Across the country — and around the world — leaders are making the difficult decision to close schools and child care centers in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. And across the globe, parents are wondering: Now what?
Wendy Grolnick, professor of psychology at Clark, has information relevant to that question. An expert on parenting and children’s motivation and adjustment, she focuses on how home and school environments affect children’s motivation and how factors such as stress, support, and external pressures — such as a global pandemic — help or hinder parents’ abilities to provide resources to their children.
In a March 18, 2020, blog post for Medium.com, Grolnick provides tips for parents who are home with their children for extended periods. At the center of her guidance is structure. “My goal … is to share research from the areas of disaster mental health and parenting that might be helpful as we negotiate this unexplored territory. I’ll stress the importance of structure and attempt to address it from the standpoints of disaster and parenting research.”
She writes, “Research on coping with disasters suggests that the structure is especially important for disaster or emergency situations. Changes in routines as a function of natural or man-made disasters make children feel like things are uncertain or out of control. And children tend to be very tuned in to the fact that, by definition, adults feel this way as well with the uncertainty of the situation.”
Grolnick has worked extensively with parents after disasters, including in Sandy Hook, Conn., after the 2012 elementary school shooting that killed 20 children and six adult staff members and with the American Red Cross following the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
In 2018, Grolnick was the lead author on “Improving adjustment and resilience in children following a disaster: Addressing research challenges,” published in the American Psychologist journal.
Grolnick has developed a preventive parenting intervention, The Parent Check-In, to help parents provide environments that increase well-being for children. She previously was an American Psychological Association Fellow placed at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).