Jo Frost has a message for parents raising kids in a pandemic: take some pressure off.
"Right now, every family's duty and obligation is to keep themselves alive," says the parenting expert known as Supernanny. "Everything else is second."
And Frost, 50, whose new season of her hit Lifetime series premieres Sept. 1, has had plenty of experience navigating familial challenges, switching course during COVID-19 from her traditional home visits to providing Zoom consultations to adults and kids.
At the start of the pandemic, "my website went mad," says Frost. "People were scared and desperate and didn't know what to do. The [crisis] highlighted a lot of issues that were already there — you couldn't run from them anymore."
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First and foremost, Frost advises that families keep a schedule, as challenging as it may be. "One task at a time," she says. "Put the lists on the wall so the family can see. It creates structure so we can feel more productive and organized and not so cluttered."
And she says not to underestimate the capabilities of children. "We do too much for our kids," she says. "We disable them. We should be teaching them life skills to make them more able to do things for themselves."
Frost suggests that parents be realistic about what exactly can be accomplished during trying times. "How can you follow school schedules and do your work," she asks. "It's no secret. You're not. But that's okay. You're not failed parents because you didn't meet every agenda on your child's schedule. There is nothing your child is going to learn right now at the age of 10 that is going to make or break their career at 24. There just isn't."
Continues Frost: "We have to get out of this cultural mindset of putting badges on ourselves and playing the martyr spinning 1,000 plates. We need to be spinning six plates, and doing it well. Otherwise plates tumble and break."
The parenting guru says she hopes families will also take advantage of unprecedented time at home, warts and all. Pre-COVID, "the art of sitting around the dining table was lost," she says. "But now, we can have dinner together. We can connect. And we can discover something new."
Ultimately, Frost says, "we're not going back to how things were. We need new normals." But, she continues, "the beauty of all of this is if we can work on what we ignored before the pandemic, we can come out with new rituals, new practices and a prioritization of what is important."
For more from Jo Frost, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.
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