Photo of a baby's hand place on top of an adult's hand

Parents: Raising children... and their voices

A powerful voice that brought calm to the chaos of COVID-19 was that of the parent. Moms and dads stepped in and stepped up as children of all ages sought comfort and security amidst an unprecedented pandemic. When the world turned upside down and support infrastructure crumbled, it was parents who buried their own fears and gave us hope that we would somehow make it through.

Moms and dads worked tirelessly to safeguard their families as jobs and loved ones were lost, businesses closed, and mental health declined. At the same time, many parents found strength they never knew they had. They reclaimed their time, reexamined their priorities and became fierce advocates for their families. As we look to the year ahead, I believe parents will continue to be among the most relevant of voices, most notably in the areas of employment and education.

The “Great Resignation” of 2021 is one indicator of the relevance of parents in today’s economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 4 million Americans turned in their resignations in the month of June 2021 alone, driven by mid-career employees between the ages of 30 and 45. Not surprisingly, this group is also most likely to have young children. Parents are fed up with imbalance and unrealistic expectations. They’re demanding more flexibility and work-from-home options, as well as quality health care – including pediatric behavioral health support to help address the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health.

The pandemic also found parents playing a far more active role in their children’s education – both as educators and advocates. Moms and dads attempted to juggle their day jobs with the challenges of online learning coordination and providing technical support for their kids. They also had a front-row seat to the learning challenges and education gaps, as well as moments of growth and celebration. As the walls dissolved between home and school, the parent/teacher relationship changed dramatically and newfound exposure to the system positioned parents as much stronger partners in their children’s education.

The COVID-19 crisis also brought rise to parental advocacy and activism. Parents mobilized to ensure their voices were heard at the highest levels of learning institutions. Moms and dads were instrumental in accelerating the reopening of schools, fighting for special education support, and reaching underserved families with essential resources, among other areas of impact. These influential groups are not sunsetting with the pandemic – they are building incredible momentum. They are affecting lasting policy change and creating forums for ongoing dialogue and feedback loops that had not previously existed. Parents will continue to be a relevant voice in education, shaping parent and teacher collaboration, communication and coordination in a post-pandemic world.

I believe we are experiencing a historic movement in which parents are taking their power back and using their voices to affect change for generations to come. Moms and dads are joining together like never before and using their influence to shape a new, healthier, balanced and more equitable normal – as the most relevant voice of 2022.