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6 Zoos and Aquariums Offering Live Videos of Animals for Free During New Coronavirus Outbreak

Paula M Naranjo/ Parent Editor

eating gray elephant

Watch these curious creatures wander their habitats and learn something new from the comfort of your home.

By Jennifer Aldrich March 17, 2020

As precautions due to the COVID-19 (which stands for coronavirus disease 2019) continue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends both frequent hand washing and social distancing. Because of this, many places that hold large crowds are closing, including zoos and aquariums. But while trips to your local zoo are currently postponed, you can still get a close-up look at your favorite animals, all from the comfort of your own home.

Across the country, zoos and animal sanctuaries (some of which also include botanical centers) are featuring live-cams, interactive videos, and updates to anyone who wants to see what their exotic creatures are up to. The best part is that anyone with an internet connection can tune in. Even better: you don’t have to have a zoo membership.

Fiona the hippo under water
Fiona the hippo is the star of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s first Home Safari Facebook Live. COURTESY OF LISA HUBBARD/CINCINNATI ZOO & BOTANICAL GARDEN

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Located in Seminole, Florida, the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens is currently closed until further notice. Since the announcement of the closure, the organization launched The Zoo Comes to You, an educational Facebook Live series airing weekdays at 2 p.m. EST. The first episode, which aired yesterday on Facebook, featured Butterscotch, a rabbit, eating a snack.

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Since its March 14 closure, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden announced it would be showcasing a video series on Facebook Live called Home Safari. Each episode highlights some of the animals and also includes an activity you can do at home, such as an online quiz about the presented animal. Each installment airs at 3 p.m. EST and began on Monday on the site’s Facebook page. The first airing featured Fiona, a Nile hippo, one of the most famous animals at the zoo.

Houston Zoo

From March 13 to April 3, the Houston Zoo will keep its doors shut. During that time, the zoo is posting video updates on different animals. The first one, a live video that played around 2:30 p.m. EST on Monday, showcased giraffes enjoying a leafy snack from two zookeepers. Viewers were able to ask the keepers questions via Facebook comments, and employees answered their questions in real-time.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Although the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, is closed from March 12-27, the animals are still showing off via different live feeds that you can watch every day of the year. Check out the penguins, sharks, jellyfish, birds, or one of the other cameras on the aquarium’s website.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is closed until April 1, but you can still watch the animals through 10 different live cams, plus archived videos of pandas from January through April 2019. (These cameras are available all year long, whether the park is open or closed.) On the website, the zoo is streaming videos of baboons, penguins, polar bears, apes, koalas, giraffes, owls, elephants, tigers, and condors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which is closed until March 29, has been making the rounds on social media with its videos of penguins roaming around the grounds. The latest post showcases a pair named Edward and Annie exploring the rotunda, and the aquarium notes it will continue to share other animals in their habitats.

Many zoos are still accepting donations while they remain closed due to COVID-19 concerns. If you’d like to chip in, head to one of the websites listed above, or check out your local zoo’s website to see how you can help.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com. 

Paula M Naranjo

IG: Paulamarienaranjo

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George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?

Alia E. Dastagir USA TODAY | Published 8:45 a.m. ET May 31, 2020

Should we tell the children? How?

Those are among the many questions parents are asking after the recent deaths of George FloydAhmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Many white parents wonder whether to talk with their kids at all, while parents of color swallow their  grief and fear to have “the talk” once again.

These deaths are part of a more complex story, one some parents have been telling for generations, and others have long felt they’ve had the luxury to ignore. But experts in child psychology and race-based stress say these conversations are essential for all parents to have, and they underscore that there are developmentally appropriate ways to talk to children of all ages about racism and police brutality.

“Silence will not protect you or them,” said Beverly Daniel Tatum, a psychologist and author of, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. “Avoiding the topic is not a solution.”

Racism persists, experts say, because many parents avoid difficult conversations.

A child holds an American Flag as protestors march through the streets on May 29, 2020, in St Louis, Missouri.

“One of the most important things to remember is that you may not have all the answers and that is OK,” said Erlanger Turner, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Pepperdine University who studies mental health among racial communities. 

USA TODAY spoke with Tatum and Turner about how to talk with children about racial violence:

Why is it important to talk with children about what happened to George Floyd and other incidents of police brutality or racism in the news?

Beverly Daniel Tatum: Even young children may see or hear about highly publicized incidents like the George Floyd case – perhaps overhearing the TV or the radio –  and may ask questions. Or if parents are upset by the news, the child may perceive the parent’s distress and ask why mom or dad is upset. In either case, an age-appropriate explanation is better than silence. Older children with Internet access may see online images on their own. Initiating an age-appropriate conversation can give children a helpful frame for understanding difficult realities. If parents are silent, children will draw their own often faulty conclusions about what is happening and why.

Erlanger Turner: Many adults are hurt and angered by these events and their children may notice changes in their mood. It is helpful to have a healthy conversation around what happened and also talk about ways to cope when you witness social injustice. 

Does COVID-19 warrant avoiding these conversations, given many children are already struggling with fear, anxiety and uncertainty? 

BDT: No. Not talking about upsetting events only fuels fear, anxiety and uncertainty.  Being able to talk about something with a supportive adult can reduce fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Parents may avoid the conversation because they don’t know what to say, but it is a mistake to think that their silence is helpful.Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.

ET: I don’t think that anxiety and fear about COVID-19 should stop a parent from talking about police brutality. This issue has been increasing in concern over the last few years as the number of black and brown people killed by police continue to rise. I think if you do talk with your child don’t leave them in a high state of worry. Make sure to end the conversation by engaging in a pleasant activity after the difficult discussion so they won’t stay worried or afraid. 

How do parents start these conversations and how does that change depending on the age of their children?

ET: I think the first place to start a conversation around racism and police brutality is with honesty. Take ownership of your feelings and be comfortable sharing those feelings with your child. Then you can begin to allow them to share what they may already know about racial differences. I think that it is always good to allow children to share their opinion and understanding before you offer information.

For younger children conversations about racism should be limited to basic facts about how people are treated differently due to the color of their skin but also acknowledge that not everyone treats people differently based on race. For older teens, parents can consider exposure to news or social media posts as discussion points about this issue. 

BDT: Regardless of the age of the child, it is important to balance acknowledging the reality of racism, or unfairness, with messages about the possibility of change, and the community of allies who are working together to make things better.

