Now that many of you are working from home AND being a full-time parent and teacher to your kids, the time commitment from you has likely increased but the hours in the day haven’t. The first week was likely full of anticipation and energy from the novelty of the situation. But now that this has become our “new normal,” it is probably a full-on juggle every day. Most parents are used to the Juggle Struggle of attending assemblies, getting to work on time despite meltdowns, pre-planning dinners, and trying to find opportunities for family time. Those juggles were likely a walk in the park compared to what we are dealing with now. This bizarre rollercoaster has us all moving between feelings of worry, frustration, stress, loneliness, and utter exhaustion. Now I’d like to help bring more feelings of self-compassion, control, peace, gratitude, and hope to those Super Parents who are managing it all. Afterall, if we really focus on the why of this situation, we can learn some important lessons that can completely alter the way we approach life from now on.
For my general comments and tips regarding “Crisis Schooling at Home,” as well as over 400 free/cheap resources for kids of all ages, click here.
Below are some specific tips for how to remain productive at work, enjoy time with your children, and maintain your sanity:
- Create a schedule. Children enjoy structure and are more productive because of it. Recreating something similar to what they are used to in the classroom can help ease the transition to “homeschooling.” Collaborate with your child to incorporate online school meetings, assignments, chores, outside time, physical activity, electronics time, and time when they get your undivided attention. Make sure to add in breaks, as well. You can start by highlighting times that are “non-negotiable” for interruptions, such as times they have school meetings or times they know they focus best. Once the schedule is sorted, come up with a list of things they can do if they finish something early. For instance, if they schedule 45 minutes for homework and finish in 15, they can take a virtual tour or do an exercise video. If you have children of multiple ages, consider delegating some tasks to older kids, staggering start times, and matching the noise level of different projects so everyone is loud at the same time. And remember: If you need a break from the schedule at some point, it’s OK.
If you would like help creating a personalized schedule for your children, we can help!
- Set up a workstation. Children are used to having their own desks where they can spread out and work. Give your child a specific place to work – even a spot at the coffee table or a corner of the kitchen bar will work. If you have multiple children, you can set up separate learning areas for each. The workstation should have the essentials: chair, paper, writing utensils, and tablet/laptop.
- Incorporate rewards. Use fake money to “pay” them for completing “work” (school assignments, chores, etc.) that they can “spend” on snacks, activities, and entertainment. This helps kids stay motivated while also teaching them important lessons about making the right choices, the rewards of hard work, and the value of money.
If you would like help creating a personalized reward system for your children, we can help!
- Establish “Quiet Times.” If you have a conference call, put up a note reminding your children to not interrupt you and suggesting something else they can do in the meantime.
- Take breaks. If you or your children are starting to feel stressed, take a break. This situation is different from anything we have ever experienced, so we need to give ourselves a little grace. You can go for a walk, have a dance party in the living room, or teach them something new (like baking or laundry). Or maybe you just sit them in front of a STEAM video or hand them a tablet with a math game – so that you can have some quiet time to yourself. We all need to listen to our bodies and take breaks when needed.
- Have fun. There are many resources (listed here) that make moving and learning more enjoyable. Find some things you know your child would like and introduce them so you can have some guilt-free time to yourself. Or ask your children what they are interested in, and then look for books, videos, fiction, films, crafts, projects, activities, etc. to go with that theme. Resources marked with [TL] can help with this “Thematic Learning” approach.
- Be kind to yourself. Physical, mental, and emotional health are far more important than anything else right now. So do not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours. Remind yourself that your success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal. Stay physically active, even if it is 20 minutes a day. Get fresh air by taking that call outside or eating lunch on the patio. Do not judge yourself based on what you see others doing. Instead, communicate with coworkers and friends/family about what you are facing. Accept help. Set limits. Cuddle your kids. Cry. Scream. It is OK to not be OK right now.
- Socialize (virtually). Free apps like Houseparty and Bunch can bring some cheer after a long day of working, teaching, and being in the house. Unwind with loved ones outside of your house by chatting and playing games.
None of us know how long this situation is going to last and what the world will look like once we finally have this pandemic under control. The only way to deal with uncertainty is to choose how you react to the circumstances around you. This is a perfect time to try new things and consider new possibilities. One day, we will look back on this time as see how far we have come and how much we have grown.
And if someone hasn’t told you yet, you’re doing a great job!