Parenting in the Pandemic: Interview with Sandra Hill-Glover

Below is a transcript of ACCC's interview with Sandra Hill-Glover, who has been serving as a USC field instructor for the social work interns placed at ACCC in their first year field placement. In addition to her roles as a field instructor and social worker, Sandra has been parenting her daughter during the pandemic and knows some of the struggles parents are up against. To listen to the interview in audio form, head here.

Interview Transcript

ACCC Intern: Thank you for joining us today Sandra, we appreciate your time. And we value you being a member of ACCC.

Sandra: Thank you. Thank you for the invitation.

ACCC Intern: Great. So today, we wanted to talk a little bit about how COVID-19 has impacted parenting. Do you mind just quickly, sharing a little bit about yourself and your connection to this topic?

Sandra: Thank you. Sure. Well, in many ways, I'm connected to this topic as you know many of us in the community we have, you know, various ways that the situation has impacted us so I like to lead with the fact that I'm a parent, first. I'm a parent of a daughter who is - she's a 10th grader, and dealing with remote learning so I'm, you know, parenting in that context. I'm also, as you know, we have our relationship as I'm your field instructor and as interns, just how do even we support community members, you know in this regard. And then, you know, I've also conducted trainings, you know with community members of parents as well as teachers. You know how they have, you know, fared in this environment but also just talking about some solutions you know being very solution-focused, what has worked with, you know, for parents for teachers, administrators, as well as even for our students so just and many regards you know this topic is very important to me.

ACCC Intern: That's very interesting that you bring up the trainings that are that you're taking part in. I wonder in those trainings, what have parents said that are that are most challenging, that they're facing through the pandemic?

Sandra: Yeah, great question, and many. I mean, just on many levels so just as parents and, you know, very diverse in terms of their concerns, as well as their needs so you know for some, they're dealing with just some emergent situations related to job loss, and how to, you know, navigate, you know, financial constraints in the context of, you know, this pandemic, as well as being present and supportive of their, their children, you know, the students. Many of them are very open with the fact that they rely on their schools you know in the school system for support you know obviously educating their children so having to move into this role, even as teacher especially for our younger children you know for our K through three one through five, that there is a sense of overwhelm some parents just feel like they're not equipped to really support, you know their children. And in many ways it's because for many of them, they don't feel like they're tech savvy enough to, you know, to be able to manage. And then finally, there's so many, but this one that's just you know very near and dear to me as a social worker is the concern related to mental health, you know their concern for their children, as far as not being able to socialize, you know, with their peers, with, you know, being online for such extended periods of time. And I've been very moved about, you know, regarding I should say how parents have been so transparent with their own struggles with their own mental health and how they're doing, you know, with a situation so it's across the board, you know, from a relational standpoint, from an educational standpoint and even from a more macro you know related to financial issues related to unemployment etc.

ACCC Intern: You bring up a lot of really good points like parents are having to wear a lot of hats right now, they have to be the IT person for Zoom and they also have to be the teacher sometimes and it's just a lot. And you mentioned a little bit about kind of the concern about socialization for, especially the younger kids. Obviously, because everyone is on zoom school so how do you see this kind of issue playing out and the years to come and what can parents do to kind of support their kids socialization like now.

Sandra:Yes. Yeah, you know, it's, it remains to be seen. This way you know just as a professional optimist I like to claim myself to be. I just I really hope that as service providers, as educators, as social workers, we can really rally around families to help them transition, you know as we move from this pandemic situation.

I think in the meantime some suggestions you know in the spirit of being solution-focused in the here and now we can move into, you know, potentially later, is how do we support parents first? I know that might seem counterintuitive when we're focused on our children's socialization. Our parents need to feel supported and also relief from their pressure of being all things all the time to their children because you can't be. So how can parents, you know feel empowered, that they are doing the best that they can do for their children? Because children often take the leads from their parents, their parents fail, and you know yes, we're going to get through this and as you know strengths basis to be seen social workers possible. Then, you know, children follow.

So I think that's important to kind of set the tone, in terms of just being, you know, creative, I do think it's important you know given with all the screen time so it might be two sides of the same coin. So this is what I mean by that. I do think it's an opportunity for us to use virtual platforms as ways for socialization to occur. And, you know, again, it might seem counterintuitive because our kids are on, you know, zoom so much but I think realistically in the spirit of keeping them safe. How with breaks, of course, you know, whether it's maybe later in, in the evening or even on a weekend, or even just a few times a week. There's so many wonderful opportunities, online like I've seen virtual field trips for instance, you know, these, these play groups virtual play groups that you know are so creative. So I think, you know, using those as opportunities.