If a child of color asks if a police officer is going to kill them, what do you say?

BDT: The answer will depend on the age of the child.  If it is a young child, a parent can be reassuring.  “No, honey, you don’t have to worry about that. Police officers don’t want to hurt you.”

In response to an older child, it can be reassuring to say something like: “I know that it is scary to think that something like that might happen, and I really don’t want you to worry about anything like that. I know that most police officers want to help people, and most police officers never fire their guns. But sometimes they do get nervous and make mistakes. So it is important for you to know what to do if a police officer ever stops you…”

Black parents often refer to this as “the talk” they have to have with their adolescent sons to increase the odds they will survive an encounter with a police officer if and when they are stopped.

ET: That is a tough question. Depending on the age of the child, they may have some awareness of youth that have been killed by police. Obviously you don’t want to respond in a way that is going to make children be more fearful for their safety. In my opinion, I think that you should let children know that most police officers work to protect them and their community. 

people in blue shirts and white hat standing on street during daytime

If a child says they are afraid or angry, what do you say?

BDT: Acknowledge the child’s feelings. The parent may have similar feelings. “I know it’s upsetting to hear about and see these things happening. It upsets me too when bad things like this happen. Racism is very unfair. But it makes me feel better to know there are lots of people who want to change things.” Being able to offer specific examples of community change agents would be useful. Being able to talk about what family members are doing to speak up against unfairness is especially useful. Actions always speak louder than words.

ET: If a child tells you that they are angry, that is appropriate. Don’t force them to hide their emotional expression. However, be sure to help them identify ways to express their anger in a healthy manner which may include journaling or exercising to release the energy from their body. 

If a child is afraid for one of their friends, what do you say?

BDT: “I can see that you are worried about your friend. What do you think we could do that might help him or her?” Depending on the situation, this could be an opportunity to talk about what it means to be an ally, and how to stand in solidarity with another person.

ET: If a child is afraid for one of their friends, talk with them about those emotions. Allow the child to express why they may be afraid and help them identify how they can check on their friend’s safety to ease their anxiety or fear. Part of what increases anxiety is the fear of the unknown. If you have a plan of action it will reduce some of those fears. 

How can parents talk about law enforcement in a way that is honest but also doesn’t discourage children from seeking help from law enforcement when appropriate?

BDT: Most police officers become police officers because they want to help people. And there are times when we would really want a police officer to help us – give some examples – if there’s been a car accident, or if someone took something that belonged to us, etc. But sometimes a police officer does something bad, like today. When that happens, we might start to think that all police officers are like that.  But it’s important to remember that that is not true.

ET: I think that it is very important to talk with the children about law enforcement. For example, you can talk with them about how they protect rules in society such as making sure that people don’t drive too fast so they won’t harm themselves or others. Providing clear examples about the ways that law enforcement helps society will allow the child to better understand. You can also be honest about situations such as police brutality and let children know that some police officers break laws. If you have a trusted officer in your community it may be good to also allow the child to talk with them in person to reduce their fear.  

Should these conversations be different depending on the race of the child?

BDT: Children of color are likely to experience racist encounters as they get older.  They need to be helped to understand their own worth and feel affirmed in their identity as young people of color despite the negative messages they may get from others.  Parents of color want to raise self-confident and empowered children who are not demoralized by other people’s racism. This requires lots of conversation about racism and how to resist it in an ongoing way throughout their children’s lives.

White children are often racially isolated as a consequence of segregated schools and neighborhoods, and consequently limited in their understanding of people different from themselves.  White parents who want to interrupt the cycle of racism must learn to talk to their children about it and model their own anti-racist activity.

ET: According to research, white parents often don’t talk with their children about race or may emphasize “not seeing color.” The concept of colorblindness or “not seeing color” is more harmful than helpful and does not honor an individual’s identity. … For white families, research suggests … conversations should focus on raising anti-racist children and encouraging more friendships with children from others races.

Many of these deaths garner attention because footage of it goes viral. What should we say if our child asks to see it? 

BDT: There are many adults who don’t want to see such footage. I would not show it to a child at all. Once an image is in your head, it is very difficult to get it out. That said, it is reasonable to describe what happened and talk about why it was wrong. It is also likely that children with Internet access can view the footage without an adult’s permission or assistance. Talking about it after the fact will help children process their feelings.

ET: You should not show your children these videos as it may increase the likelihood of them experiencing symptoms of trauma or having nightmares. What we know from research on witnessing disasters is that individuals may be at a higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder even through indirect exposure to these events. 

What do we say if, in the course of this conversation, a child says something racist?

BDT: Inquire about it with curiosity, not judgment. “I’m wondering why you said that…”  After hearing more about what the child is thinking, you can offer correction by providing new information. “You know, a lot of people might think that is true, but I don’t because….” 

ET: I think the first thing to do is to not get defensive. You want to foster open communication with your child. However, I think you should explore why they have that opinion, where did they learn it from, and tell them why what they said was wrong. It might be helpful for you as a parent to think about ways that you may have unconsciously expressed racist attitudes. 

How can parents explain the uprisings in a way that doesn’t condone violence but also doesn’t minimize the sense of injustice fueling them?

BDT: Children understand the concept of unfairness as well as the experience of frustration. Years and years of unfairness – racism – results in intense anger and frustration. The conversation can then be about what we must do to fix the continuing unfairness.

ET: I think it is important for parents to be honest. Share your hurt, anger, or disappointment with your child. You should also talk about different ways to protest social injustice such as calling your local politicians office or even visit their office to talk with them about policy change to reduce injustice. 

Resources for parents

Kids who’ve lost a parent in the military find hope at Good Grief Camp

May 22, 2020, 9:22 AM CDT / Source: TODAY | By Laura T. Coffey

“I just felt understood there.”

Nathaniel Lee was 7 years old when his dad, U.S. Army Capt. Donald Lee, died in a helicopter crash — a loss of seismic magnitude that kept producing aftershocks of pain.

U.S. Army Capt. Donnie Lee holds his son, Nathaniel Lee, in the 1990s.
U.S. Army Capt. Donnie Lee holds his son, Nathaniel Lee, in the 1990s.Courtesy of Nathaniel Lee

Lee remembers feeling stunned as he said goodbye to his friends at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas; his family relocated to be closer to his mom’s relatives in Northern California. As he and his younger brother started a new school in the middle of the year, he felt self-conscious about everything: his Texas accent, his sudden lack of connection to other military kids, his glaringly absent dad. So he made up a story.

