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PTO “Closed”? That's OK.

The PTO Is Closed

Struggling to continue school parent group business during the prolonged coronavirus school closures? You’re not alone—and we get it. Try our tips to avoid burnout and keep it together.

by Elizabeth S. Leaver


We have an active social community of parent group leaders and volunteers, and we’re grateful for the many contributions and perspectives we get from members. Earlier on in the pandemic, we saw a thread where leaders were commiserating about not being able to focus on their PTO and PTA work at that unprecedented time when their home and work lives had been completely upended:

“Quarantine seems to have made me irritable and if I see one more person asking about [Teacher Appreciation Week] I might lose it.”

“The PTO is closed…sorry.”

“More power to you if you're still PTOing in quarantine, but my kids are out, I'm out.”

“It would be nice to just let everyone breathe, what with having to take in and take ON so much change at once.”

We totally get it—even if it's the case months later.

Since the more widespread coronavirus school closures began, we’ve been providing resources for PTOs and parents ranging from activities to do at home and ideas for teacher appreciation to more nuts-and-bolts information about doing online elections, running virtual meetings, and budgeting when you're not sure what's going on. If you have the bandwidth and the interest in taking on some remote PTO work now, we want to help, and we’ll continue to do so.

Free Guide: Adapting Your PTO Work During Coronavirus School Closures

But if you don’t, or can’t, we support that, too! Everyone’s pulling it together the best they can, and that looks different in every home right now. We’ll all eventually get there, but it might mean taking a break from certain tasks right now—or taking a break, period. To that end, try these tips for avoiding burnout (adapted from our sister site to help keep yourself together—right now and over the long term.

Remember That You’re Not Alone

(Over)communicate to friends, family, and your PTO pals. Don’t be shy about reaching out when you need support or ideas, or a chance to vent. You're probably already using Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms for work or school activities for your kids—hopefully by now you’ve discovered that they work great for happy hour check-ins, too.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Protect your space. Yes, your family needs you, but it’s like the airplane face mask analogy—you’re only in good shape for them if you get enough oxygen first. Don’t feel compelled to respond to every request immediately; take the time to breathe through moments when you need to. Even five minutes help!

Get up, get out, and move. Exercise is encouraged during quarantine, and lots of leaders say it’s been an essential part of staying centered.

Indulge—it’s OK. There’s a reason it’s called “comfort food.” Favorite takeout meals, sweet treats you try to avoid most of the time, a relaxing bath—finding ways to break up your days and make things a little special here and there is great self-care.

Take screen breaks! We’re on screens now more than ever, and it’s important to give our eyes—and minds—a rest. Make it a point to get up, stretch, attend to a quick chore, take a quick walk—anything that will force you to leave the devices behind for a bit.

Dedicate a specific time for things you want to do. For example, block off an hour a few afternoons a week to dig into a hobby or other pursuit that has meaning for you.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Bad days happen. A little bit on edge? It’s OK—few people are at their best right now. Cut everyone (including yourself) some slack.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. You might see all the flaws and might-have-beens when you compare now with what it’s normally like at home and with your PTO life. Ease up and remind yourself you’re doing the best you can.

Accept what your resources allow you to do. Your home was not set up to be a classroom. Your own kids can’t always be contained or occupied. Try to be OK with that because pretty much everyone is in the same boat.

And Finally, Perspective

There’s no doubt—this is really tough. But like all things, it will pass. In the meantime, remember that however you need to get through it is OK—even if that means the PTO is closed for now.

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