Pandemic Parenting Tips & Back to School Challenge


Originally Appeared In The St. Petersburg Bar Paraclete Magazine

Shannon L. Zetrouer, Esq.

The 2020 school year began like no other in the last 100 years. It is an understatement to say that the options for school this year were riddled with tough decisions. Unless you have already been homeschooling or have been waiting for a sign from the universe that you should begin homeschooling (if you have been waiting for such a sign – it’s here!), then you probably suffered from the same anxiety I was consumed by. Questions regarding safety, continuity, quality of education, peer-time, parental-sanity, and workload inundated my waking hours.

Parenting during the pandemic has been a struggle and a learning experience with beautiful moments mixed in. Now that the pandemic continues and we have no immediate plans of returning to a “normal world,” those of us with children recently faced the difficult decision of what to do for school. Now that the school year has begun and we are all making the best of whatever option we chose, I am offering a few tips from my summer and inviting you to participate in the Paraclete Parent Pandemic Challenge (“Challenge”).

No matter your child’s age, your political party affiliation, or your current work schedule – you are going to face or are currently

facing challenges due to the pandemic. We can let our lives be dictated by the pandemic or we can consider this an opportunity and seize it! When the stock market or housing market crashes, it is a burden. However, it is also an opportunity. So is this pandemic. So, the Challenge is to seize this as an opportunity and take advantage of it. How can you make the most of this situation? Are you able to travel more since everyone in your house is currently remote? Are you cooking more since you won’t go to restaurants? Are you at home more with your children and able to find time for gardening? There is something happening right now in your household that is unusual because of the pandemic. How can you take advantage of this and make it an opportunity? When you look back on 2020, instead of just marveling at the inconvenience of COVID, wouldn’t it be great if you could say that was the year you and your family: ran your first 5k together, created amazing camping memories, finally cooked recipes from that cookbook you bought years ago and haven’t had time to try or learned a new language/dance/game/sport that you love?

My house will be entirely remote for the remainder of 2020. My husband and I are both primarily working from home and our two kids will be attending virtual school with our nanny and our close friends’ children. So, my challenge for myself is to take advantage of being remote and go on an epic foliage road trip in the fall. We’re bringing our nanny since we will all be working or doing virtual school. Is there a travel challenge that would make your fall amazing? If you are worried about traveling during the pandemic, you are not alone. Here are some tips that got us through our summer trip:

  • Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are a reasonable drive and have beautiful areas to explore. Asheville, Blue Ridge, Lake Hartwell, Lake Keowee, Lake Lure, Savannah, Charleston, Hilton Head, Boone are just a few of the amazing places to visit in these states. We managed to make it to North Carolina without letting the kids set foot in a public place by bringing a “lugaloo” (check it out on Amazon) and packing our own snacks in a cooler. Instead of stopping to eat at Cracker Barrel, we stopped every 2-3 hours to let the kids run in a grassy area and use the lugaloo.
  • If you aren’t comfortable staying in a hotel (we weren’t, either), do what we did and stay in a house rental and confirm that no one will have been there for at least 48 hours (or whatever your comfort level is). We managed to do this without having to book extra nights before our arrival, but that is an option as well.
  • Stay somewhere where your mode of entertainment will be the great outdoors and preferably, your own backyard.

More ideas for enduring the pandemic with children:

  • Online classes for kids: we’ve continued with taekwondo, piano and voice lessons virtually for our first grader and music classes for our three-year-old. Music and Me, a local company, has great online music lesson options for the little ones with live classes once a week and two pre-recorded classes. Ferkile’s taekwondo has worked out well for us virtually as well. We did go to Crescent Lake Park for board-breaking.
  • Gardening: now is a great time to garden! The kids love getting dirty, watching plants grow and it is soothing for the adults as well. September is a great time to plant: beans, beets, broccoli brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, collards, eggplant, kale, lettuce, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and onions. The Earthbox, available locally and on Amazon, is supposed to be an easy kit to use for those who don’t have a good spot for a garden or want to take some of the guesswork out of successfully growing. NOTE: the Earthbox has specific instructions on what should be grown in it, so make sure to read the instructions and recommendations before purchasing your seeds. Also, check the time for growing so you don’t do what I did and plant something that takes ten weeks to grow four weeks before your vacation.
  • Mail: kids love getting things in the mail! It gives them something to look forward to, provides excitement when it arrives, and then gives them something to do. There are a plethora of kid-kits available for monthly delivery. We have been doing KiwiCo, which delivers a monthly STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) project. Other notable options include Little Passports; Amazon STEM Club; Cratejoy, We Craft; Bitsbox (for programming); Kids Curated Books; Green Kids Crafts; and Raddish (a cooking package).
  • Water toys: I always say the best thing to do in Florida in the summer is be on the water or in the water. Any toy that hooks up to a hose will provide my kids some enjoyment and also, importantly – wear them out! You can find great options, depending on the age of your children, at the local pool store or online at Walmart or Amazon.
  • Wear your kids out before bedtime: Bedtime routines may have taken a hit during the pandemic. At our house, I found that wearing the kids out makes bedtime a lot easier. Since I’m already running low on space in this article, check out

What will you do for the Challenge? How about a State Park Challenge? A County Park Challenge? You could do a paddleboard Challenge and explore Weedon Island, Ft. DeSoto, Clam Bayou, Northshore Park, Coffee Pot Bayou, and Demen’s Landing. You could do a family memory Challenge and create time capsules with your kids or put together family photo albums or videos. Get technologically hip and create a TikTok with your kids. Invest in a great canopy, umbrella, or tent, do a beach challenge and visit the local beaches as if you were a local. Visit the incredible Florida springs with a “Visit the Top 5 Springs in Florida Challenge”.  You get the idea. Whatever you challenge yourself with – keep the Paraclete posted! We’d love to hear about it and see the pictures.


Shannon L. Zetrouer is the managing partner of ZP Legal, PLLC which focuses on real estate matters. Her passion for law is only superseded by her love for her children, Ariana Sol and Austen Lee, and her husband, Trevor.

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