ourselves that our problems are first world problems.
In the end, whether there is a resolution to the strike or not, we have so much to be grateful for in this wonderful province we live in.
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