How to Keep the Peace in a School Pod

Keep track of issues that come up throughout the week, and schedule frequent meetings to resolve them as they arise. Yamalis Diaz, a child and adolescent psychologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, suggested alternating sitting down with your own family and with all the members of the pod every other week, “just like you would if you were working as part of a team at work.”

Set a clear agenda for these meetings to make sure all participants have the time and are emotionally prepared to address problems. Write down the decisions that are made and update your initial guiding document as needed, so your pod can refer to it later on. And be prepared to compromise.

“Everyone is really primed to be overwhelmed and anxious,” said Stephanie Lee, the senior director of the A.D.H.D. and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute in New York. And that stress can be augmented even further when you’re talking about the well-being of your children. Use empathy when bringing up problems with other members; present a potential solution and withhold judgment. “It’s important to approach this with the idea that there’s no ideal situation,” Dr. Lee said. “If there were, we’d all be doing it.”

Accounting for the specific perspectives of pod members is especially critical if any of the children in the pod have disabilities, or if the families come from different ethnic, socioeconomic or linguistic groups. “The first thing to look at is who’s spoken up more and who’s been heard less,” Dr. Lewis-McCoy said. “The only way these pods can work toward equity is finding a place of common ground,” while paying attention to the specific needs of different families to ensure each pod member is supported.

Remote learning has thrust many parents into roles normally occupied by teachers and school administrators. But educators have training and experience in dealing with problems that might seem insurmountable to parents — especially when it comes to students’ behavior in the classroom, which many parents are only seeing up close for the first time.

“Parents should be reminded they are not supposed to have all the answers,” Dr. Diaz said. She suggested seeking academic and behavioral support from a pod’s private tutor or the students’ school, and mental-health and emotional support from a counselor or therapist.

Amid the stresses of organizing logistics and managing personalities, it’s easy to forget that pods are meant to be, well, a good thing. Dr. Diaz pointed out that while parents might be in constant communication about the pod, little of that time is likely spent tending to their own self-care and relationships with other pod parents. In addition to the regular meetings, make time for an adults-only happy hour or dinner, as well as morning walks and other social activities that include the kids.

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