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Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Hey, everyone, and welcome to sandwich generation squeeze. Real conversations to support the generation squeeze between caring for children and aging parents. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the School Squeeze Amidst Covid.I’m Cris Roskelley, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: And I’m Dr. Dianne Kraaijvanger, a Licensed Psychologist.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: We’re supported today by Force of Nature. As we head off into the school year, I really wanted to highlight the cleaner that I personally use in my home to help me ease the squeeze when it comes to Covid stress. Force of Nature is EPA approved against Covid-19 and actually kills 99.9% of germs with no toxic chemicals. So stay tuned until the end of the episode where we’ll have a special Force of Nature promo just for our listeners.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Alright, Cris, let’s just jump on in here…This is not an easy podcast, is it?
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: No, it’s not a light-hearted topic, that’s for sure.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Absolutely. When we were deciding to do this, we were like, well, it’d be great because it’s gonna be good for parents with kids from pre-school all the way up, and we’re obviously gonna have a lot of different opinions than our listeners, some… We’re gonna meet our listeners right where they’re at, and then some… It’s gonna be like, Whoa, I don’t feel that way at all. And that’s completely okay, you know, it’s gonna keep the conversation rolling, but it certainly is not an easy topic.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: No, it’s not. And I think there’s just so much to cover. We’re not gonna be able to get to it all, but we just wanted to chat about something that we’re all dealing with right now, and that’s making the sandwich generation squeeze even a tighter squeeze while we’re trying to figure this out.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: So just as a quick overview of the different school models that we are all pretty much choosing between. Number one is the remote option, where kids are doing a distance learning program through their school and learning 100% at home online. And number two is a hybrid model where it’s a mix between in-person learning at school and the rest distance learning at home.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: And then you have the in-person model and the homeschooling model. Homeschooling is if your district has chosen the remote, the hybrid, or the in-person model and that just doesn’t feel like that’s right for your family, you can choose to do homeschooling.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: And my head’s already swirling listing those four different, those four different options. It’s nuts.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Absolutely, and you know, it’s funny, when we’re sitting here and we’re talking…like my anxiety is going up a little bit because my kids start school this week. We’ve chosen the hybrid model, and it’s anxiety producing actually for me.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: No, I bet it is. You and I are both in the more conservative group in terms of risk tolerance around covid, and when school starts, a lot of people are kind of, you included, making that leap from being pretty conservatively at home to ripping off the band-aid and starting more of an in-person program.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, and it feels so absolutely out of our comfort zone because even though we have complained since March about being at home, all of a sudden, I realize that is where our comfort zone is right now, and that’s where we feel the safest. So now jumping in and doing this feels very…it’s making me feel off-kilter and I’m sure others out there that are probably listening.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, and I think it’s important to remember that at least most schools, I think, have the ability to shift as people change their minds, some people might be full bore head thinking hybrid and then might realize it doesn’t suit their families or vice versa. Some people might do doing the distance learning, like our family, we’ve chosen the 100% distance learning, and let me tell you, we’ve been doing it for two weeks and it is a complete shit show. You know, my husband works full-time at home, I work full-time at home and trying to be a teacher, which I am not. Not a smooth process.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Well, the pressure to be a teacher too, the pressure to be something that we might not have the experience or the education doing. And all of a sudden we’re kind of plopped into that role that is absolutely not in the comfort zone, I would say.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, it’s last year when I think we all closed down around March, and I thought, “Okay, I can do this for a couple of months”. And they’re all sort of memes going around and being so grateful for teachers, we have all really realized how the effort and what an amazing vocation teachers have chosen. But now staring at a school year, like a possibly a full year ahead of distance learning, there were moments when I’m in the closet, getting a quiet moment of, “Oh my gosh, what have I signed up for?” And yet, looking at the flip side, I know that that I’m not comfortable with that choice either of sending, of sending my child to school, so we are with you all and have compassion for that, this is not an easy time and in a choice.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah. And I think, especially for the Sandwich Generation Squeeze, how do you go about making that decision for some? By the time this airs, most people probably will have had an opportunity to pick a model or maybe started in one model and then changed to the other model. I know for the school district that we’re a part of is that if you start out in the hybrid model, you can switch to the remote, but if you start out in the remote, you do have to wait to the end of the quarter, just because there’s so many logistics with physical space and distancing of desk and everything else.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: That makes sense. So you’re kind of locked in.