Four Things I’ve Learned About College During Covid
Two months ago I wrote about sending our daughter to college for her freshman year during COVID. What I didn't know at the time was that the pandemic wasn't the only challenge our family would face. What initially looked like a strange science experiment has turned into an unimaginable, cruel and inhuman test. Four weeks […]

Two months ago I wrote about sending our daughter to college for her freshman year during COVID. What I didn't know at the time was that the pandemic wasn't the only challenge our family would face. What initially looked like a strange science experiment has turned into an unimaginable, cruel and inhuman test.

Four weeks after dropping my daughter off at college, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis came as my daughter was feeling shit and sick, but as it would, not with COVID. Within days, we also learned that she had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID.

I was proud of the way my daughter handled quarantine. (Twenty20 @ irina.vakaluk)

My daughter was quarantined 48 hours after learning I had breast cancer

Within 48 hours of learning that her mother had breast cancer, she was sent to quarantine, completely alone, for 10 days with no human interaction except for the repairman who came to fix her refrigerator. My first positive thought, "at least she's at school with her friends to distract her" was gone as quickly as a flash.

I spent the first week of my diagnosis focusing on its quarantine needs, both logistically and mentally. As any parent knows, it is much easier to focus on the needs of the children than on our own. We were in constant communication as she progressed through the contract tracing and testing process. After being transported to her quarantine hotel room through the back entrances and service elevators, she called me in tears. It was a lot to take on. She was scared and alone.

I immediately asked her if she wanted to come home, but honestly, I wasn't even sure if it was possible. I wasn't sure if the school would allow it, or if my diagnosis would make it prohibitive since I was having surgery in a few weeks. Without hesitation, she replied, "No." Several of her friends and her roommate were also quarantined. They were only two doors apart. While they couldn't leave their room, at all, for 10 days, thanks to Facetime, they could stay a bit social with each other. There was a clear feeling that although physically alone, they were all going through this together.

I was proud of the way my daughter handled quarantine

I have never been more proud of my daughter than I was during those 10 days. COVID has and continues to wreak havoc in her life, denying her the ceremonial rites of passage we all took for granted when we graduated high school and started college. At the same time, cancer turned her life upside down overnight, when she was hundreds of miles from home. Weeks later, we learned that a member of our extended family, a close cousin, would also be facing his own health battle.

If you had told me I should have gone 3 months without seeing my daughters, even under the best of circumstances, which I wasn't, I would have said you were crazy. But there isn't much in 2020 that isn't crazy.

Over the past few months, I've had a lot of time to wonder if college during COVID was a bad idea. If I had known then what I know now, would I have done things differently? Honestly, I do not know. It was difficult for all of us.

Four things I learned about college during Covid

1. Our children are strong COVID.

I wrote in my last post that none of us really know what our 18 year olds would do under similar circumstances. I'm convinced my 18 year old self would have collapsed and come home as soon as my parents opened that door. And there would have been no shame in doing that. We all have different needs.

But it's clear that despite its challenges, COVID has endowed our children with a unique type of resilience. They have experienced what it feels like not being able to go to school, not seeing your friends, and for some, seeing the life of a loved one being deeply affected by COVID in ways unimaginable. And that made them stronger.

We have always known intellectually that children are resilient, but now they have been tested and proven it to themselves. Now they know they can do difficult things, which most of us don't learn until later in life. It's a difficult way to learn, and I certainly wouldn't have liked it for them, but it will serve them well.

2. Our college age kids don't want us to solve their problems.

I have received many calls from my upset, stressed and overwhelmed daughter. These calls were probably the most normal part of his first year. My immediate instinct was to go into problem solving mode. While I normally view this trait as a strength (I have fixed our dishwasher before when no one else could), this is not the case for parent college kids. Within minutes of starting these conversations, they would end quickly and we would both be frustrated and alone in tears.

It was hard to be far from each other. It was so hard to be away from each other until this extraordinary combination of circumstances. But as I faced my own pain and anxiety, I realized more than ever that what I needed was exactly what she needed: just someone to let off steam and who she knew. , could "be" with her through this.

I have now learned when she calls me in a moment of sadness, fear or frustration, to ask if she would like some help dealing with this, or if she is just letting off steam. Most of the time, she replies that she is just letting off steam. This is exactly the answer we should get from our students and we must honor it, even during COVID.

