5 Bright Spots From Our Crappy Year Of Pandemic Parenting

Anyone who parented through 2020 knows how difficult it has been. Parents are anxious and exhausted. Many are coping with the trauma of losing friends and loved ones, jobs, and safe spaces where their children can be educated. There is no sugar coating how devastating the past year has been for millions of American families.

But along the way, moms and dads have found small joys to cherish and celebrate — and those bright spots are important to remember if for no other reason than to help us bounce back from our current crisis.

HuffPost Parents first asked our amazing community about silver linings in April when we noted that we had all been through a few difficult weeks of isolation. (Oh, how little we knew back then!) As this year comes to a close, we asked our readers again. Here are some of the bright spots from 2020.

For parents of a 9-year-old with leukemia, the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise.

Cynthia’s son was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2019, which was challenging for her family in so many ways. She and her husband had to work from home and take sick leave in order to give their son 24-hour care. They worried they’d lose their jobs. Her son left school and started home-schooling, but he had a hard time and really missed his classmates and teacher.

“Then the pandemic hit and we were forced to work from home (win!), all schooling went online (Another win! My son was able to join his class and teacher again virtually!), and we were all able to spend more time together and help our son through his cancer battle,” Cynthia wrote.

The pandemic also normalized mask-wearing, which her son had been told to do because of his cancer.

“He was so self-conscious about it,” Cynthia said. “Once the pandemic came around, and everyone was wearing masks, he felt normal again (yet another win!). All in all, this crazy pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for our family.”

Kids have learned practical, lifelong skills …

“My kids have been learning to cook simple meals!” said Tamara. Her three children — ages 15, 12 and 11 — have had to take care of themselves more while Tamara teaches during the day. Her work gives her a different lunchtime than theirs.

“They have become active in helping me plan the meals, order groceries and learned to cook for themselves,” she said. “Life skill!”

Megan said that the past year has really helped her son branch out.

“He was 100% focused on sports prior,” she said, “but learned to lean into art and cooking when group sports became nonexistent. He’s more well-rounded as a result.”

… And parents have learned who their kids really are.

“This break has helped us see that a lot of my son’s anger issues come from a deep level of anxiety,” said Heather, who said that after spending a few weeks closely watching him navigate his days, she had a much better understanding of what he was grappling with.

“We were able to start treatment for therapy, even though it’s through Zoom,” she said. “We have found our happy little guy again.”

Parents have reclaimed small moments of connection throughout the day.

“My husband used to spend 1.5 hours commuting,” said Sara. “Having him work from home has been life-changing and he has had so much bonding time with our 9-year-old that I am thankful for.”

Many parents shared similar stories, describing how working from home allowed them to reconnect during the day in ways they never had before. Michelle said she’s been able to cook breakfast for and eat lunch with her 13-year-old. “Being a teen girl is hard enough (I remember!) so having this opportunity to connect and chat throughout each day has been such a small but important blessing in the midst of all the craziness,” she said.

And while many families are no longer together all day, they remember what it was like to have that time earlier this year — even amid such trying circumstances. “We were working and learning from home in the spring together (us, and 21- and 10-year old),” said Carolynn. “For a while, every day at lunch we stopped everything and played a family game. It was very cool.”

Families have sloooowed down around the holidays.

“This is the first year in, maybe, ever that I have been able to actually truly slow down and soak in Christmas,” said Mackenzie, who is normally working right up to the holidays and cramming in “fun” holiday activities while also coaching her kiddos’ sports teams and just generally getting ready.

“My kids finished virtual school last week,” she explained. There have been fewer activities to do and just more time together.

Even the family dog is reaping the benefits and getting “lots of love and cuddles,” Mackenzie said.