January 15, 2021

A Quarantine Camp Backpack for Parents

James Alan Astman, Ph. D. / Headmaster Emeritus


Introduction to the Video Series

I’ve spent decades writing and teaching about child and adolescent development, and about the many joys and occasional heartaches of parenting.  I’ve also had the chance to speak with generations of young people about their perspectives on parenting.  So I appreciated Jaime’s request that I offer guidance to parents in this time for which none of us had adequate preparation.

My wife and I are grandparents as well as parents.  Like everyone else trapped in these Pandemic circumstances, we rely on FaceTime and Zoom to stay in close touch with grandchildren on the east coast, and to limit our socially distant visits with our west coast grandchildren to the backyard.

As parents, themselves, our own son and our daughter have wrestled with the same questions that confront virtually every family:  How to explain to children why the world has been turned upside down?  How to manage family life when everyone is suddenly home?  How to cushion the impact of isolation from friends and family?  And, most importantly, how, in these dreadful circumstances, to promote our children’s resilience and optimism about their future?

Navigating these kinds of questions is no small task, especially when our customary roadmaps fail us.   Our homes have become our temporary tents, pitched in uncharted territory to protect us during our forced stay in “Quarantine Camp.”  Over the next several months, I’ll offer a number of relevant “camping tools” to carry in a quarantine camp parenting backpack.

My suggestions come with humility and humor, but also with seriousness of purpose.  I hope that the metaphoric camping tools –  ten in total, plus a concluding episode for young people – will give parents some useful ways of thinking about their children’s healthy development, especially under duress.  The individual camping tools include:

  • Binoculars: to help us take the long view
  • Compass: to help children find their true north
  • Walkie-talkie: to communicate by listening first
  • Thermostat: to regulate our own and our children’s ‘temperature’
  • Rope: for holding on and for letting go
  • Mirror: for seeing ourselves and reflecting back to others
  • Flashlight: to light the way forward
  • Earplugs: to find respite from all the noise
  • Pillow: to comfort and to protect
  • First Aid Kit: for camping emergencies, like the one we’re in

Notwithstanding the myriad questions that confront us all, this much is certain: at some point in the imaginable future, our children will return fully and joyfully to our lives.  May that conviction be an ongoing source of our optimism and resilience as parents!