By: Rima Muth
With all New York schools closed statewide due to the COVID-19, many parents are facing the challenge of juggling work and keeping young children occupied and/or managing their child’s online schoolwork. You may be faced with suddenly working from home yourself or still going into your job while still having to manage your kids while they are at home. Or maybe you are a stay-at-home parent and suddenly ALL your kids are at home with different needs. Each of these scenarios can be a little overwhelming at first but with some creative scheduling and a few deep breaths (okay, maybe more than a few!) you will find your family groove in the new normal.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Set Up a Routine
This includes you! Whether you are still going to the office, new to working at home or suddenly have your kids with you while you work, both you and your kids will need a daily routine.
There are tons of sample schedules online but some key elements are a set wake up and bed time, designated times for school work, screen time (aside from what is required to complete schoolwork), and exercise/active time.
While it is best to keep some day to day consistency, you may have to tweak your schedule each day. Start with some sort of a daily plan and post it on the fridge so everyone in the house can check to see what’s coming up next. If you didn’t get it all done – DON’T FEEL GUILTY! The schedule is there to help guide you, not stress you out.
Sample Daily Schedule:
2. Tap All Your Resources
You’ve come up with a schedule – that’s great!! Now share the plan with your kids and their caregiver if you are heading out to work. If you are working from home and your kids can read, ask them to help keep track. If there is another adult in the house, divide and conquer and assign specific tasks for each other. Let the family chef and artist in residence take charge of those activities while you manage the academic things. Older siblings can also help younger ones (sometimes, when they are in the mood for it, or when the stars align correctly).
3. Embrace the Screens (a little)
The reality is that screen time for your kids will increase. While it is still good to schedule blocks of time without screens and stop screens an hour before bed, even the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that you incorporate some screen time to help make things work. Screen time can also provide important social connections for kids who have suddenly been separated from their friends. Fortunately, there are a whole slew of quality options that help get everyone through the day such as Lunch Time Doodles with author Mo Willems, reading books with Oscar winning actors, or virtually visiting museums and zoos. Check your school website to see if they have posted any resources and don’t forget to check out your local library’s website – many are offering opportunities to access books and other resources without a library card.
4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Social Media
Be kind to yourself right now. You will figure out how to make things work for your family, but it might not look like a Pinterest perfect picture. Your first attempts at setting up a schedule may flop. There may be siblings squabbling, dirty dishes in the sink, or a pile of laundry that needs to be folded in the background AND THAT’S OKAY! Even if you see social media plastered with pictures of other families happily doing crafts or baking together, try to not to get caught up in comparing yourself. You can only be the parent you are with the life you have. Relax your expectations, take a few deep breaths, and…
5. Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First
You will not be able to tackle the challenges of parenting and working in these extraordinary times if you do not make your own sanity a priority. If your family sees and feels your stress, they will pick up on it too. That daily slot for quiet time can be for you too. Consider taking a break from news or even taking a day off from work to re-group, if possible. Meditation, journaling, a hot bath or watching a movie are other ways to take care of yourself so that you can tackle the next challenge with renewed energy.
About the author: Rima Muth is a Field Consultant, Metro LI Branch of Kumon NA. – www.kumon.com