Your two lives have converged. Parenting and work, all under one roof. It feels like disorder, chaos; your pre-quarantine life is buried somewhere in the heap. (Hopefully nap time is still a thing.) But for many of us, now working from home and quarantining according to government guidelines, we are juggling (and struggling) to keep our children entertained and educated while staying on top of work projects, expectations and deadlines.
Here are some tips on how to work through this temporary, but uncertain time:
- Establish familiar routine in new surroundings. Most of us, especially children, thrive when we know we are waking up to a plan. Though it might be tempting to spend that time once spent on commuting on some extra zees, it’s best to establish schedule to set the expectations. Meet with the family at breakfast at the same time every day before everyone starts their activities. If the kids’ usual school bell rung at 8:45, sit down to start homeschooling at the same time, or plan a scheduled activity to begin at that time every day, Monday thru Friday. Google Docs or a good ol’ pencil and paper are great ways to organize the day and post on the fridge where everyone can see it.
- Pre-make and pre-plan meals. This might be something you were already doing, but meal planning has never been more important. Make a plan for the week so you don’t have to add grocery shopping to your list of things to do. Prepare easy meals ahead of time; slow cooker; chili; soups; tuna melts; whatever keeps your head above water. And, let’s face it, everyone loves breakfast for dinner!
- Buy yourself some time. Keep a list of videos you can throw on for elementary and preschool kids. Especially ones that get them moving! Work-life balance writer, Avni Patel Thompson, suggests in Harvard Business Review online physical activities for kids are a great way to keep them occupied for some time. Cosmic Kids Yoga or Go Noodle can help burn that extra kid energy, and buy you some work time. Thompson also suggests swapping duties with a partner. Four hours working, four hours with kids, trade on and off, as it works with your schedules. Depending on the age of your children, maybe shorter shifts would be more fruitful.
Another way to buy yourself some time is set up a virtual play dates with friends. Maybe they talk, do a craft, colour together while in each other’s virtual company. If they are of the appropriate age, try a novel study. Tuck Everlasting, The Hobbit, Watership Down, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe are only a few of the common classics you may have tucked onto your library shelves.
Art Hub for Kids is also a great interactive way for kids to be online and learn something new.
- Gear up for Home Schooling. Did you ever think you would be your child’s school teacher? Now’s your chance! While some schools have already posted lessons and curriculums online, some parents are flying blind until teachers work through setting up online instruction.
There are endless websites selling school resources and ideas. Here are some of the more reliable ones that don’t cost a lot to join:
- IXL is great for developing math skills and has access to worksheets grades 1 thru 12.
- Education.com has access to endless worksheets for preschool to grade 5, inclusive in math and in reading and writing in English, and reading comprehension exercises.
- French reading and writing skills for elementary schoolers, check out this website.
- For ideas and resources in all grades, Canadian Home Education provides some good resources.
- A Canadian curriculum list is provided in this link.
- Schoolclosures.org also has excellent resources and information for scheduling the day and accessing worksheets.
Most companies selling school resources are offering reduced fee on their membership costs in the wake of school closures.
- Take communication to a new level. Remember our expectations of ourselves and of others need a reset at this time. This is when communication with each other—our kids, our co-workers, our bosses, and our partners is paramount. You might not be accomplishing all that you once did with a full work day stretched out before you. (Or maybe you are accomplishing more!) Don’t be afraid to be open about your circumstances for the day with you colleagues, managers, etc.—one day may not look like another when you are working from home.
Make sure everyone’s priorities are on the same page, and let them know what you can deliver on and what needs to wait until a later date. With the family, use “code” words to express what you need effectively when you have reached your limit. “I love you, but mom/dad needs some quiet time.” Give your loved ones cues that can be quickly understood in a loving way.
It’s overwhelming. But trust that it’s not going to be forever. We’re all feeling it – it’s the new family order. Sticking to a routine can help some, others will fare better adapting to situations as they arise. This is a time for trial and error. If you’re dealing with too much, decide what has to go. As parents, it’s a time for creativity, patience, and forgiveness. And that may be the only thing that hasn’t changed.