The concept of ‘good enough’

The notion ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ has never resonated more than in recent weeks for the Girls Grammar community. The global pandemic has meant it is a stressful time to be a parent, a teacher and a worker.

Alas, when one is trying to juggle all three of these roles at once, stress does not even begin to describe the challenge, for this presents an impossible task. As is the Girls Grammar way, we each strive to do our best and approach things with precision and dedication. Yet, to sustain our efforts, we must allow ourselves permission to be less than perfect during the current crisis. For this is not a time for flawlessness, but rather kindness, compassion and understanding, particularly towards ourselves.

We are hearing in the community that many parents have assumed the role of teacher, coach and friend for their daughters. What is more, they are shouldering this with vigour, trying to be the best they can be, juggling younger children, elderly parents and bored adolescents, with many attempting to continue to work from home fulltime. We have also heard that some parents working away from home have felt guilty and worried because they must prioritise the health, welfare or economy of their family, or in many cases the country, above their 7th graders’ spelling. Many of our teachers are juggling parenting, while teaching both their own children and our students. Meanwhile, grandparents are feeling bereft at the loss of contact, and family pets are perplexed and a little miffed that the household is encroaching on their ‘me time’. Remote learning has resulted in our usual roles, routines and boundaries being blurred, or for some even broken. Thus, we rely more than ever on our Girls Grammar village to ensure we work together to support, settle and help every one of our girls navigate the challenge she is facing.

What has become clear is how much our parents are responding to the task they face with an earnestness mirroring their daughters’. Recent conversations with Girls Grammar parents have revealed they are assisting their daughters to stay on task with schoolwork, keep active and remain connected, with the tenacity and conscientiousness of a straight-A student. At times, we talk with students about perfectionism and encourage girls to embrace the concept of ‘good enough’. However, remote learning invites us to extend this advice to many of our parents. In 1953, British paediatrician, Donald Winnicott, introduced the term ‘good enough’ to describe parenting a baby. Good enough parents are those who ‘get it right’ most of the time. They make mistakes along the way, sometimes they lose their temper and sometimes they fail to be empathic. Research indicates that caregivers only need to get it right approximately 50 per cent of the time when responding to a baby’s needs to achieve a positive attachment. The concept of good enough parenting extends beyond the baby years, and has never been more important for the village to embrace than now. During the current pandemic, rather than striving to be perfect, we all need to embrace being good enough. If we manage to get it right half the time, our children really will be OK. Faced with new family routines, unheralded dependence on technology, a flooding of daily negative news reports, unrelenting uncertainty, and a lack of our usual support structures, this village will endure due to our collaboration, compassion and empathy.

Times are difficult, but this situation is temporary. Tips for good enough parenting during remote learning include:

  • be kind to yourself, prioritise self-care, keep things in perspective, pick your battles, and take things one day at a time
  • if your daughter is struggling, acknowledge her feelings (disappointment, fear, stress, uncertainty), but try to help her keep things in perspective. She will not fail, this will not ruin her life and she is not going to have to repeat the year. If you avoid catastrophising the situation, then so will she
  • accept that you do not have to function at your usual level right now. Chances are nobody can. Readjust your expectations and give yourself permission to be good enough. You may need to relax your standards and let things slide. This is OK. You are modelling for your daughter how to be adaptable and cope in a crisis
  • although your daughter may be doing remote learning at home, you are still her parent. If you think she is working too hard, becoming distressed, or has been sitting too long in front of a screen, then you have permission to step in and tell her she has done enough school work for the day
  • stay in touch with the School. Your daughter’s teachers and Head of House are always interested in knowing if you or your daughter is needing help. When she has not been able to complete school work, or missed a Zoom lesson, then let the teacher know. So too, will her teacher be in touch with our students and parents if they are concerned
  • try to maintain your sense of humour. While the dog barking, garbage truck roaring and the neighbour’s whipper-snipper all going on during a Zoom lesson may be less than ideal, there will come a time when you will laugh about it
  • take a deep breath. Every day you and your children are able to get some work done, even if you are both wearing pyjama bottoms, is a good day!

Director of Counselling
Mrs Jody Forbes