“I told people that my parents were divorced,” Lee, now 29, told TODAY Parents. “I didn’t want to add more attention.”

Then his mom discovered the Good Grief Camp offered for children by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS. Based in Arlington, Virginia, TAPS provides support and resources to anybody grieving the death of a loved one in the military.

Nathaniel Lee, left, and his younger brother Sam Lee, right, are pictured as camp kids at their first TAPS Good Grief Camp in May 1999. The boys lost their father, U.S. Army Capt. Donald Lee, in a helicopter crash in December 1997.
Nathaniel Lee, left, and his younger brother Sam Lee at their first TAPS Good Grief Camp in May 1999. The boys lost their father, U.S. Army Capt. Donald Lee, in a helicopter crash in December 1997.Courtesy of Nathaniel Lee

“My mom knew I was having trouble talking about my dad — I just wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened and ignore it,” Lee recalled. “TAPS was the first real opportunity I had to talk about him and share his story. … Up until then, nobody understood.”

Now a military officer himself and a dad to two young girls, Lee mentors military kids at TAPS’ Good Grief Camps — an activity that he says helps him as much as it helps the kids. In a pandemic-free year, Lee’s volunteer role would bring him and about 2,000 others to Washington, D.C., for TAPS’ big national seminar over Memorial Day weekend.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Lee is pictured in 2020 with his wife, Samantha, and their daughters, Elsie, age 1, and Victoria, age 3.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Lee is pictured with his wife, Samantha, and their daughters, Elsie, 1, and Victoria, 3. Courtesy of Nathaniel Lee

At the seminar, adults attend sessions while kids in the Good Grief Camp talk with mentors, play games, draw pictures and write letters to their deceased parents, with mental health professionals standing by to help.

This year, gathering in person just isn’t possible because of the coronavirus.

“It’s devastating. My heart hurts,” said Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of TAPS. “It means so much, especially to the kids, to have the opportunity to come together.” But she understands why it can’t happen this year: “With our group, we’re hugging, we’re crying … there is no social distancing.”

The sun is out, the house is camouflage, and even though he's gone, the dad is smiling. This is an example of the kinds of drawings that emerge from TAPS' Good Grief Camps for children who have lost military parents in death.
A child at the TAPS’ Good Grief Camp drew this picture of their dad; the camp is for children who have a military parent who has died.Courtesy of TAPS

Even though the in-person gathering and annual Good Grief Camp wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery won’t happen this year, TAPS is making its camp sessions and talks available virtually, and TAPS mentors are calling every camp kid to see how they’re doing. It’s not the same — but for children and adults struggling with grief during a quarantine, it’s still huge.

“The isolation really has been bringing out my feelings a little more,” said 12-year-old Annelise Miller of Colorado Springs, who lost her dad, Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Miller, in December 2016. “It’s kind of made me realize that I need to talk to people.”

Annelise Miller was 3 1/2 years old in this photo with her father, Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Miller. Miller died in December 2016.
Annelise Miller was 3 1/2 years old in this photo with her father, Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Miller. Miller died in December 2016.Courtesy of Lisa Miller

‘I just felt understood’

Annelise was 8 when she attended her first Good Grief Camp in Colorado Springs. Her first mentor was Lee.

“Annelise hadn’t really cried about her dad until that first event,” said Annelise’s mom, Lisa Miller, 51. “Then on Sunday night when it was time to leave, she cried for an hour. She kept saying, ‘I don’t want to go.’”

“I just felt understood there,” Annelise explained.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Lee became a mentor to Annelise Miller at a TAPS Good Grief Camp in 2017, shortly after Annelise lost her dad in death.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Lee became a mentor to Annelise Miller at a TAPS Good Grief Camp in 2017: They both lost their dads at a similar age.Alan Lunn Photograpy / Courtesy of Nathaniel Lee

An Air Force captain, Lee lives in Colorado Springs, and he and his family have become close friends with Annelise and her family. He’s a regular fixture at Annelise’s science fairs and birthday parties; this year, because Annelise’s birthday fell in April during the quarantine, Lee figured out how to make one of her favorite foods: Spam musubi, a type of sushi made with Spam and rice. He left the treat on her porch along with a Spam musubi pillow.

TAPS founder Carroll said she’s seen these kinds of connections form again and again since the organization launched in 1994.

“It’s validating and normalizing and healing to be able to share your story without judgment,” said Carroll, who lost her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, in an Army plane crash in 1992. “Grief is not a mental illness. It’s not a physical condition or injury. You can’t take a pill or put a splint on it to make it go away. … We only grieve because we love someone.”

Annelise Miller, the youngest in her family, is pictured with her dad, Todd Miller, mom, Lisa Miller, older brother, Brett, and older sister, Lauren. This photo was taken in 2015 when the Miller family was stationed in Hawaii.
Annelise Miller, the youngest in her family, is pictured with her dad, Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Miller, her mom, Lisa Miller, her older brother, Brett, and her older sister, Lauren. This photo was taken in 2015 when the Miller family was stationed in Hawaii.Courtesy of Lisa Miller

Carroll said it’s especially important for children who have lost parents to talk about it.

“For children, that’s always their dad or their mom,” Carroll said. “That’s their parent forever. … Our love transcends their physical death.”

Because military deaths often occur in traumatic ways, TAPS provides specialized help for people whose loved ones have died in combat, by suicide, in accidents or after illnesses.COVID grief mirrors military grief

This year, because of the parallels between families of fallen service members and families losing loved ones to the coronavirus, TAPS has started offering virtual resources to anyone reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we’re talking about here is grief,” Carroll said. “Maybe a military person died in a foreign land, but with COVID, maybe they died in a hospital where you couldn’t get to them — that’s a similarity.”

It’s a similarity Mikki Frison knows too well. On May 10, the Pennsylvania mom white-knuckled her way through the nine-year anniversary of losing her husband, Demetrius Frison, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army who died in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2011. She said the anniversary always triggers a “grief muscle memory,” but this year was harder than expected.