3. It has never been more important for us parents to lead by example.

From masking, to social distancing, including following advice and recommendations from healthcare experts. When my daughters' school begged the children not to travel, most listened. Some don't. When they begged parents not to visit, most listened. Some don't.

When there were outbreaks of COVID in his school, it was almost always because of the small number of people not listening to advice. How we behave as adults in these times will largely determine the behavior of our children. My daughter asked several times during the semester if she could come home just for the weekend. I said no. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But that was one of the ONLY ways to protect her, myself and the others - because it's not just about protecting ourselves, it's about protecting the communities we are part of.

4. Faced with my illness, the way I react largely determines the reaction of my children.

We told them immediately with as much information as possible because I needed them to believe me when I said, I was fine. It's the truth. We can't expect our teens to believe us when we need to if we keep secrets, or worse, lie to them. I know I have to be honest with my feelings so that they are honest with theirs.

I know that if they see me as positive (even though I have moments of weakness) that one day, when they are faced with some adversity (or even their current adversity), they can do the same. Our children are watching us. They may roll their eyes at what we say, but they certainly internalize what we do.

Three days ago my daughter came home. I am proud to report that they are almost here on Thanksgiving. They made it much longer than anyone imagined and it is a testament to the school's thoughtful planning and execution, as well as the student's compliance with established, but difficult protocols.

Now, back together, my family is finding out how to manage chemotherapy treatment during a pandemic. As I write this, the day before chemotherapy started, my daughter learned that a friend of hers, whom she saw briefly the day she left school, tested positive for COVID. And so, we start a new scientific experiment like I could never have imagined.

More to read:

Our whole family had Covid-19: here's what we learned


Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.

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Don’t try to fix everything. Give young kids a chance to find their own solutions. When you lovingly acknowledge a child’s minor frustrations without immediately rushing in to save her, you teach her self-reliance and resilience.

Pick your battles. Kids can’t absorb too many rules without turning off completely. Forget arguing about little stuff like fashion choices and occasional potty language. Focus on the things that really matter -- that means no hitting, rude talk, or lying.

Play with your children. Let them choose the activity, and don’t worry about rules. Just go with the flow and have fun. That’s the name of the game.

Read books together every day. Get started when he’s a newborn; babies love listening to the sound of their parents’ voices. Cuddling up with your child and a book is a great bonding experience that will set him up for a lifetime of reading.

Schedule daily special time. Let your child choose an activity where you hang out together for 10 or 15 minutes with no interruptions. There’s no better way for you to show your love.

Encourage daddy time. The greatest untapped resource available for improving the lives of our children is time with Dad -- early and often. Kids with engaged fathers do better in school, problem-solve more successfully, and generally cope better with whatever life throws at them.

Make warm memories. Your children will probably not remember anything that you say to them, but they will recall the family rituals -- like bedtimes and game night -- that you do together.

Be the role model your children deserve. Kids learn by watching their parents. Modeling appropriate, respectful, good behavior works much better than telling them what to do.

Fess up when you blow it. This is the best way to show your child how and when she should apologize.

Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.

Live a little greener. Show your kids how easy it is to care for the environment. Waste less, recycle, reuse, and garde each day. Spend an afternoon picking up trash around the neighborhood.

Always tell the truth. It’s how you want your child to behave, right ? Kiss and hug your spouse in front of the kids. Your marriage is the only example your child has of what an intimate relationship styles, feels, and sounds like. So it’s your job to set a great standard.

Give appropriate praise. Instead of simply saying, ' You’re great, ' try to be specific about what your child did to deserve the positive feedback. You might say, ' Waiting until I was off the phone to ask for cookies was hard, and I really liked your patience. '

Cheer the good stuff. When you notice your child doing something helpful or nice, let him know how you feel. It’s a great way to reinforce good behavior so he’s more likely to keep doing it.

Gossip about your kids. Fact : What we overhear is far more potent than what we are told directly. Make praise more effective by letting your child ' catch ' you whispering a compliment about him to Grandma, Dad, or even his teddy.

Give yourself a break. Hitting the drive-through when you’re too tired to cook doesn’t make you a bad responsable d'un enfant.

Trust your mommy gut. No one knows your child better than you. Follow your instincts when it comes to his health and well-being. If you think something’s wrong, chances are you’re right. Just say ' No. ' Resist the urge to take on extra obligations at the office or become the Volunteer Queen at your child’s school. You will never, ever regret spending more time with your children.

