Wilton parents find support in online forum

Psychologist Susan Bauerfeld is one of the moderators of an online parent support group devoted to concerns created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Psychologist Susan Bauerfeld is one of the moderators of an online parent support group devoted to concerns created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laurie Klein

WILTON — Maybe it was the novelty of the situation, that when families were spending entire days together, it seemed as if it would all work out.

But as days turned into weeks and it appears weeks may turn into months, Wilton parents are feeling the strain.

“A lot of people are struggling with creating structure,” psychologist Susan Bauerfeld told Hearst Connecticut Media. “Generally, parents are really trying their best, but they are running up against the reality of what they can do.”

Bauerfeld’s comments were based on what she’s been hearing during a free, online parent support group devoted to COVID-19 issues. After an earlier event proved popular, the free program kicked off April 17, and will continue for an unspecified number of Fridays from 2 to 3 p.m., via Zoom.

It is sponsored by Bauerfeld and psychologist Chris Parrott, co-founders of BeCuriousNotFurious.net, Wilton Youth Council and SPED*NET Wilton.

Many parents, she believes, expect too much of themselves, especially those trying to act as teachers while fulfilling their own professional obligations.

“If a kid can’t do this [work] independently, then maybe there’s more of a problem with the goal we’re expecting them to meet,” she said.

“A 5-year-old cannot manage their time and attention to sit for three hours without an adult,” she continued. “Parents are struggling with a great responsibility to not let their kids fall behind.”

Most children, she said, will be fine. “What they will remember is what they felt more than what they learned.”

When parents are under this kind of stress, Bauerfeld cautioned, “the first thing that goes is their own self-care. We’re trying to advise people that maybe something else can go.”

Parents have questions and concerns about all age groups, she said, from the youngest up to college age.

“The college kids are having trouble engaging consistently with online learning,” she said.

The people who are successful at making it all work are those “using a lot creativity and who are able to tolerate what they can’t do and are able to focus more on what they can do.”

While Bauerfeld said she’s never experienced anything like this, much of her work revolves around helping people manage their anxiety.

“As a culture, we’ve become more and more managed by our worry brains,” she said. “Our goal is to be comfortable all the time. When anxiety becomes problematic is when worry takes over.”

“There’s no way to eliminate this discomfort,” she said. “We can’t make this go away. We have to manage in the face of it.” The focus must shift from eliminating discomfort to managing it.

Her advice to people is “be kind and compassionate with yourself and others. That’s always helpful and especially helpful right now. I’m a big fan of time and space. Give yourself the time and space you need. If you usually get eight hours of work done and you can only get six, that’s OK.”

She quoted author Byron Katie who said, “When you fight reality is when you suffer.”

“For parents, if reality is to keep your job and have food on table and provide stability, you can’t be a teacher. Fighting that reality is not going to helpful.”

Signing up

Participants interested in joining the group are invited to send in their concerns ahead of time to Bauerfeld. They may be simple such as “how to cope with social distancing” or “struggling with online learning” to more detailed questions.

The capacity for each meeting is 100 people. Those who are locked out because the meeting is full are urged to email Bauerfeld so organizers can see how much unmet demand there is.

For complete program and registration information, visit https://susanbauerfeld.com.