Mikki Frison and her son, Chris Frison, are pictured holding a photo of late husband and dad Demetrius Frison.
Mikki Frison and her son, Chris, are pictured with a photo of their late husband and dad, Demetrius Frison. The anniversary of his death in Afghanistan is always especially challenging.Courtesy of Mikki Frison

Just three weeks before the anniversary of her husband’s death, Frison lost her grandfather, Joseph Fields, 88, to COVID-19. Her grandpa died in a hospital that couldn’t allow visitors, so she stayed on Zoom with him for 20 hours, then watched as nurses rubbed his shoulders and comforted him in his final moments.

“With both of them, I couldn’t be there to hold their hand,” Frison, 34, told TODAY Parents. “The last time I saw them was on video chat.”

Chris Frison beams in this photo with his beloved great-grandfather, Joseph Fields. Fields died from COVID-19 on April 17, 2020.
Chris Frison beams in this photo with his beloved great-grandfather, Joseph Fields. Fields died from COVID-19 on April 17, 2020.Courtesy of Mikki Frison

Frison’s 9-year-old son, Chris, was close with his great-grandfather, so the death hit him hard. And even though he was a baby when his father died in Afghanistan, he misses his dad terribly.

“I wish he could see me play soccer,” said Chris, who plays on a competitive travel team.

Chris Frison holds a photo of his dad, Demetrius Frison, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army who died in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2011 when Chris was a baby.
Chris Frison holds a photo of his dad, Demetrius Frison, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army who died in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2011 when Chris was a baby.Courtesy of Mikki Frison

Frison and Chris had been planning to travel to Washington, D.C., for TAPS’ national seminar over Memorial Day weekend. They said they were dismayed when the in-person event had to be canceled; they had been craving companionship with people who get it.

“Chris had a friend at soccer who didn’t believe his dad had passed away, so he kept making jokes: ‘Your dad’s not really dead,’” Frison said. “This is civilian life versus military life, basically. We live in a nice area with two-parent homes everywhere. There was no malice behind what that little boy was saying — he just didn’t understand.”

The Frisons may not be able to see their TAPS friends in person right now, but they’re soaking up all the help they can get from TAPS virtually. In addition to the national seminar and camp sessions, TAPS mentors have been doing games, story times and online activities with kids during the quarantine.

“Every Saturday night, I hear my kid in his room giggling with TAPS mentors and kids,” Frison said. “They keep coming up with some cool game — Disney Bingo, Jeopardy, scavenger hunts.”

After games are over, “we just talk,” Chris said. “It’s really important because they fill in the gaps where my dad’s not.”

Shortly before his death in Afghanistan at age 26, Demetrius Frison snuggled and played with his baby boy, Chris Frison.
Shortly before his death in Afghanistan at age 26, Demetrius Frison snuggled with his baby boy, Chris.Courtesy of Mikki Frison

Parent Sues Rutgers, Demanding Tuition Refund Due To Coronavirus

Online classes and Zoom sessions are not what the parents purchased when they paid their daughter’s spring 2020 tuition, the suit argues.

By Carly Baldwin, Patch Staff 
May 21, 2020 4:14 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2020 8:58 am ET
Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government through the CARES Act.
Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government through the CARES Act. (Shutterstock)

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — An anonymous parent of a Rutgers University student filed a class-action lawsuit against the school this week, seeking a partial tuition refund in light of the school’s campus closure due to COVID-19.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in superior court in Middlesex County. This week, a student filed a similar lawsuit against Kean University, saying online classes were not what she paid for.

When the pandemic first began, Rutgers gave students pro-rated refunds for housing, dining and parking charges beginning on March 23 and lasting through May 16, said Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin. (May 16 is the required move-out date at the university.)

However, what this parent is seeking is not a refund for campus meals and housing: They would like a tuition refund, arguing that — because all her classes were virtual instead of in-person — their daughter received a radically different learning experience than what they paid for.

“While plaintiff’s daughter could have obtained her degree online, their daughter specifically selected an in-person, in-class experience,” the lawsuit argues.

“The shift to online instruction affected the depth,” read the suit. “Often links sent by professors were not compatible with her computer and she missed opportunities to view videos and listen to audio lectures that were necessary for her learning. Instead, she was only able to review the bullet-point lecture slides and missed a lot of necessary information from the lectures.”

The suit was filed by law firm Hagens Berman, which has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Brown, Duke, Emory, George Washington University, USC, Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis.

“What Rutgers is offering is not what students or parents paid for,” Berman said.

Specific course fees, where appropriate, were refunded on a course-by-course basis, said Rutgers spokeswoman Devlin.

But no university in America, including Rutgers, has given refunds based on the differences between in-class and online learning due to the coronavirus shutdown.

The plaintiff is listed as by John Doe. U.S. law allows civil suits to be filed anonymously or under a pseudonym in certain cases to “protect a person (in this case the Rutgers student) from harassment, injury, ridicule or personal embarrassment.”

The lawsuit is class-action, meaning that anyone can join the suit.

“We understand that universities have been put under unforeseen circumstances and had to act quickly in the face of the pandemic,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “But we also believe that is no excuse to ignore the rights of students paying for access to campus amenities, in-person education and all the other benefits commonly afforded to them in a typical semester.”

According to the lawsuit, Rutgers had a record-breaking fundraising year with more than 48,500 donors contributing $250.9 million. Recently, Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Poll: Minority and low-income parents most worried about their students’ success

Lorraine Longhi, Arizona RepublicPublished 7:33 p.m. MT May 20, 2020 | Updated 7:51 a.m. MT May 21, 2020

About four in 10 Arizona parents believe the state’s management of K-12 education was good or excellent amid the coronavirus health pandemic, according to a new ASU Morrison Institute-Arizona Republic poll.

K-12 school administration received the highest positive rating of any other government entity listed, including federal, state, local and tribal.

The online survey was conducted in late April and early May. Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman ordered schools closed on March 15 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

District, charter and private schools quickly converted to remote learning. Some provided students with printouts, while others moved to virtual lessons and emailed work. 

Impact on low-income students

The poll highlights a divide between lower-income and higher-income families when it comes to accessing the necessary technology for online learning.

Parents with children from low-income families polled were less likely to say that their children have the necessary technology for online learning.

Low-income families were also less likely to say that their children are actively engaged in online learning.

In contrast, parents of children from higher-income brackets were more concerned that their child will fall behind in school and that COVID-19 will compromise the likelihood their child will graduate high school.

Richie Taylor, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said that the findings came as no surprise. He said low-income families and the schools that serve them are at more of a disadvantage when it comes to accessing technology and resources that make it easier to pivot to online learning.

