On June 2nd, the Province announced that schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. We know from local surveys and service providers that school closures have had a negative impact on children and parents and caregivers’ mental health so this news may be challenging for many in our community.
This hasn’t been an easy school year, especially over the last two months while children have been home. Children haven’t been able to connect and interact with their friends, not everyone has equal access to the internet, making online learning a challenge, and the format has its own limitations. And some parents and caregivers are struggling with childcare, while trying to balance working and supervising online school.
For many, it’s been too much. Our emotional bandwidth is limited and after 15 months of COVID our resources to cope with the ongoing challenge of the pandemic may be depleted.
I want to remind everyone that now is not the time to expect our best parenting. It’s okay to do the best you can with what you have. Be kind and patient with yourselves.
With the expiry today of Ontario’s Stay-at-Home order, we are able to leave the home for non-essential reasons. While many restrictions remain in place, we can gather outdoors in groups of five with members outside our household. Outdoor activities are a safer option; we can play in a park, enjoy the city’s multi-use pathways, cool off in a splash pad.
I would like to ask community members to think about people you know who may be struggling, especially parents who need a break. Watch for signs such as frustration, irritability and burnout. Give them a call or send a text. Perhaps offer to watch their children in a park or backyard, even for a few hours. Your small act of kindness could be someone’s lifeline.
For parents and caregivers, think about the possibility of having childcare support in an outdoor setting in groups of five or less if you need it. It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s okay to accept help when it’s offered. We need to see this through as a community; we can’t do this alone.
And for employers, I ask that you continue to be patient and understanding when someone needs to take time off or adjust their hours.
Ottawa Public Health has resources on our Parenting in Ottawa page for both youth and parents on how to cope with at-home learning in a healthy way. You can also follow Parenting in Ottawa on Facebook and Instagram.
And it’s OK to not be OK. Mental health resources are available for all members of the community on OttawaPublicHealth.ca.
Lastly, I would like to remind parents that even though children are not currently in school, please continue doing daily screening and seek testing if you or your child experiences any COVID symptoms. Visit our website to find out how, when and where you should get tested.
I am hopeful that after a summer of carefully easing restrictions and progress with our vaccine rollout, students, education staff, parents and caregivers will be in for a safer return to school in the fall. I will do all I can to ensure that children, youth and parents and caregivers have the support of in-person school in the fall.