The COVID-19 pandemic has created dynamic change for working parents. Many parents are now working from home per social distancing guidelines. Nationwide school closures have left kids to rely on parents for homeschooling needs and any other issue that should come up: cooking, cleaning, and entertainment, among others. While the importance of social distancing is recognized, the interruption to the daily work schedule can feel like a shock. Further, the demands and the expectations of working from home while parenting can test one’s ability to stay calm. Below are some suggestions to help mitigate the anxiety related to working from home and parenting.
Allow adjustment time
If working from home is a new thing, the change can be dramatic. Allow time for adjustment. You may have to experiment with various schedules and time frames. Find your rhythm at your own pace. What works for another family may not work for your family. It is important to recognize that the schedule will not be perfect; there will be plenty of hiccups along the way. Eventually you will find a system that works for both you and your family.
Be a parent first, teacher second
If you are homeschooling, it is important to explain the change to your kids. Help them understand the reason for the change. Encourage dialogue, and check in frequently to see how they are doing emotionally. Make the context warm and inviting even if it's messy. Allow for flexibility in the area of academic expectations. Different kids have different learning styles, and this may imply some flexibility with the schedule.
Take a break; get creative
Breaks are very important throughout the day. Breaks allow kids to hit the reset button, especially if they become frustrated or overwhelmed with the academic schedule. Take the opportunity to get creative with breaks. Sometimes the best activities are unplanned and unconventional. Going outside, taking a walk, or riding a bike can be very helpful. My 9-year-old decided to mop the kitchen floor during his break. There are no guidelines for breaks so take the liberty to be as creative as you feel in the moment.
You are not alone
Please remember that you are not the only person going through this change. A large portion of the population is working from home and supervisors are aware of the need for flexibility. Stay in contact with your boss to let them know of your availability and when it is difficult to work. For example, if it is difficult to attend a Zoom meeting at 9 a.m. due to parent obligations, it is important to communicate that information to your superior.
Additionally, take this moment to set boundaries with your children. Invite discussion and let them know when you will be working. Consider making a sign to indicate you are working or delegate that task to a kid who likes art.
There is a lot of information to consume at this moment and change can be a slow process. The practice of self-forgiveness is especially helpful during this historic and challenging time. Be kind to yourself and know that working from home and parenting involves patience and practice.
This article is part of a series aimed to help students, faculty, and staff manage distance learning, working, and living during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and resources for Counseling Services, visit gotu.us/covid19.