“That’s why it’s so critical to provide support and resources to fill those gaps we know exist,” he said.

During the past two months, some schools got creative to help their students. A Tucson district parked buses with WiFi around the city so students could access assignments. Others reached out to nonprofits to help purchase additional laptops for students. 

State leaders asked businesses to donate hotspots and laptops to help students.

As schools tentatively prepare to reopen in the fall, Taylor said they will depend heavily on money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to fill in some of the educational gaps.

The CARES Act will allocate approximately $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds to state governments to support K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus. 

“CARES Act funding ishugely important to mitigate some of the challenge we faced,” Taylor said. “We want to be able to provide for the needs of families and students.”Get the Law & Order newsletter in your inbox.

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Different ages, neighborhoods, ethnicity

The online Morrison-Republic poll was conducted from April 24 through May 7. It included 813 Arizona residents census balanced by age, gender, ethnicity, and location.

Of those, 287 were parents with at least one child living at home. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.

At the time of the survey, 16% of respondents indicated they would feel comfortable sending their kids back to school immediately following the lifting of restrictions.

Among the general population of parents polled:

  • 75% said their children had the necessary technology to engage in online learning.
  • 67% said their children were actively engaged in learning.
  • 57% were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered.
  • 53% were worried that children would fall behind.
  • 43% were concerned that COVID-19 would impact their child’s ability to graduate.

Parents of older students expressed less confidence that their children were staying engaged in online learning than those of younger students.

Of the parents with at least one child in elementary school, 69% said they agreed that their children were engaged, compared to 55% of parents polled with a child in high school.

The opposite was true when parents were asked whether they were worried their child might fall behind in school.

Among parents with children in elementary school, 58%worried that their child would fall behind, compared to 46% of parents polled with a child in high school.

Black parents polled were more concerned about their children falling behind than white or Hispanic parents. Of those polled, 67% of black parents said they were worried, compared to 44% of white parents and 63% of Hispanic parents. 

Hispanic parents were the most concerned about whether COVID-19 would decrease their child’s likelihood of graduating high school. Of those polled, 49% of Hispanic parents said they were concerned, compared to 38% of black parents and 28% of white parents.

Parents who did not have a high school degree reported less concern about students falling behind as a result of the stay-at-home order when compared to parents with some college or a higher degree.

A parent’s neighborhood also impacted how individuals polled responded.

While 61% of parents who lived in an urban neighborhood indicated they were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered by their school, only 47% of parents in suburban neighborhoods were satisfied.

Can kids attend camp this summer? What newly released guidelines say

five children playing water during day time

Detailed guidelines issued by the American Camp Association and the YMCA recommend extensive cleaning protocols and safety measures to protect kids during the pandemic.

May 18, 2020, 8:15 AM CDT / Source: TODAYBy Scott Stump

Summer camp is going to look a lot different this year as parents weigh whether to send their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of camps are making numerous changes emphasizing health and safety, which could mean wearing masks when appropriate and daily cleaning of sports gear and aquatic equipment.

Tom Rosenberg, the president and CEO of the American Camp Association, and Paul McEntire, the COO of YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), spoke to Savannah Guthrie exclusively on TODAY about the joint release of detailed guidelines by their organizations on Monday outlining best policies that camps can use to keep children safe during the pandemic.

The thought of a group of 6- or 7-year-olds excitedly gathering at camp and practicing social distancing or rigid hygiene may not be easy to envision, but the guide provides a host of details about everything from pool safety to cleaning life jackets to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Parents can definitely expect to see safety as the first and foremost focus at camp this summer,” Rosenberg said. “For camp directors, the health and safety of our campers is paramount.”

About 20 million children, adolescents and adults enjoy roughly 14,000 camps across the country every year between day camps and overnight camps. The YMCA runs about 10,000 day camps on its own, as well as 325 overnight camps.

A majority of the YMCA day camps are planning to open this summer as long as they are in compliance with state and local guidance, while some overnight camps have decided not to open this summer, according to McEntire.

Some camps may have shortened sessions and others may be conducting the camp virtually, according to Rosenberg.

“There are going to be lots of different choices, but not necessarily looking typical this summer,” Rosenberg said.

A host of changes are recommended by the guide, including regular sanitizing, hand-washing, social distancing, staggered meals, smaller group activities and staggered arrivals and pick-ups.

The guide put together by a panel of experts is basically a detailed expansion on the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding summer camps during the pandemic.

The recommendations also include routine cleaning of all outdoor equipment after each use and providing campers with their own equipment like tennis rackets or bows and arrows for the duration of camp if possible.

When it comes to pool safety, the guidelines state that there is no current evidence that coronavirus can be spread in a pool or water play area, so properly disinfecting with chlorine or bromine “will likely inactivate the virus in the water.”

people playing water during daytime

Other guidelines include physical distancing while swimming, keeping activities confined to the same group of campers and same instructors and regularly cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment like oars and life jackets.

Some camps may also plan to screen campers ahead of time with two weeks of temperature checks while also determining if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive. Campers also could be screened if they have traveled to a hotspot like New York City, which has been the center of a rare and potentially deadly condition linked to COVID-19 in children.

Whether campers are given COVID-19 tests is up to the local and state governments and the resources available, according to the experts. Overnight camps are urged to have places to isolate any campers who could have been exposed to COVID-19, while day camps are recommended to have parents come pick the child up immediately.

There also are many parents who may not have much of a choice when it comes to sending their child to camp this summer.

“A lot of parents have choices whether to send their child to camp or not, but many others don’t,” McEntire said. “They utilize overnight camp and even more day camp as child care because they have to go to work, and so we feel responsibility to design that so that they can be as safe as possible, so children when they’re with us have fun, be outdoors and allow that parent to go to work.

A Working Parent’s Guide To Paid Family Leave In The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Kelly Anne Smith | Forbes Staff | Advisor Contributor Group Personal Finance

Middle Aged Women working from home in office whilst also looking after her young daugther.
If you’re struggling to balance child care and working from home, you might be eligible for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. GETTY

The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping what’s been known as normal life.