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, you’ve kinda locked in. And like you, we are so grateful for the administrators and the teachers, and the faculty, and the custodial staff and everyone that makes the school run. But it’s scary being part also of a decision that you just don’t know simply is it the right answer or is it not the right answer. What works for your family or what might not work for you family.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, there are just so many unknowns. This whole time of covid is somewhat of a social experiment, and as we’re seeing the rules open up, then they close back down, and I think regardless of whether somebody’s in an in-person program or the hybrid, everybody will probably go back to distance learning at some point, or multiple points as the year goes on. I mean, just there’s so many different ways that affects families in terms of single parents or people who work full-time out of the house, or people who work full-time at the house. And like you were saying with the sandwich generation squeeze really taking into consideration the repercussions of these decisions, if you have a grandparent that you want to be able to see, or an older adult in your life who’s in a facility and you may then not be able to see them if you are doing any type of in-person school, the consequences can go far.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah and I hear that in my office every week about how hard it has been for so many people coming up with what is right for them, and like you said, the people that have maybe somebody in a long-term care facility, the heart break that it has been not to be able to see them, not to be able to go in and hug them and kiss them and hang out and have lunch with them. And also for the people who might have their parents living in with them, or their parents who might be quite independent and they are the ones who are doing a lot of the nannying for them, you have to kind of weigh these decisions in terms of what kind of instruction is right for your family.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, it’s kind of that pod mentality, there are so many families who are creating pods and it’s just that, again, that necessity to have transparency of communication where you are finding out whether it’s your older parent, as you said, who’s coming in to tutor or help with childcare or supervise their learning while you’re at work. Or creating with your friends some learning pods for the kids who are distance learning or even in the hybrid program when they’re not at school, it’s just requiring such a level of transparency and, of course, trust that is pretty crazy.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: It really is, and I’m not sure what I think about the pods. I know it’s popular, and I’m the first one to say, I understand that there are some parents that have to make these decisions and there are no other options. Financially, they have to go back to work, they’re an essential workers or whatever it might be.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: And like you mentioned earlier, every home environment is different, whether there is a single parent, whether there is domestic violence, whatever it might be, that maybe the school is a better decision than remote, we respect that. And no means do I mean to offend anybody, but the learning pods are something that I’m still trying to grapple with. I’m not sure how I feel about them necessarily. If we are going remote or we’re going hybrid, isn’t the point to decrease exposure? And so, if we’re having these pods, are they outside? Do people have their masks on who’s running them? Is it in people’s houses? How do you clean the bathrooms after people use them? Is that after each and everyone person? Just…there’s a lot of things that I think you have to think about, and if you’re gonna do the pods, hopefully people are kinda going through these questions in their heads.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: When I think about the teachers, you know, the schools are taking so many steps to try to be as safe as possible to get kids to be able to return, and then I think the parents, we all have such a responsibility.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: It’s huge.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: To keep each other and the teachers and the administration safe. So I’m with you with the pods, my concern is that if the school’s taking so many precautions for like a hybrid or an in-person program, but then the kids are socializing outside of school in the pods or otherwise, I just think it increases the risk, and I know, I have spoken to some teachers who said they’ve been really surprised by seeing on the social media, the number of kids that are socializing who are going to imminently be coming back into their classroom, and that’s scary for them.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, yeah, I imagine it would be very scary for them. I know the district that we’re a part of, they’ve given the teachers the option if there is an underlying medical condition to teach remotely. Which is a pretty wonderful thing.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, it’s great.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: But I do think about the teachers a lot, and I think about the exposure that they’re having. And also what if they are the caregivers to their own parents and what if they are also taking care of their own children. That’s a lot to put on a person. So we just have to, because they’re still the unknown, we just have to put as many precautions as we can until we know it is safe.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, and when will that be?
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: I don’t know and that’s part of the anxiety and stress that we’re seeing, certainly that I’m seeing, in my office and with clients that we have these conversations with. There are so many unknowns and there’s so much that you really can’t depend on right now, and that I think is just frightful for a lot of people.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Alrighty, it’s time for our half-time show where we answer an audience question. So here we go. Ari asks, “I’m feeling very stressed out. My dad is 90 years old and is in a long-term care facility. He is sick and I haven’t been able to see him due to the facilities Covid precautions. My seven-year-old son has noticed I’ve been crying more and recently began to ask a lot of questions about why I’m crying. What should I tell him?”
