Parental resilience in the new normal

The day before the stay-at-home order started on March 23, I took yet another inventory of my pantry in light of the rapidly escalating situation: toilet paper, canned goods, and Clorox wipes … check. That night, I sat on my steps and realized two things: My two little girls and I would be home alone for weeks if not months in Papaikou, and I barely knew folks that lived on my street, should something happen.

My closest neighbor and I often joke that we can say hello from our kitchen windows. Our kids frequently do. When quarantine began, we immediately planned to take turns going on grocery runs to limit our exposure. As days turned to weeks, I noticed families and kupuna on our street checking in daily with one another. My closest neighbors and I formed a small support group which I call a “parent pod.” We cooked meals for one another and watched each other’s children.

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My daughter and her bestie made cameo appearances in the middle of virtual meetings for work.

My two girls, 2 and 5 years old, developed deeper friendships with neighborhood kids in the same age group, thanks to our pod.

Living in close quarters during lockdown stripped away a lot of the voluntary walls that we had placed between ourselves in the neighborhood. The other night, I was talking story with a kupuna who takes care of yards for several homes in the neighborhood. He told me that seeing our kids happily playing on the street and in neighbors’ homes, and watching folks come together to share stories over meals, felt like the plantation days. Everyone took care of and looked out for each other.

The lockdown here felt like one long, endless day. We couldn’t go anywhere, and daily routines didn’t vary much. The lockdown gave us time and space to pay attention to each other and helped us to realize that life would be easier and richer if we had strong relationships with each other.

We’ve even agreed to “make the invisible visible” and talk honestly with each other when problems come up. For example, when my child overstayed her welcome, my neighbor and I created a play time schedule, which allowed us to share supervision and me to continue working full time.

Now that travel and places are reopening, many moms like myself are wondering what’s going to happen about our children’s care and education going forward. “When will the school year begin? What do we do if students have to go in shifts? We can’t parent, teach, and work at the same time.”

I believe the parent pod we created can help and be a way to develop resilience. In my neighborhood, it played a big part in finding creative ways for children to socialize and allowing families to support each other with the ongoing tasks of life. Our parent pod played a big part in maintaining our family’s emotional and mental health.

Here’s my suggestion: Once classes are set, parents who want to participate should send their contact information to their child’s teacher. The teacher will place parents into a small group. During the school year, parent pods would meet virtually once a week and encourage their kids to study and finish group assignments together. Parents would meet with their child’s teacher online every other month to discuss what goals they would like their group to set, and how it’s working out.

Since parents and students will become used to meeting virtually, parents and their children will naturally begin teaching grandparents how to use platforms like Zoom, and eventually there will be intergenerational family meetings on a regular basis.

When my girls look back at these past months, I would like them to remember how our neighborhood increased its joy and resiliency during a dark, fearful time by coming together.

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“Only Together” is our best strategy to build resilience.

Kim Kobayashi is program manager for Community First, a nonprofit founded by Barry Taniguchi in 2014. Today it is led by Toby Taniguchi and a volunteer board of community leaders. It serves as a neutral forum for the community to come together and as a catalyst for solutions to improve health and lower medical costs on Hawaii Island based on the community good.

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