As businesses and schools across the nation shut their doors amid the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), parents have been forced to adjust to an entirely new “normal” — juggling remote work with remote school (or no school) while also acting as pillars of support for their children as they navigate this novel crisis.
It’s no secret that with this level of unprecedented disruption comes overwhelming feelings of confusion and uncertainty for both parents and their children, and it’s important to note that because family dynamics vary, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, the tips that follow can be used as a starting point for any parent who has found themselves at a loss while in the midst of this adjustment.
Don’t shy away from discussing COVID-19 with your children. Once you’ve had a chance to calm your own thoughts and feelings, start a conversation with your children by asking them what they have heard and how that has made them feel. To the extent that you find appropriate based on your children’s age, share the facts with them. Give them time to ask you any questions they may have. Inform them of the measures that you are taking to ensure your family’s safety. And clue them in on how this will change your day-to-day routine.
Create a loose routine for you and your family, “loose” being the operative word here. While it’s helpful to designate specific times for eating, working/studying, playing, and sleeping, it’s equally important for parents to be gentle with themselves if and when things go awry.
One fun way to get the entire family involved and invested in this loose routine is to turn it into an art project. Use the tools at your disposal, like a piece of paper and some colored pencils, and map out your daily routine in a creative way. Hang it up on your refrigerator after it’s done so the whole family can be reminded of what’s to come.
If you have a significant other, start your weekdays off with a quick rundown of your work schedules. What important meetings do you have on your calendar that you can’t miss? Do you have any tight deadlines? Understanding your work priorities and how those can be alternated to accommodate your children’s schedule will help you and your significant other find a balance and share the load throughout the day.
Alternating work schedules with your significant other might not always be possible, depending on your respective lines of work. However, if it is, then it can help ensure that your children are kept engaged and stimulated by a responsible adult throughout the day.
Finding creative ways to balance work and family during this time is key, and most employers are understanding of that. See if you can take a shorter workweek, like four 10-hour days instead of the usual five 8-hour days.
Let’s face it — parenting is stressful. Add a pandemic into the mix, and that stress is sure to kick up more than a couple of notches. Remember that caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your children. Lean in on what usually works for you during stressful events. That could be meditation, exercise, or (virtual) therapy.
Regardless of how you find a balance during COVID-19, make sure there is plenty to keep your children busy. This might include anything from a limited amount of educational programming, arts and crafts, supervised outdoor play (if permissible in your area), games, and more.
Many schools are opting for online or alternative education to keep kids on track with their studies while schools remain closed for health and safety. If that isn’t the case, there are plenty of free and low-cost online educational resources used by homeschoolers that you can also take advantage of during this time. Some popular options include websites like Khan Academy, SoftSchools, Starfall, and Scholastic Home Base to name a few.
If you’re working remotely, keep in mind that things may not always go as planned. You will experience interruptions. However, with planning and resources available, like those mentioned here, you can limit those interruptions, keep your kids busy, but supervised, and complete your obligations to your employer.