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Well, first Ari, we really want to say we are so sorry that you’re going through this. I’m sure that there are a lot of our listeners right now experiencing something similar about not being able to see their loved ones during this time, and it’s just heartbreaking.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: I think that it’s really important to remember that as parents, we should not try to keep troubling news from our kids. Of course, it’s really important to communicate in a way that’s developmentally appropriate for each child’s understanding and just keep the technical jargon to a minimum and speak from the heart. It’s okay to admit that you’re feeling sad. It’s okay to say that you miss seeing your dad, but that you’re not allowed to see him right now. Even young children are aware that changes have happened in their lives and the lives of their parents, so we want you to find a way where you can be honest and that it’s okay to cry in front of them, we just want to keep the message developmentally appropriate.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, and I’m sure just thinking about talking about this to your son might seem one of the hardest things that you’re gonna have to do. So, just take your time, deep breathe and don’t rush into the conversation for yourself. Get your thoughts together. And remember, just the same as when you’re talking to your son, try not to rush it. Sometimes when these really heavy, hard topics come up, we rush through them. So as much as you can, try not to rush and allow the news to just sink in for a little bit. Depending on your son and his personality, everybody processes things at a different rate, a different time. Allow him to kinda have a little bit of space, and just allowing to also ask any questions that he might have in the moment. Also check in with him again, so after the conversation, maybe the next day, in the next few days. Just ask him if he has any questions, how is he doing. And make sure you answer any specific questions that he might have right now, some kids are scared and anxious right now. They might not understand some of the things that they’re hearing and seeing right now. So just remember that talking about these difficult things, don’t rush it, take your time explaining it, allow there to be room for your son to process it. This also teaches them that you can handle the hard stuff, and then they will feel so much less alone.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: I think that’s great advice, and I also just wanted to add that children process a lot of their feelings through play, so you just want to keep an eye on his play and look for themes that might be coming up or encourage him to draw or write a story. Ways that he can get out his feelings in ways that will continue the conversation. And like Dianne said, to return to the conversation to keep checking in on it because it’s not a one-and done conversation.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: We really hope that that gave some tips and tools on how to approach this, and if anyone would like to submit a question for a future half-time show or suggest a future topic.Just head on over to our website at sandwichgenerationsqueeze.com.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, and I think it would be kind of helpful to talk about just some of the decision-making points that people are using to pick which model is best for them, even though like you said, a lot of people have already made that choice when they listen to this. But I think it’s gonna be kind of an ever moving target, as the numbers kind of rise and fall, so I think first, like you and I have talked about is really the age of the children involved and kind of their developmental level.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: That’s a big one
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Right? Because the younger kids, they really might not developmentally be able to keep their masks on, or not touch their face, or not jump over and bear hug, they play in person really rough and tumble at certain ages. So whereas an older child or a teen, they might understand a lot more about what’s going on and really be able to maintain that protocol.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, that is true. Although sometimes I do feel like, are we putting too much on our kids? Are we putting too much responsibility on our kids? I was telling you a funny story with my teenager who I thought, “Oh yeah, we ran down the protocols”, and then she went to a very, very safe outdoor, socially distance, get together the other night where the parents were just wonderful and they did everything over above to assure safety. And then the kids were being kids, they’re kind of throwing candy at each other, after the mom had put these beautifully individually packed bags of candy together, and I thought to myself, “Yeah, they’re kids”, are we are putting too much on them? And are we also putting too much on our teachers to say, “Hey, maintain safety for our kids”. I’m not sure in the hallways when they are going to different classrooms, I’m not sure yet. It’s trial and error right now.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, trial and error in a very big experiment. I agree with you, I completely agree with you. That’s why in some ways, I feel like it would be better if just schools across the board just decided everybody’s distance, and yet I also know for many families and many situations that is not plausible. I think it’s really tough to know. I mean, I agree with you, it’s really putting a lot on our kids to be able to manage very, very potentially serious outcomes, it’s just such a big deal to put on them.