I have a dancer, as you know, my daughter is and, you know, she can't wait to get back into the studio. But in the meantime, you know, I've just watched her being very creative with creating community, you know with her fellow sister dancers within her program, as well as just in the community. So there's that. And then the other piece, you know as we speak now it's running on that want to be out in the rain but you know especially on sunny days. I do think it's important that as parents that take the lead to make sure that their children are outside, even if it's just to kind of see you know other kids remotely again being safe. But there's something about physical activity too, you know, the oxygen intake and vitamin D for well being. So the point here is to really be, I think, being inclusive and creative with solutions dealing with a situation but I would say the disclaimer here is whatever works for families. So I think our job is to avail them to maybe some ideas that they didn't consider but really, you know, encourage them, and for them to feel empowered that they have as solutions as families themselves.

ACCC Intern: Yeah, thank you for that I think even just just thinking about just doing something small like going outside during the day you know it's very impactful for the youth. I know we talked about socialization and screen time and part of that includes the schooling that they're receiving that the youth is receiving. What do you feel about concerns in reference to the students not receiving the same quality of education as they did pre pandemic.

Sandra: Yeah, and I think this is, I want to connect that question to an earlier one and forget your question as far as some long-term implications. And again, just in the spirit of the here and now I'm gonna do that again and then and I promise I will deal with the socialization,

I think, in terms of the education piece, too, but I think so many of the solutions really are about how do we address the situation, as it's presenting to us now. So given the educational divide, let's be clear the divide was already present pre-pandemic. And that is something that, you know, I'm very passionate about acknowledging with colleagues especially within schools and districts that are of families that really rely on districts to use LAUSD as an example, you know for basic needs as well as for education.

I'm also, you know, very sensitive to the needs of our children and our youth who have special needs, you know who are born day programs, and whose parents would rely on that even that respite, to have that time, so they could either go to work or do what they need to do and so for them their kids being cared for. So fortunately from what I understand, you know, hoping for safety. That schools will be opening up for those with special needs for tutoring and they will be practicing of course safe measures and some methods that needs to be set. I do think this is what came up in one of the trainings. I love to see parent advocacy — it is a force to be reckoned with. And it was so dynamic I had the opportunity to do a training with families who were both English speaking as Spanish speaking, and for a lot of our families who were Spanish speaking we're sharing how they felt a sense of duty and obligation to connect to other families who might you know feel on the periphery and not be as aware of maybe some of the resources and so I've seen how families have really built, you know this sense of community, how do we support each other better at sharing information as far as attending meetings, whether it's getting a Chromebook for your child, whether it's getting a hotspot so that sense of advocacy is really made a difference.

The other piece is teacher accountability. And fortunately, I'm most strong from, you know, proponent and supporter of our teachers. And we've been very fortunate, my daughter's teachers have been tremendous in terms of their attention and so forth. I have had parents share that they've been concerned that that their teachers haven't been as present and consistent. So, again, in the spirit of parental advocacy to really use their voices to share with administration some of their concerns. So, you know, in terms of the long end let me just say two, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge our tremendous students. Our students have been remarkable. And, really, adapting to the situation again, you know just hearing just from my daughter and just she's in high school so it's very different. But just how resourceful, they've been so I do think it's important that we acknowledge, just how our students may embrace that versus the occasion.

My concern is, it remains to be seen in terms of how these gaps will manifest because it has not been an ideal situation. And let me just say for those people who might say, Oh, well, you know, there are plenty of virtual schools K-12 that do a tremendous job in educating our children. So, you know, it's just that these students have transitioned into that format. The difference is is that that structure was not in place, say for example, for LAUSD for public so my focus is really on public schooling, by the way, so I want to make that clear, because I do think given private schools they have handled this in many different ways but my main concern is the gaps that yes our teachers received training and, and our administrators have I think done a tremendous job, but the public school system was not set up to be a virtual learning platform so let's be clear about that. So my hope again to be proactive is for us to be preemptive, meaning with this rush and we hear it in the news all the time with children, returning to schools, what does that look like? So much focus on safety which is so important. What does that look like in terms of filling those gaps so I would advocate there to be training for our teachers not to stop safety, but how do we incrementally help children along, how do we meet them where they are to use a term we use in social work, and help them transition?

