Rebuilding After the Storm

By Taryn Yates

It’s been a year since the reality of covid truly began to dawn on all of us here in Idaho. A rough year full of anxiety, uncertainty, and a whole lot of stress. Some families lost economic stability in terms of lost jobs or hours. Some continued to work in scary and stressful conditions. Others lost houses and loved ones. And everyone lost feelings of safety and certainty in the world around them. Yet, here we are, a year later, still hanging on. Idaho parents have proven themselves to be remarkably resilient, but they are tired, and they need help.

Parents, as I can attest to personally, had a particularly challenging time with covid as many of us also had to find ways to balance our work responsibilities with child rearing in a time where schools and early childhood facilities were moved online, closed, or had reduced and irregular hours. As we all coped with increased isolation and decreased access to key resources, the ensuing emotional and logistical difficulties faced by families highlighted just how important supports are to promote family and child wellbeing. Supports from friends and family as well as social programs and concrete resources help buffer the effects of stress, so families are better able to weather life’s storms.

The storm in this case, a global pandemic, isn’t over yet, but there does seem to be clearer skies ahead. More and more people are being vaccinated every day, schools have reopened, and temperatures are warming up giving us more opportunity to enjoy the open air of the outdoors. If every storm cloud has a silver lining, it’s been hard to see it in the covid 19 pandemic. What I can say for certain, though, is that I have renewed appreciation for my pre-covid family support systems- everything from my children’s schools to extended family to my teenage babysitters who made parenting easier. I can’t wait to have it all back!

I am lucky. Not everyone has a family support system or money left over to pay a babysitter.

Fortunately, we have a rare opportunity ahead of us: the federal government recently passed the American Rescue Plan, which will infuse money into various programs in Idaho. Programs such as Head Start, home visiting, early childhood education, and community-based child abuse prevention will receive one-time funds to enhance and expand their programs to benefit many more Idaho families. This funding can provide the scaffolding needed for families and communities to rebuild and be stronger than before.

Another way to support families is through schools. When schools shut down, we all realized what a pivotal role they play in our communities. In addition to teaching our children, they provide regular meals, health screenings, counseling, respite, and contact with caring adults. Some schools, called Community Schools, even provide things like parent education, food closets, diaper banks, and social programs. As schools return to in-person learning, they are dealing with an influx of students who have experienced varying amounts of trauma. Everyone involved– teachers, students, and parents—is going to need extra care and understanding as we move forward.

Each of us has a story about how the pandemic has affected us and our families. Many of us have felt isolated. If Covid has taught us anything, it is to appreciate how much we need each other. We have an opportunity to take this newfound appreciation and invest in all the systems that support families and children. We have to rebuild anyway, so let’s rebuild BETTER.