Busy Philipps On the Pandemic Parenting Lesson She’s Taking Back to School

Like so many moms over the past pandemic year, actress Busy Philipps admits she struggled when it came to her kids and school. But it wasn’t the challenges of remote learning, Zoom set-ups, or even new math that flummoxed the Freaks and Geeks and Girls5eva star — for starters, because Philipps’ two kids, Birdie, 13, and Cricket, 8, were actually learning in-person last year. Nope, it was homework. The technicality of it all. The getting it submitted online.

“I’m not great at setting up parent portals,” she explains. “I do not thrive in the registration and parent portal activation. Like, I definitely was not cut out for that part of parenting and so much of their work last year — even though they were in person for school — was submitted online and I never could figure it out.”

Are you nodding along in recognition? Perhaps feeling her pain at having not just one, but two kids who had online… stuff, shall we say, to figure out? Philipps even shared her own online mom-fail, admitting that she forgot to order a yearbook for Cricket. “We ordered one for the upper school,” she explains, “but then I don’t know where the email went for the lower school. We just forgot. Thankfully they had extras, so my little one didn’t even know.”

Speaking to SheKnows in July as part of a partnership with Oui by Yoplait and essie for National Self Care Day, Philipps was still mentally in summer mode but was more than happy to reflect on the challenges of navigating a new school for her kids in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and share the school-related silver lining from the experience that she’s taking into the new school year with her.

The family moved across the country at the beginning of the school year last year, and Philipps raves about the “amazing protocols” that her kids’ school had in place, which allowed them to attend in person. “They were put in pods and they wore masks and there was weekly testing and it was a lot, but they both went the entire year in person to school,” she says, gratitude evident in her voice.

That doesn’t mean it was easy — and that’s one reason why Philipps’s long-held approach to self-care for her kids is more important than ever, and something other parents can learn from.

I think that identifying how you’re feeling and identifying emotions and where they’re coming from is one of the most valuable things you can help your kids with

“I think that identifying how you’re feeling and identifying emotions and where they’re coming from is one of the most valuable things you can help your kids with,” she explains, “because things get conflated and emotions run high. There’s a lot of stressors.”

Philipps’s trick is to think of it as an extension of the ‘baby phase’ of parenting. “Babies are so easy,” she says (stick with her here), explaining, “once you figure out the cries, you know exactly what they need. And so the trick as your kids get older is to help them figure out their cries so that they can get what they need.

“And then your trick as an adult in terms of self-care is to figure out your own cries so that you can get what you need. Are you hungry? Do you need a yogurt snack? Are you frazzled and you need quiet? These things are hard to identify when you just spend your entire time moving forward at the speed of light. So the most valuable thing that I try to help my kids do is, before the moment that it happens, say, ‘what’s happening? what do you feel right now?’”

That approach proved valuable when it came to helping her kids thrive during the past challenging school year — and it’s a lesson she’s taking with her into this new season. Philipps admits that even the beginning of the school year was hard on her older child in particular, “because we’re in middle school now — oh, good Lord, middle school” and says, “I just entered into it with a different view of how I was going to communicate with the teachers.”

Philipps found herself communicating not just about school matters, but about her kids and what was going on with them as whole people, sending emails like, ‘Cricket doesn’t didn’t seem like herself this morning, I think she might really be homesick for Los Angeles. I think she’s really missing friends. If you could just check in on her and let me know…’ and reaching out to the dean when she knew there were interpersonal dramas going on with the kids at school.

For a working mom who’s felt her fair share of guilt over not being able to be there for “every single thing” for her kids, it felt like a breakthrough.

“I try to just figure out how best to support my kids and their learning, and I actually found this past year of school to be my most successful one in terms of communication and really treating the school like partners in education and helping my kids be the best people they can be,” she says. “Previously, I hadn’t thought of being as communicative with teachers in terms of what’s going on at home, or what the kids are going through.”

She adds, “I mean, I never thought to be that kind of parent before the pandemic.”

Before you go, check out our gallery on Cute & Stylish Kids Face Masks.

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