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, I know, and you and I also talked about what about those kids who might have some underlying medical issues, so they don’t have the option right now to pick a hybrid or in person, and there has to be remote. What about those families that might have a child that has an underlying medical condition and their parent is an essential worker, what happens then? There’s so many different variations of the “what ifs” and what will work for one family, what one family would love to do, but unfortunately because of circumstances they can’t do. And I think that puts us in a very hard position, I think as people. Just that uncertainty and also the feelings that come along with, “Hey, this isn’t what we wish for, this isn’t what we signed up for”.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: And I think just underline that. That’s why it’s so important not to judge right now, it can be so easy to see pictures on social media, or in the paper, and to judge what people are doing, and I think to just, in most instances, to try to realize that we’re all trying to make the decisions that fit our family the best, and that there’s usually a lot more information behind the scenes that other people don’t know about.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yes.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: And granted, I mean people are making decisions going to huge parties or something like that, that don’t seem real wise, but in terms of the decision of what school model to pick, I don’t think anything is simple or straightforward.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: No, no, exactly. And I know too from the teaching perspective, I teach graduate students, and teaching over Zoom, it just isn’t the same. It really isn’t. Well, first of all, I have a big class, so everybody’s mics are muted and I literally feel…it’s a three-hour class…and I leave feeling exhausted because half the time I’m just talking into the air. I can’t hear the reactions, I can kind of see the faces, but you just don’t have that back and forth that is so important in that learning process. But it is a part of where we are right now in today’s educational system.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Well, and that’s what I wonder, honestly, when people are talking about the hybrid or returning in person, how much of that will still really be available if people are masked up and have face shields and have to stay a certain distance apart and you don’t wanna raise your voice because that will increase the droplets. There’s going to be so many different rules now that I’m just not clear how much of the benefit returning to school might have for many other than the potential risk exposure.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, I know some schools are trying to break the school down into cohorts, so they kinda have half the school going on, say two days a week, and then that cohort does remote learning for the other three, and then the later part of the week, the other side of the cohort goes. So they’re trying to do things, again, like you and I have said a thousand times when we’ve talked, we know the schools are trying to do, we know everybody’s trying to figure out the impossible, but the hard part is…it really feels like the impossible…and we really don’t know what the right answers are just yet.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Well, it’s such a dance. You’re right, many schools have small cohorts, but what if one person in the cohort got sick, do they really know how long people need to stay away? Does the whole cohort get locked down? When is it safe to return? what if a family member of the cohort get sick, does that lock down the cohort? It’s just the number of variables the school administration is having to balance in such a fluid, ever-changing environment, it’s just mind-boggling, and then to have parents having to wade through that as well, it’s just crazy, crazy times.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: It really is. And we’re depending on each other. I think that is more so now than ever. We’re depending on other parents to do the right thing. If your child is in person, whether that’s hybrid, or full… we’re giving a lot of responsibility to the parents as well, here.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Which is terrifying.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: You know,right? Because it’s like you have to take the temperature, you have to make sure the kids are feeling okay, there’s not this, “Oh sorry, I have a busy work day and this is a in person day, you’ve gotta go”. No more. That just cannot happen. And I think that is imperative. I know our school has sent emails about that, but I’m hoping that we can all together, and this is where this podcast goes obviously all around the world, but that people kind of stand together and really watch each other’s back.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, I always think about driving and I always talk about how when you’re getting in the car, your safety is much more about trusting everyone else around you in their decision-making of. Are they drinking? Are they texting? Are they paying attention? And this is like that, times 100. We all know the parents that will give their kid Advil and so they don’t look like they have a fever and off you go to school and hope it goes okay. And it’s just putting so much trust in each other to be transparent and honest and responsible, and when we still have all the other stressors that we had in our life pre-covid. So it’s certainly gonna be an interesting experience.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, absolutely. To say the least, right? And I know what I’m thinking about with my kids going this week is how do I even do all the cleaning procedures when they come home? Do I power wash them down? You know because I’m thinking about their backpacks and their clothes and their shoes and everything else. It just has another layer of work, work and complexity, that I’m just really, to be honest with you, I’m not looking forward to.