As families start to grapple with a new reality, that may mean having to spend more time at home with children as summer camps, daycares and schools could remain closed for the foreseeable future. Without child care, working parents are left to figure out how they might balance work and taking care of their children at the same time.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was created to expand paid leave options for employees effective from April 2 through December 31, 2020. The temporary rule provides a range of assistance measures, but most importantly, it provides a safety net to working parents who are unable to find child care due to COVID-19-related reasons. The FFCRA offers employees up to 12 weeks of partial paid leave to tend to their children. Businesses whose employees take this leave pay for it through a refundable tax credit administered by the Department of Treasury. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Details on Expanded Paid Family Leave in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Paid family leave could be crucial for parents who are struggling to figure out how to balance work and childcare, especially if their summer camp or childcare plans fall through due to COVID-19 restrictions. Today In: Personal Finance

If you find yourself in that situation, you might be entitled to paid family leave. The FFCRA, signed into law on March 18, significantly expands the amount of family and medical leave certain employers are required to offer during the COVID-19 crisis. The provisions are in effect through the end of this year and apply to private businesses with fewer than 500 employees (however, businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from offering the paid leave under certain conditions) and certain public employers.

Parents can receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave by combining relief available in two separate pieces of legislation, which are both part of the FFCRA: the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EMFLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA). These two regulations work together to provide paid leave for individuals dealing with school or child care unavailability due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Here’s how it works:

  • Workers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave under EPSLA at two-thirds of their regular rate of pay when they are unable to work because they are caring for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.
  • Workers can receive 12 weeks of family and medical leave under EMFLEA because their child’s school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19. The first two weeks of this period will be unpaidbut you can use the two weeks of paid sick leave listed above, or elect to use accrued vacation or sick days from your employer, to cover that two-week gap. The remaining 10 weeks of leave under the EMFLEA will be paid at at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.

In total, combining the various provisions made available in the FFCRA allow working parents (who qualify) to take a total of three months of leave at partial pay.

Important Rules About the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act

Expanded paid leave as offered under the EFMLEA portion of the FFCRA is helpful to many. But there are caveats that workers should be aware of before they jump on the opportunity to use it. Keep these rules in mind:

  • Your employer has to have work for you in order for you to be eligible for the leave. You are only eligible for the leave if caring for your son or daughter actually takes you away from completing your work. If your employer is closed, or you’re furloughed, you cannot take 12 weeks of expanded paid sick and family leave under the FFCRA. Instead, you would be eligible for unemployment.
  • You have to be employed for at least 30 calendar days to qualify for the additional 10 weeks of paid family leave. If you were let go during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, and are now back on payroll, you’ll have to be employed for at least a month before you’re eligible for the expanded paid family leave. However, all employees are eligible for the initial two weeks of expanded paid sick leave, regardless of how long they’ve been employed.  
  • If you can only work a few days a week because you need to care for your children certain days, you can take intermittent leave. For example, if you’re working from home and need to be offline Wednesday and Friday each week to care for your children, that time away from work is eligible for paid family leave. This only applies if the employer and employee agree to the arrangement, so be sure to speak with your employer before settling on this option.
  • Your two-thirds rate of pay will be capped at $200 per day and $12,000 total over the 12-week period. If you’re a high earner, this could significantly cut down how much you can earn over the 12-week period. Be sure to first exhaust any accrued paid sick leave or vacation days, if possible, so you can still receive full pay. 
  • If you work part-time, your pay will be calculated based on the average number of hours you work over a two-week period. But if your work schedule is irregular, and you’ve been employed for at least six months, your pay will be equal to 14 times the average number of hours you were scheduled to work each calendar day over the six-month period.
  • If your employer has less than 50 employees, it can opt out of giving you paid family leave. If giving paid leave to employees due to school or child care closings would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern,” according to the law, then these smaller businesses are not required to give employees paid leave through the FFCRA.
  • If you’ve already taken time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the current 12-month year, the time you can take off under the EFMLEA will be reduced by that amount. For example, if you took five weeks of FMLA in January, and now need to take EFMLEA, you can only take seven of the total 12 weeks of leave.
  • You need to notify your employer about taking leave. When taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for your child, you’ll have to provide documentation to your employer stating that’s the reason. Your documentation should include the name of the child you’re caring for, the school or childcare provider that has closed or is unavailable because of COVID-19, and a statement explaining that no one else is available to care for your child during your requested period of leave.  

What If You’re Not Eligible for Paid Leave Provided by the FFCRA?

If you have been furloughed and aren’t eligible for paid family leave provided by the FFCRA, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has expanded unemployment benefits to cover individuals in this situation.

Pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) extends unemployment benefits to individuals who don’t typically qualify for state unemployment. PUA covers workers who are unemployed, partially unemployed or are unable to work for COVID-19-related reasons starting on or after January 27 (payments are retroactive to that date, meaning if you met the criteria on that date but didn’t file until later, you’ll still be paid for the days in between). According to U.S. Department of Labor guidelines, individuals who are still employed but cannot work because of a school closure or summer care closure due to COVID-19 may also qualify for PUA. 

Individuals who qualify for PUA can receive up to 39 weeks of benefits; the amount you receive will depend on how your state calculates unemployment benefits, but will likely be based on your past income. Individuals who receive PUA are also eligible for an additional $600 per week in benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUB) program, which is part of the CARES Act. As of now, the additional $600 per week is available through the end of July.

Unemployment insurance is a joint effort between the federal government and states. Individuals interested in receiving PUA will need to apply through their state’s unemployment insurance website. 

Bottom Line

While FFCRA gives workers expanded paid leave options, there are important stipulations to keep in mind when considering them. Contact your employer directly for more information about expanded paid family leave under the FFCRA and to discuss if it’s the right option for you.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

When Will This Be Over? Sesame Workshop’s Tips For Parenting During A Pandemic

May 12, 202012:03 AM ET

By Cory Turner and Anya Kamenetz

Sesame Workshop's Rosemarie Truglio shares advice with parents for getting through the coronavirus crisis.

Parents, let’s be honest: Many of us are struggling right now.

Some have lost loved ones to COVID-19; many of us have lost jobs. And nearly all of us have spent the past two months juggling new parenting responsibilities as our children stay home and schools shift online.

In March, NPR’s Life Kit team put together this guide to help parents navigate the tumultuous early days of the pandemic. But in the intervening weeks, the challenges have changed. So we checked in with Rosemarie Truglio, a developmental psychologist and senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop, to gather wisdom you can use during this current phase.

When is this gonna be over?

At the beginning of the pandemic, kids’ questions were often easy enough to explain with a little science. What is COVID-19? Easy. How can we keep from getting it? There are no guarantees, but hand-washing works wonders!