Don’t accept disrespect from your child. Never allow her to be rude or say hurtful things to you or anyone else. If she does, tell her firmly that you will not tolerate any form of disrespect. Pass along your plan. Mobilize the other caregivers in your child’s life -- your spouse, grandparents, daycare worker, babysitter -- to help reinforce the values and the behavior you want to instill. This includes everything from saying thank you and being kind to not whining.

Ask your children three ' you ' questions every day. The art of conversation is an important social skill, but parents often neglect to teach it. Get a kid going with questions like, ' Did you have fun at school ? ' ; ' What did you do at the party you went to ? ' ; or ' Where do you want to go tomorrow afternoon ? ' Teach kids this bravery trick. Tell them to always notice the color of a person’s eyes. Making eye contact will help a hesitant child appear more confident and will help any kid to be more assertive and less likely to be picked on.

Acknowledge your kid’s strong emotions. When your child’s meltdown is over, ask him, ' How did that feel ? ' and ' What do you think would make it better ? ' Then listen to him. He’ll recover from a tantrum more easily if you let him talk it out.

Show your child how to become a responsible citizen. Find ways to help others all year. Kids gain a sense of self-worth by volunteering in the community. Don’t raise a spoiled kid. Keep this thought in mind : Every child is a treasure, but no child is the center of the universe. Teach him accordingly.

Talk about what it means to be a good person. Start early : When you read bedtime stories, for example, ask your toddler whether characters are being mean or nice and explore why. Explain to your kids why values are important. The simple answer : When you’re kind, generous, honest, and respectful, you make the people around you feel good. More important, you feel good about yourself.

Set up a ' gratitude circle ' every night at dinner. Go around the table and take turns talking about the various people who were generous and kind to each of you that day. It may sound corny, but it makes everyone feel good.

Serve a food again and again. If your child rejects a new dish, don’t give up hope. You may have to offer it another six, eight, or even 10 times before he eats it and decides he likes it. Avoid food fights. A healthy child instinctively knows how much to eat. If he refuses to finish whatever food is on his plate, just let it go. He won’t starve.

Eat at least one meal as a family each day. Sitting down at the table together is a relaxed way for everyone to connect -- a time to share happy news, talk about the day, or tell a silly joke. It also helps your kids develop healthy eating habits. Let your kids place an order. Once a week, allow your children to choose what’s for dinner and cook it for them.

Say ' I love you ' whenever you feel it, even if it’s 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible. Keep in mind what grandmoms always say. Children are not yours, they are only lent to you for a time. In those fleeting years, do your best to help them grow up to be good people. Savor the moments. Yes, parenthood is the most exhausting job on the planet. Yes, your house is a mess, the laundry’s piled up, and the dog needs to be walked. But your kid just laughed. Enjoy it now -- it will be over far too fast.

Teach your baby to sign. Just because a child can’t talk doesn’t mean there isn’t lots that she’d like to say. Simple signs can help you know what she needs and even how she feels well before she has the words to tell you -- a great way to reduce frustration. Keep the tube in the family room. Research has repeatedly shown that children with a TV in their bedroom weigh more, sleep less, and have lower grades and poorer social skills. P. S. Parents with a television in their bedroom have sex less often. Get kids moving. The latest research shows that brain development in young children may be linked to their activity level. Place your baby on her tummy several times during the day, let your toddler walk instead of ride in her stroller, and create opportunities for your older child to get plenty of exercise.

Get your kids vaccinated. Outbreaks of measles and other diseases still occur in our country and throughout the world. Protect that smile. Encouraging your kid to brush twice a day with a dab of fluoride toothpaste will guard against cavities. Be averti about safety. Babyproof your home thoroughly, and never leave a child under 5 in the tub alone. Make sure car seats are installed correctly, and insist that your child wear a helmet when riding his bike or scooter. Listen to the doc. If your pediatrician thinks your kid’s fever is caused by a malware, don’t push for antibiotics. The best medicine may be rest, lots of fluids, and a little TLC. Overprescribing antibiotics can cause medical problems for your child and increase the probabilités of creating superbugs that resist treatment.

Keep sunblock next to your kid’s toothpaste. Apply it every day as part of the morning routine. It’ll become as natural as brushing her teeth. Put your baby to bed drowsy but still awake. This helps your child learn to soothe himself to sleep and prevents bedtime problems down the line. Know when to toilet train. Look for these two signs that your child is ready to use the potty : He senses the urge to pee and poop ( this is different from knowing that he’s already gone ), and he asks for a diaper change.

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