And for us, I think from a systemic standpoint. Be realistic, as far as expectations meaning for and it's really a macro issue. So for instance, and it's from bottom up top bottom. For instance, many of our universities did not make the SAT requirement. Right. So how do we advocate for our students who are matriculating through and getting prepared for college and so for 11th graders now as they go into their senior year, how do we advocate for them in terms of college prep because they're going to be behind many of them for students who were already behind, right? Who were dealing with those gaps. So how do we even partner with college universities with the California Community College System is one of the premier ones in the country. California State University, our UC system, how do we engage them? you know, just for high school students.

So I would say coming down the line for our middle schoolers, how do we take a very holistic approach? Now, given where they are developmentally because again Yes, and I think your question is well-taken. But we also have to acknowledge that is not even just from a cognitive educational standpoint, from a social standpoint, our children have to be in the frame of mind to transition. So, we know for our middle schoolers this is a turbulent time. So again, how do we train our teachers to really be patient and our families, even to help them through, through that transition. And then, you know, for I think our younger children you know for elementary school age.

Again, I've been very concerned, you know, from a mental health standpoint. I think the the training piece is really important, but for us to hear and this is for all of our students and I'll leave you with this with this question to ask our students, what do you need. What do you need How do you feel, What do you need, what would be helpful. So we can really plan and approach and execute. I think, you know, from a service orientation as well as from an educational standpoint, to really serve our students because I think we are surprised which we shouldn't be our students are so, so wise, and so perceptive in terms of what would be best for them.

ACCC Intern: I really like what you are talking about just like coming up with collaborative solutions and advocacy playing an important part it just really kind of brings ideas that like social workers always talk about to the forefront. Switching gears like a little bit. So obviously we have talked a lot about how like the things that kids are missing out on and that kind of thing how like, how would you. I guess advise a parent who is maybe struggling to navigate, like the grieving process that their kids might be going through of like not being able to you know go to their high school graduation or go to prom and, you know, participate in sports activities that maybe they were hoping to get a scholarship for things like that. Yeah, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

Sandra: Yeah. These are real life situations I have a nephew who's graduating he says scholar athlete, senior most likely he won't have a problem. He was in line to get a scholarship, and they had to redirect for, for their college students and so you know it's real life is happening. Of course, as we know, and so's nine, you know, dealing with hypotheticals. And I think this will also address your previous question from a socialization standpoint, what are some of the implications for later. I think it's important for us to use the model. So I appreciate your term, the grief model to support our students, and to allow them to be upset. I think, you know, one of the issues might be later on. If they don't have a space now to express their grief and their disappointment that it will manifest later and maybe in a way that could be, you know, very challenging in terms of their ability to move forward. So I think for now, giving them the space to express their disappointment, because I know as a parent, we might be inclined to be like, 'Yes I know, I know but there's a situation, you'll be okay and you know there are many people who don't get a prom and so just think of that way.' That's not helpful, right it's really to be there right with them and again I can't say this enough are our students need to be supportive but our parents need to be supported, and how they're grieving, along with their students.

So I would say again back to the creativity, you know what my daughter's school did this past spring, they had graduation. It was virtual and they made it so incredibly special and they engage the students to create the experience. So, for if there's any way I would say you know this for for schools individually and again for parents and students to advocate for this is how they can take an active role to create opportunities that are virtual or that are outdoors safety whatever and again I'm not advocating for anything in particular, again, because it needs to be, you know, in compliance with safety measures and policy, but you know to be creative and those in those visits I think can help. I think the sense of loss. as far as because these are the stakes are high, especially for students who might be first generation, and this is their, this is their opportunity. Again, this is what I alluded to earlier, how can we maybe create some partnerships with the university systems to say hey, look, there was a loss here so how can we advocate for our students who are on track. You know to meet this opportunity, because we shouldn't allow this pandemic to derail, on some level, with that said, I do think that is important to arm, our families with alternatives. So say for instance. Yes, we know it might be a disappointment. But consider perhaps Community College. And, you know, get on track to transfer, you know, for instance, you know my nephew he won't be first in line but he's might be walking on it's not a you know what he was hoping for as a premier athlete. But I do think again we have to support our families and our students to consider what, how can we meet these challenges opportunities that perhaps can even benefit them in the long run.

