Ask any parent and they will agree that everyday can be a challenge. Just when you think you have things figured out, something will come up and changed everything. COVID-19 certainly accentuated this statement.
Many of my family and friends have work that have typically taken them out of their home. Most of them are parents with children spanning the ages of toddlers up to high school.
Their new reality has found them setting up make-shift offices for themselves, study rooms for their older kids and activity centers for their younger ones. I have noticed that what started off as a hectic and fearful time in their lives, has evolved to calmer more confident existence. They have met the challenge of working from home, while providing impromptu teaching sessions, quite literally, with their children underfoot.
So, I thought I would ask them what their secret to managing this uncertain time with such poise and grace, was?
They all quickly corrected me and, laughingly saying “most days we are just winging it!”, but they all agree that they have tested the water and realized there is a lot more that they had control over, then they originally thought.
Here are their top 10 suggestions for working at home parents, to regain some control in these uncertain times:
We are all human, doing our best without a road map… but then there was never a real road map for parenting. Even the most overwhelming moments pass. Do yourself a favour and take a few slow deep breaths so you don’t overreact. If you really want to regain control, start with yourself. Smile, you’re doing great.
2. Create your own structure
It may take a few attempts but people who co-inhabit a space, really like structure. At least from a big picture plan. Both kids and parents use structure as daily benchmarks. Create a plan together; decide on what happens during the week and what happens during the weekend, what things need to be accomplished in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. Adults aren’t the only ones that need to get things done. Kids need to feel they have accomplished something too.
3. Be flexible
This is a new time- for everyone. What worked before won’t necessarily work the same now, at least not without some tweaking. Be patient and be prepared to make concessions. Who knows, maybe being flexible will create a better way to do things?
4. Share the load
Parents do not have to do it all. If family or friends have older kids, get them to help mentor the younger ones. Tasks such as cleaning, dog walking, playing sports, meal preparation can all be shared. For older kids in advanced grades, several families can create study sessions on Zoom and share the cost of a subject matter specialist, particularly for advanced subjects where the kids need additional support.
5. Have fun
Parents aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure of uncertainty, everyone needs to find their inner child and have fun. Let go and enjoy the moment. Laughter can make a mediocre day good and a good day great.
6. Get outside
Time spent in the great outdoors is revitalizing. We all need to get away from our four walls and let our brains have a break. Don’t let the weather stop you. Dress for the experience, you’ll be glad you went out.
Just like we have Zoom or Teams meetings to communicate for work, we need to connect with our families. Ask how their day was, share parts of yours with them. Get them to tell you what their plans, hopes and dreams are and let them in on yours.
8. Eat well
If you are stressed and anxious, your immune system will be compromised. Give your body a fighting chance and choose foods that will support health for you and your family. That’s not to say that you should avoid treats, just make sure you have the healthy options too.
9. Sleep well
Your brain needs to rest, and stress can be exhausting. Learning relaxation techniques that help to quiet your mind will be beneficial.
10. Ask or help
There is no shame in getting help to deal with anxiety and stress. You don’t have to have all the answers yourself. Nobody does. So, reach out and ask for help.
The message all these parents wanted to share along with their top tips, was to be kind to yourself and remain hopeful. We are all in this together and we will get through it together.
Stay well everyone! Together we will get through this