If you’re a parent with young children and you’re working from home, stress levels are high and you may be wondering if there’s a way to make it easier. Distance learning has given parents a new appreciation for what teachers do every day, now that parents have to take on the teacher role for the time being.
Trying to juggle parenting with working from home can feel like you have an extra full-time job. Relationships may be strained. You’re not alone in this. Parents everywhere are fighting for productivity and balance, structure and fun. Here are some work from home tips to maximize your time as a parent and a professional.
Even the best laid plans sometimes need to be thrown out the window. Although a daily schedule allows for structure and normalcy, be willing to bend your plans if needed. Kasey Woods, a New York-based mother of three, said she switched from her initial rigid weekly schedule to a day-by-day approach. “The schedule only lasted a week – it was too stressful,” she said. “You have good intentions, but it sets you up to fail.” A flexible mindset can keep stress levels at bay, especially as new challenges come up.
2. Keep kids’ brains occupied.
If the kids are done with school and you still need time to focus on work, avoid sitting them down with a TV show or video game. Try to plan activities that need little supervision but are working their brains and beating boredom. You’ll feel less guilty for taking time to yourself because they aren’t mindlessly watching something; they’re engaging their minds in a healthy way. Look on Target.com for a new puzzle or game appropriate for their age. Order a new book if they’re old enough, or an interactive art project. Creating digital art online is a fun and mess-free option. A subscription box can help you keep things exciting and get more for your money.
3. Find balance and schedule family time.
You’re living in close quarters 24/7, but being under the same roof isn’t a substitution for quality family time. Keep work to working hours, and plan family fun for after work. This can help both you and your kids destress and live in the moment when things are hard at work and school. Frequent game nights, movie nights, picnics and slumber parties support a healthy work-life balance and will mean a lot to your kids.
4. Practice patience and communication.
Adjusting to working from home and distance learning means heightened stress, anxiety and uncertainty. This can put strain on relationships. Remember that your kids are likely struggling emotionally, too. Acknowledge it and validate it, letting them know it’s ok to feel this way. Talking through these emotions as a family is a healthy way to cope and to avoid taking things out on loved ones. Be conscious of the energy you’re giving off, because your family will likely mirror it. Don’t let your own stress spill over to your children. Take a timeout if needed to cool down. Patience and understanding are key during frustrating times.
Everyone is handling this differently and has different needs. No one will know yours unless you communicate them. If you had an especially draining day at work, explain it to your spouse and ask for an hour to yourself. Communicate with your coworkers and boss about changes in your situation or new needs you might have. Advocating for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s making sure you’re able to work and parent to the best of your ability.
5. Help your child succeed with online learning.
Teachers create the learning environment, but parents can help their children engage with it. Students of all ages can benefit from the structure they’d have on a normal school day. For young children, this can include mimicking recess and other breaks in their day. There should be minimal distractions, if you can help it. Think about the environment you would thrive best in working from home, and try to create that.
Stay connected. Keep in touch with other parents so you can share ideas about what’s working and what’s not. Particularly for parents with younger children, try to connect with teachers if possible. If your child has unique educational needs, advocate for them. Teams of administrators and teachers are willing to accommodate because the students’ success is still a priority with online learning.
Some children are more independent than others. If your child needs extra structure and guidance, you can help them stay engaged by creating a daily checklist for them. Stay involved and know exactly what they have to complete, and make a list with keywords like read, watch and write. They’ll check off tasks as they finish them. Once they complete the checklist, provide immediate positive feedback to motivate the completion of their work. This can be adapted to fit young children or older children. Positive reinforcement can help them get into a habit and be more motivated.
This time isn’t ideal for anyone. Take it day by day and be patient with your family. Remember that this won’t last forever, and ultimately you’re getting more time with the people you love. Strive for balance, and remember the health and wellbeing of your family comes first.