Now, however, the top question in the minds of many kids — and adults — is, when will the coronavirus crisis end? And that one is mysterious and unexplainable. Still, it requires an honest answer, says Truglio, one that’s hard for some parents to say: “I don’t know.”

But don’t stop there. Shift the conversation by asking, “What do we have control over now?” And then plan an activity that’s fun, that your kids can look forward to and that you can control, pandemic be darned.

One example: Go camping — in a nearby state park, in your backyard or even in your living room. Pitch a tent, roast marshmallows (on the stovetop if you have to) and gaze up at the stars — even if you have to cut them out and tape them to the ceiling.

What matters in this confusing, indefinite time, Truglio says, is that kids feel some sense of control and have something happy they can mark on the calendar. There have been so many great examples of families getting creative to mark milestones and special occasions — drive-by birthday paradesgraduation yard signs, even a DIY trip to Disney World.

Forgive yourself

We all need to forgive our kids when they cross a line now and then. But you also need to forgive yourself if you don’t always handle their misbehavior with the optimal amount of patience and grace. Most of us are not at our best right now, and that’s OK.

“We’re human beings, and we’re going to lose it. All of us, even myself,” Truglio says. For her, it was when she was working from home and her Wi-Fi went out. Her son tried to console her by giving her a hug, but what she really needed was some space.

To make sure we lose it less often, Truglio says, try to take a breather whenever you start to feel overwhelmed by a situation — just put a door between yourself and your child for a minute or two and practice some deep breathing. Also, be sure to recharge your batteries by scheduling a little me-time here and there; maybe it’s watching your favorite show once the kids are in bed or taking a hot bath while another grown-up in the house looks after the kids.

If you’ve never tried meditation — or you’ve not made time for it lately — we can’t recommend it enough. Even 10 minutes of quiet can do wonders for your pandemic-thinned patience.

But if you do lose it with your kids, Truglio says, the important part is that you model the process of making amends. Truglio went back to her son, apologized and got that hug after all.

Build kids’ resilience and self-sufficiency

Many of us feel torn and guilty as we try to balance our kids’ needs with our bosses’ demands. A lot of the time it feels like the only way out is to hand our young ones a screen. But Truglio says this is an opportunity to parent differently, in a way that equips our children with essential life skills.

“This is not a time for kids to think that they can have their parents’ 100% attention,” says Truglio. “It’s so important for children to build what we call resiliency skills. And part of resiliency skills is to have them cope with disappointment and frustration.”

It’s OK to say, “I just can’t be with you right now, and I trust you to figure this out.”

“Let kids have the space to be creative problem-solvers. Because when you remove yourself and have them be much more self-sufficient, they are developing these important critical thinking skills. You’re empowering them to be problem-solvers.”

These days, Truglio says, many kids are so reliant on the adults in their lives that “they’re afraid to make a mistake because they think that mistakes are bad. And we need to flip the script on that as well and say, ‘That’s how you learn!’ “

Schoolwork isn’t the only way to learn at home

We’ve heard from many parents concerned that their children aren’t learning enough in this time of emergency remote instruction. Teachers and school budgets are spread thin, and often, even the kids who are fortunate enough to have computers and access to Wi-Fi aren’t getting more than an hour or two of instruction each day.

To that, we say, focus on the things you can control. Truglio has some good news here: Our homes are already full of potential learning experiences.

Cooking together, for example: “You have a literacy component because we’re reading the recipes. We’re reading ingredients. It’s a math moment as we’re measuring. It’s a science moment as different substances are changing because of the properties of matter.”

Board games — which we’ve explored before as a rich way to teach math — can also build kids’ ever important social-emotional skills, helping them grapple with concepts of fairness, chance, strategy and practice.

Different families, different rules

As lockdowns soften and rules change around the U.S., families might disagree about some things — like whether to get takeout or when to wear a mask.

This can be confusing for children. If your child sees other kids playing together in the park, for example, she may think you’re being unfair — or even mean — for not letting her do the same.

When you explain, Truglio says, “it’s about putting a positive spin on this: ‘These rules are put in place by our family because we need to make sure that we’re staying healthy.’ “

The more your child hears that these rules are about helping — that they are empowered to be helpers — the easier it will be for them to understand and ultimately embrace them. Truglio suggests something like, “‘We need everyone in the family to do their part. And so this is why you’re playing such an important role!’ “

Doctor, patient, parent: Chapel Hill man sees the many sides of COVID-19

Posted May 13, 2020 11:44 a.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2020 5:59 p.m. EDT

By Richard Adkin, WRAL photojournalist

Samuel McLean, MD, MPH
Vice Chair of Research Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Emergency Medicine

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — There are few people who have seen COVID-19 from as many angles as Dr. Samuel McLean, a Chapel Hill emergency department physician. He’s seen the virus as a doctor, he’s seen it as a patient, and he’s seen it as the parent of a sick child.

“It was really my worst nightmare, getting COVID myself,” he said of the experience. “It never really hits you like it has during this COVID pandemic, the fact that when you’re going to work you’re risking not only your life, but the lives of people around you, and that for sure is the hardest part.”

McLean started feeling ill back in March. He had treated people with what he suspected were coronavirus symptoms, and having seen the news coverage from overseas, he knew the pandemic was inevitable. He called it “like a slow train in terms of the COVID epidemic coming to our community.”

McLean says his symptoms started with a cough and a headache. The symptoms were mild. He didn’t have a fever and the symptoms went away after a few days. Then a week later, they came back much worse.

Soon his family was sick. Even the dog tested positive for coronavirus.

McLean knows the risks of being an emergency medical worker. He says that risk is usually small. But this virus, he says, is something to fear.

“The fear that you might get sick yourself but also the fear that people who mean the most to you in the world could even die because of your work. That is truly a very scary feeling,” he said.

With fear comes courage, courage bolstered by community support. McLean sees that support and believes it hits the mark with his fellow healthcare coworkers.

“Well I think it means a lot to all of us,” McLean said, “I think that we are all extremely grateful, and I think that just as humans that any of us, when we are making a sacrifice, making a commitment, to have that sacrifice recognized, is just very meaningful.”

All Parents Are Having a Tough Time Right Now. But Parents of Middle Schoolers Have It Especially Bad

Judith Warner, Time May 6, 2020

All Parents Are Having a Tough Time Right Now. But Parents of Middle Schoolers Have It Especially Bad

“I feel I can salvage this if I just say the right thing.”

