If you’re a parent in this pandemic, you deserve a medal. Not one of the chocolate ones in gold foil. The real deal.
Nine weeks of lockdown has meant nine weeks of juggling your work, your kids, and everything this health crisis has thrown at you. At times, it’s felt a lot longer.
Of course, nothing compares to the pressure faced by parents who are providing essential services on the frontlines – and by all those who’ve lost their jobs and are struggling to provide for their families.
Yet even parents who can work from home have faced a barrage of new challenges. From running a classroom in your kitchen, to carving out a workday when our kids are so talented at interrupting our meetings. Being a parent during lockdown isn’t easy.
But it turns out, parenting is also a great guide for helping us all communicate better – and focus on what really matters.
Here’s four lessons from parenting in the pandemic that we can all put to good use.
- Make your message simple – and visual.
As parents, we’re used to getting complicated questions. Where do babies come from? Why is the sky blue? Are vanilla rice krispies gluten free? And what is gluten anyway?
The last two months have been full of complicated questions for all of us. And right now, finding simple ways to explain complex issues is critical. That’s why every organization – from governments and corporations to unions and non-profits – is searching for effective ways of answering those questions and cutting through the noise.
Parents know that effective messages are simple, direct, and visual. Concrete images work better than vague ideas. And analogies are a beautiful thing: this is like that, life is like a box of chocolates – you get it.
The power of visuals and analogies is exactly what makes memes so popular and effective. As you refine your messaging to make it clear and visual, make sure you’re planning for the entire suite of social tools you need – from catchy animated spots to powerful infographics.
- Help people take action – and make a difference.
There’s nothing worse than not knowing what to do – or how to help. That’s why the most effective communication doesn’t just grab our attention and connect with our emotions. It gives us clear advice about what to do.
Wash hands. Cover mouth. Stay in. Be patient. These are simple words and simple instructions. But they work – for kids and adults alike – because they give us something to do and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Any time you’re crafting messages, try to give clear advice about what people can do to help. Once you’ve connected with your audience, they’ll want to know how they can make a difference.
- Reach people where they’re at – and build on what they’re already feeling.
If there’s one question that parents everywhere are asking themselves, it’s this.
How do teachers and education workers do it every day?
For parents across the country, two months of distance learning has confirmed more than just our frustration with slow internet. This is a teachable moment about the value of education workers and public education. Parents are feeling a wave of respect and appreciation for every classroom worker. And that sense of appreciation can grow.
In recent years, publicly-funded schools have been hit hard with everything from school closures and bigger class sizes, to layoffs in the midst of this pandemic. And teachers and educators have worked hard to show parents that we’re all on the same side, looking out for what’s best for our kids.
This is a vital moment to build that sense of partnership between education workers and parents. Because every parent has a fresh understanding of the incredibly hard work that educators do.
It’s just one example of a broader lesson.
Connect with what people are going through. Build on what they’re feeling. And don’t let the moment pass by without acting on what people are experiencing right now.
- Keep communicating and grow the conversation. Now more than ever.
Parenting also teaches us the most valuable lesson of all: Never stop communicating. The most important thing is to keep talking to our kids throughout these difficult times.
It’s equally important that unions and non-profits keep talking with our audiences. Just because we’re staying home doesn’t mean we should stay quiet.
This lockdown is a unique moment. It’s causing many people to find new appreciation for what really matters. And the emotions we experience – and the impressions we form – will have enduring power to shape our perspectives for years to come.
That’s why we need to speak to our supporters and allies, while also reaching out to those we haven’t reached before. Now is a chance to bring more people into the conversation.
We need to ensure that people’s appreciation for health care workers, public workers, and essential workers of all kinds doesn’t diminish as soon as the lockdown is relaxed. We need to keep communicating about the need for better pay and secure benefits and the value of strong public services. And it’s up to us to frame the conversations and start the campaigns that we’re going to need to make a real difference in people’s lives.
Because the real medal that parents need for enduring this pandemic isn’t some token. We’re going to need action to build the public services that families need today – and that our kids and their families will need for decades to come.
Renée Cable is our Winnipeg-based Account Manager, where she works with clients across the prairies and Northern Canada. She’s working from home with her kids – and encouraging her son to practice his tuba lessons on the front step.