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Well, yeah, especially you as a nurse. I mean, I’m sure you have your checklist and your protocol set, and there’s a lot to take into consideration. I keep thinking about on fundamental level, you don’t wanna feel scared of your own child now, and that’s such a scary thing when they’re saying that kids are often so much more asymptomatic and it can be more serious at older ages. That taps in for me at least into one reason why we chose the distance learning is I don’t want to feel that level of concern every day and kind of be given a little bit of a side eye to my kids right now when they come home or get in the car.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Absolutely, absolutely. Which I’m sure I will and I have to get over that a little bit. When you say that, listen, there’s always been the flus out there, and the stomach bug, but there’s always something. And when the kids are younger…Do you remember, Cris, when the kids were younger? Literally, I think my husband and I were sick, 360 days out of the year, and you just kinda get everything. But for some reason, I think because of what this is, and because we don’t know as much about this and we don’t know like, yes, they’re saying older, underlying medical conditions, but then you read in the paper, younger kids and college aged kids and people in their 30s and 40s, so that can bring a whole level of stress and anxiety too. When you just don’t know like, am I being exposed to something and are my kids being exposed to something? And what does that look like in terms of exactly what you said, you don’t wanna be letting go of those hugs and kisses, especially now, more than ever.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yeah, exactly. It’s the unpredictability. I think if we all know, Look, this germs out there, if you get it, this is how it will present, these are the people more most at risk, if we knew things like that, then we could all make our decisions so much more easily, but it’s that we have no idea if two people who look almost identical to each other, one will be affected in one way and the other will be affected in an entirely different way and that just makes the whole thing so complex.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I know that we’ll probably do another podcast or two, one of the one things that you and I have talked a lot about is the social-emotional learning aspect of this, also the grief and loss about this, the anxiety about covid. Like you said, there’s so many tentacles that go with covid, and also there’s so many tentacles that go with this decision. This was a hard podcast for us, it’s an exhausting podcast because we want to be “Yeah, we want to be bringing everyone’s spirits up”, but this is one of those things, sometimes you can’t always bring people’s spirits up, depending on what you talk about, and this might be one of those things. These are hard decisions and these are hard times. How do we make the best of them knowing that there’s no certainty.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Exactly, I think that it’s hard to give solid tools around this, other than just wanting to create community and connection and support that we’re all going through this together. It’s gonna be changing a million different ways and we just have to take a page from a lot of the kids who are so resilient and are learning to have such grit during this time and to just continue to roll with the punches, and like you said, we will revisit this subject as time goes on and as the landscape shifts, but we just wanted to check in and acknowledge that this is a real thing going on…
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: This is such a heavy topic that we’re talking about today, and for our Sandwich Generation Squeeze, we really feel you and feel all the difficulty in making these decisions. So we wanted to offer a joke to just try to bring some levity to what’s going on regarding schools and Covid.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: This joke actually comes to us courtesy and one half of my own sandwich. My dear Dad has always loved a good joke. And he actually sent me this just a few days ago and it was so appropriate that we thought we would share it here. It is called the Senior Parachute Club here we go.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: Yesterday, my daughter emailed me again, asking why I didn’t do something useful with my time. “Like sitting around the pool drinking wine isn’t a good thing?”, I asked her, talking about my doing something useful seems to be her favorite topic of conversation. She’s only thinking of me, she said, and suggested I go down to the Senior Center and hang out with the fellows.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: So I did, and when I get home, I decided to play a little prank on her. So I sent her an email saying that I had joined the Senior Parachute Club.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: She replied, “Are you nuts? You’re 86 years old, and now you’re gonna start jumping out of airplanes?” So I told her I even had a membership card and I emailed her a copy to prove it to her. Immediately she telephone to me and yelled, “Good grief, Dad, where are your glasses? This is a membership to a prostitute club, not a Parachute Club!”.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: “Oh man, am I in trouble”, I said, “I signed up for five jumps a week”. The line went dead. Life as the senior citizen isn’t getting any easier, but sometimes it can be fun. So thanks for the joke, Dad, and I hope that it brought a smile.
Dianne Kraaijvanger, PsyD: So thank you all for listening to Sandwich Generation Squeeze. Please share us with your friends and it would be great if you would rate and review the show on Apple Podcast, which helps new listeners find us. If you’d like to submit a question for our half-time show or suggest a future topic, just head on over to our website at sandwichgenerationsqueeze.com.
Cris Roskelley, LMFT: We have some exciting high-proifle guests coming up, and the first in a couple of weeks is Jeffrey Walker, former CFO of Oracle Corporation who is going to give his take on the Sandwich Generation Squeeze. So stay tuned! Bye for now.
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