The words came from the mother of a 14-year-old boy who wasn’t handing in his online homework assignments. He wasn’t even attending class – “attendance” requiring no more effort on his part than a simple login. His mom hadn’t been aware of his absences – he was on his computer all the time, as far as she could see. But then the truancy reports started coming in. He was at risk of having to repeat eighth grade. She was a single mother with two other kids and a paid job to keep up with remotely. As the comments poured in on Facebook, and other, seemingly hardier, parents fired off confident directives about letting the boy suffer the “natural consequence” of his behavior, the fears snowballed in her mind. “All I can do is let him dig his grave,” she wrote, echoing the advice-givers. “But I just can’t watch him throw his life away like this at such an impressionable age.”

Given all the life-or-death realities of the coronavirus epidemic, it’s easy to minimize the problems of healthy parents with healthy kids, struggling to juggle working – now a privilege lost to millions – with more everyday challenges. And yet, the stress even fortunate families are facing is horrendous. You hear and see and read about it all the time, from parents of children of all ages. But none sound as desperate as the parents of middle schoolers.

The kids, all too often, are at their worst, jonesing for their friends, social distancing in the age of social media activating all the most pernicious pressure points of their FOMO-laden psyches. Those dealing with anxiety or depression – both of which tend to spike in the early adolescent years – have a whole lot more than usual to be anxious or depressed about. Those who struggle with focus, organization or motivation – issues that also are often aggravated by the middle school passage – have a whole set of new challenges to contend with. And parents are having to see everything, to deal on their own with all the dramas, tensions and travails that normally play out during the school day, under the watch of other, professionally trained — and paid – adults. Deprived of the in-person presence of teachers, school counselors, coaches and after-school programs, reading specialists and special ed tutors, they have to be and do everything for a group of kids who, by and large, want nothing to do with them.

Over and over again, the theme rings through the parent testimonials online: If only I could do something so that my seventh grader wouldn’t hate me. If only I could set the right rules so that I could get my eighth grader’s TikTok use under control. If only I could get him to stop being such a jerk to his younger brother. If only I knew what to say to make her stop believing it’s her fault that all her friends decided to drop her, without (of course) telling her why.

The capacity of American mothers and, increasingly, fathers to blame themselves for problems that aren’t their fault, to reproach themselves, above all, for not-knowing how to take control of things they simply can’t control, has never ceased to amaze me. Everything about parenting in our country encourages that sort of self-flagellation and that kind of hubris; whole industries offer ostensible help while living off parents’ hopeful belief that if they do everything just right, they can make their children happy, self-assured and successful – forever. It’s easy enough to maintain that illusion when the kids are babies and toddlers, and even through much of elementary school. And in the later years of high school, I’ve noticed, parents often tend to begin to give themselves a break, reassuring one another, “They are who they are.”

But the middle school moment is a kind of parental purgatory – a no-man’s-land between a time of kid compliance, even eagerness to meet adult demands, and the big push toward independence and competence that comes in the later teen years. Mixed messages abound: the back-to-school-night pamphlets preach giving kids more academic, social and personal space, but in some cases, the schoolwork is so complicated that kids can’t do it on their own. “Everyone” knows that you can’t “force” kids to be friends – can’t make them cross the boundary lines of popularity and social hierarchy that organize and obsess them (though some teachers routinely do so, with success, in their classrooms) – but at the same time, parents act in ways that support and advance their kids’ social ambitions. It’s unnamed, and often not-altogether conscious behavior that generally comes down to a set of judgments: what activities are worth spending money on, which kids are worth buying birthday presents for, or issuing invitations to, or expanding the definition of a “very small” gathering to include.

It’s so easy for parents of kids this age to lose their grip. The emotions that come up when a child struggles socially or even academically (now that sixth grade is the new ninth, college pressure-wise) are so strong and immediate. The anger that bubbles up is so intense, and the sense of powerlessness can be so intolerable. For many parents, there’s a new kind of aloneness, too: Whereas earlier, they might have bonded over no-sleep horror stories, sometime around when the kids turn 11, a sense of discretion kicks in. Parents say it’s about protecting the “privacy” of their almost-adolescent children, yet their inconsistent decisions about what’s deemed private often seem aimed at hiding what they themselves fear will make their kids lose face — above all, in the eyes of other parents.

The sting of that aloneness is now hitting home for parents of middle schoolers in an even more heightened way. While total strangers in Facebook teen- and tween-parent support groups are willing – even eager – to divulge their darkest thoughts and share their worst days, the friends in their feed seem to rack up only triumphs: One-on-one mother-daughter book clubs! Extravagant adventures in baking! Entire gardens re-landscaped! Thousands of masks, hand-sewn! Meanwhile, in their own homes, the undone assignments pile up; the online meanness multiplies. The middle school misery deepens, and the parental panic starts to turn into impotent rage.

This is an intolerable situation. Educators and experts need to step up and help parents out. This doesn’t mean telling them to fix themselves– to stop “helicoptering,” and chill – but actually taking steps to lance the boil of parental overload and its companion, self-blame. Schools need to stop trying to teach new material. They should require clocked hours of physical activity, of any kind, indoors or out, instead. They should make kids clock serious time reading, too – and try to make audiobook listening accessible for everyone, as well. They should make creative pursuits – tailored to kids’ individual talents and access to resources – count as full academic requirements. They should require significant time investments in online volunteering – with school staff doing the homework beforehand to find and set up those opportunities, so that parents don’t have to. And they should consider other kinds of at-home labor as community service, too: even helping out parents or other relatives with cooking, cleaning, gardening or taking care of younger children. The current distance-learning epidemic has made our country’s longstanding disparities in educational opportunity more glaring than ever before. With so many kids lacking computers and at-home Internet access, teachers are going to have to show the greatest possible flexibility and care in making sure that all their kids can get at least something positive out of this period.

Above all, schools need to give parents explicit permission to let themselves off the hook. Tell them they’re most likely not going to be able to keep their kids “on track,” and that it’s O.K. — keeping their relationships intact is far more important. Encourage them just to do whatever works, in whatever ways make most sense for their families. We’re living through a real put-on-your-own-oxygen-mask-first kind of a moment. Saving the psyches of quarantined middle schoolers and their parents has to be every bit as much of a public health imperative as keeping their lungs clear

Have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email me at throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

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