ACCC Intern: Right, I definitely appreciate you bringing up the first generation thing I think I being a first generation student and experiencing high school and I think like some of the, the activities that took place like the prom sporting events and our graduation were such an impact to myself. And so I can see how it's affecting you know our youth now. I mean, to that I think we need to constantly remind ourselves that school was their second home and continues to be their second home. And for many that became their outlet and you know just being there so we need to take that into consideration. I do want to focus on this focus more on our parents and, you know, setting boundaries and the importance of of what setting boundaries are and how do they juggle work and school, and their child and being a parent. So, if you can speak on that?

Sandra: You know, I, and again I've learned so much from our passionate resourceful, parents, when I again was able to bear witness to what our parents have created a sense of community, so really sharing with each other and commiserating that it's not easy. And to be patient and and very wise. Oh gosh, a wise mom which is saying how she would capture the moments and consider wow my, you know have my children with me and there's laughter in this moment yes I'm overwhelmed. Yes, the laundry is piling up and yes, you know, dinner is not what is cracked up to be. But we are together, and there's lots of love and connection. And so, what she demonstrated for me is to remind the power of gratitude, you know, and, and, you know, just that practice in so many ways is so transformative. So to really model that I think is beautiful. I do think at the same time, because believe it or not, this was a parent who had lost her job.

And, and so that's why just what she said was so powerful and at the same time, again as a service provider at heart. I was thinking how could we support her to be able to, you know, provide for her, her family. And so, again, I think, you know, just over time, schools like you said, I've been a refuge for students and also service centers. And so I think of waves of, you know, different of different trends. How school systems and schools in particular individual schools have stepped up when they see that there's been a need, and they've created solutions and resources so for instance, high schools have created wellness centers, you know, and I envision perhaps maybe you know within schools like within the Parent Center that there's a Job Center. There, you know job resource and virtual job resource. I mean this is off the top of my head and just, you know, thinking because a lot of the stress has to do with their emergent situations. And so there's that piece the other pieces for us to be radical with our self care. So, I mean I literally I go outside, and sometimes you know they're wondering, 'Where's mommy? Where's wife?' Well, she's outside and maybe you'll find me maybe you won't. You know, but leaving my phones you know on my desk and going outside and sometimes even just for five minutes you know we have, we have to take time for ourselves and so that would be my ask of all of our parents is to really be kind with ourselves, patient and, you know, really encouraging like wow we're doing this, we're doing and doing it well.

ACCC Intern: That's lovely. I think the idea of radical self care kind of feeds into my our final question is just like what advice would you give parents who are struggling with their mental health during this panic attack.

Sandra: "Yeah and I will continue thanks for asking that question, I would say, because I also want to step back to something else you said earlier. For many of our students that school is a refuge and I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that you know as far as substance use and, and domestic violence that this situation really has created one that has. For many families, unfortunately, it has exacerbated the situation. And so I would say to families. You know, please you know reach out to someone that you trust, whether it's another family member, whether it's a sister mom or brother dad clergy neighbor. Teacher, even if you know it's amazing sometimes that the type of relationships that parents move forward you know with their teachers and administrators based upon what you said that school can be like a second home. I think to your point, to your question, it's really about asking for help, asking for help to pay attention, that just as you know we are so hyper vigilant, protecting ourselves when it comes to this virus we need you to do the same for mental health. So, you know, there are so many resources online. You know, the Department of Mental Health. There's 211 even, you know, infos can get referred to places on a sliding scale or even free services, you know, but I would say first is really reached out to someone that you trust and maybe can help guide you and for you to know that you're not alone. And even in this moment, you know as you hear this, you're not alone. And then there are resources for you.

I would say, though, just to reiterate, first I think some of the stress and the mental health fragility comes from this pressure that we put on ourselves. So I would say you know be kind. But yes, by all means, if you feel like you are in an unsafe situation I mean just from an emotional, psychological, even physical safety to really reach out and get help for your own protection and for your children.

ACCC Intern: Thank you for that. And we also want to thank you for your time today we truly appreciate you sharing your opinions with us and your tips and guidance.

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