Parenting in a crisis – What you need to know

Photo: Bedtime rituals can  help children relax.


In mid-March, parents suddenly found themselves taking on a host of new roles at the same time their traditional support structures vanished. Overnight, homes became schools, workplaces and playgrounds, with parents trying to juggle it all and provide some sense of stability for their children. (See Summer 5780 Resources below.)
Last month, PJ Library/Jewish Federation of Greater Portland hosted a Zoom conversation with Dinah Gilburd, LCSW, from Jewish Family & Child Services on effective tools for parenting in times of crisis. Feedback from the parents was very positive, and planning is under way for a series of online conversations for a range of ages on a variety of topics. Programs are confidential and not recorded, so parents can feel free to share real world issues. 
To shape upcoming workshops, parents are asked to complete a workshop survey (see end of article). Questions include desired topics, age group, time of day, and whether parents prefer a prerecorded conversation to watch anytime OR a live non-recorded conversation/Q&A.
“We want to help families get into a more stable place now and teach them how to prepare for reentry,” says Rachel Nelson, JFGP’s director of educational initiatives. She hopes to plan one workshop a week from late July through August. “We know this will be valued, and we want to provide resources they need to navigate this uncharted territory.”
Dinah is a psychotherapist, conference speaker and workshop leader who moved here from Boston three years ago. In Boston, she worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and did crisis intervention and trauma work; she also provided supervision and direct services to an elementary/middle school and a Head Start program. For JFCS, she has done workshops and trainings for numerous congregations and Jewish schools with funding provided by the Holzman Foundation, so programs are free. She will likely lead some of the upcoming workshops, but Rachel says other experts may lead programs for college-age offspring or some specific topics. 
“Parents are facing an enormous task to raise emotionally healthy children … while dealing with a pandemic and social unrest,” says Dinah. 
During the pilot workshop in June, she offered a variety of tips and strategies to help parents. Since children learn how to react to stress by watching their parents, parents’ self-care is essential.
When a situation is threatening to escalate out of control, Dinah suggests parents remember and use the acronym STOP.
S-stop and recognize what’s happening 
T-take three breaths in and out
O-observe what emotions arise
P-proceed, respond with calmness.
“It buys you time to respond rather than react,” she says. In addition, just telling a child you are having a STOP moment can help defuse the situation.
Since regular deep breaths are naturally calming, she also suggested a “game” for young children at bedtime – Rock Teddy to Sleep. Invite your child to pick their favorite stuffed animal and set it on their tummy. Then ask them to inhale to push Teddy up and exhale to move Teddy down. You aren’t asking the child to go to sleep, so they can enjoy the relaxing game as they slowly rock Teddy to sleep.
Dinah also tells parents not to worry if they realize they are not the same parents they were before COVID. “Parents are becoming more flexible,” she says, adding, “It is important to decide which areas are non-
negotiable for you.” For example, while parents may decide that while everyone is home they are comfortable allowing more time for gaming, but they may still enforce a strict shut-off time in the evening. 
For more ideas on changed parenting, she suggests reading this April article in the Atlantic, “It’s OK to be a different kind of parent during the pandemic.”
“The most important thing is to leave your child happy, emotionally intact and balanced,” says Dinah. 
For more information, email: or 
For more tips, fill out the survey to share your desired topics and then sign up for an upcoming workshop:


Summer 5780: all on one site

In these unprecedented times, Jewish organizations everywhere have been stretching in new ways to reimagine and reinvent #Summer5780.
Jewish Federations of North America is curating summer resources for people of all ages, with a focus on children and younger adults. Jewish Together features a virtual community and informative resources, powered by JFNA.
Go to to discover virtual opportunities for kids and college students, families and twentysomethings, offered by all types of Jewish organizations, all curated by Jewish Together.
You can search for activities and events by age group: babies, preschool and parents; elementary school; middle school; high school; college; and 20s and 30s.
Find connection, community, learning and laughter. Add structure to your summer and make #Summer5780 matter.


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