Coronavirus Diary: How My Family Is Coping With the New Normal

ByDanielle Ward on Mar 26, 2020

We’re in the middle of our second week of coronavirus quarantine at our home in New Jersey. I’m a working mom with two teenagers—one with dyscalculia and processing issues and one with ADHD. And right now, I’m feeling totally overwhelmed. We’re in uncharted territory.

I’m usually in control. I’m usually an organized person and can pull together an action plan for any crisis. But this is not a typical crisis. This is a global pandemic, and it has just hit our area. The enormity of this pressure and panic feels like a vise squeezing my head. I’m starting to hyperventilate.

But as a parent, I can’t lose my cool. The kids are watching and looking for answers. Reality has started to sink in. We have to adjust to this new “normal” of social distancing—staying away from other people.

That phrase alone took hours to explain to the kids. But what they really want to know is what it means to them. Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Their schools are shut down until further notice, and everything has changed.
  2. They’re cooped up with just the family. No hanging out with friends. Full stop.
  3. My husband and I are working from home. That means extra rules for them so we can actually work.
  4. If they go for a walk just to get out, they have to keep 6 feet or more away from others, so even walking is weird.
  5. For my daughter, it may mean no prom, no graduation ceremony, and none of the other traditions that go with being a senior.
  6. For my son, it means having his parents be his teachers when learning is a challenge to begin with.

School being closed has added a ton of drama for our family. School systems across the country are scrambling to put together remote learning plans for teachers and students. And every school is doing something different.

You can see that play out in our home.

My daughter’s high school has figured out an online learning system pretty quickly. She’s adjusted easily, with only a few panic-driven moments. I feel more secure since we’re getting two to three emails a day with updates to both students and parents. After the first few days, it actually feels sort of normal.

Then there’s my son’s school. They’re not using an online learning video resource. They’re only posting assignments and lessons via their online portal. My son has trouble with executive function. He struggles on a good day with basic organization and time management tasks.

These aren’t very good days.

Adding to our stress is that his IEP accommodations are not being addressed with this new remote learning setup. We’ve had two or three meltdowns a day. I’m losing my patience. It’s like we’ve suddenly been dropped into the wild, wild west.

Here’s an example:

The clock is ticking: 10:59...10:58...10:57

Connor: “Mom, I only have a few minutes left in my online quiz and I can’t find my notes! I only have a few minutes left. Help!”

Me: “Connor, why are you taking this quiz now? We talked about it this morning and you were going to do this in the afternoon.”

Connor: “I clicked the link and it started counting down. I have to finish it! I’m going to fail if I don’t finish it.”

How did this happen? How did I become the teacher overnight? How are we expected to keep this up for weeks or months?

I’m not equipped for this. I’m overwhelmed. The world has tipped. Each day has a new struggle. I’m hoping with some time and a bit of patience, I can find our balance again. Because this is our new normal.

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About the author

About the author

Danielle Ward is a member of Understood’s marketing team and passionate about parent advocacy for special education.