A lot of parents with school aged children are going through something quite unique at the moment. Something they haven't had to deal with before, or at least not for such a long time..Working from home with the KIDS!
There is no denying it is TOUGH, it can be difficult, it can be frustrating, it can even leave us feeling guilty and with feelings that we never expected. We might find it exhausting trying to navigate between our commitments to our job (after all we're getting paid so we gotta do a good job, right?) and our children (they need us and we want to do our best for them!). Your boss is calling through on Skype and you didn't do your hair that morning, your kid is asking you to print the work the teacher just sent through on Microsoft Teams, you cant figure out how to get the other kid logged on and its just all. a. bit. much... Since when have we had to work and parent at the SAME TIME!
This is new to most of us, unless we have one of those jobs where part of the role is to bring your kiddo along but there's not many of those jobs out there. You survived the first school closure with some great difficulty and you're soldiering through this current lockdown. Here are some top tips to keep you going until some normality resumes:
1. Create a routine
Even though kids moan when we tell them what to do or give them a schedule, they actually benefit greatly from the structure and deep down, they like the stability and security that it brings. If your child's school hasn't sent an agenda for each day, it can be helpful to create your own with your child and give them some power to include what is in it and where things fit. This will make them more likely to commit to it. It can be helpful to schedule some of the less-likeable lessons earlier in the day or at a time where you can help and the favourite lessons towards the end of the day when attention may have wavered a little.
2. Take a break
Make sure you find time to take a break from your usual work and your new role of being a home school teacher! Find 5-10 minutes to shut off and take a walk around the house, pop your head out the door to get some fresh air or even to stretch off with some simple stretching exercises (especially if you've been stuck at a makeshift desk all day!). Some parents have reported feelings of guilt as they cannot attend to their child's needs in the way that they usually would. Try to take a lunch break at the same time as your child so that you can spend some time with them. Ask them how their day has been, how they are feeling and what work they are proud of today. They may even want to show you some of the fabulous work they have done!
3. Have a word with your boss
If you are struggling with the way things are, don't struggle in silence. Have a chat with your boss or your HR team. The pandemic is a situation that everybody is going through and management will be very aware that it will affect different people to varying degrees, particularly parents. It is not your fault that the schools are closed meaning that you now have children at home and if you gently remind them of this fact it may feel a little easier to discuss. It may be useful to ask about flexibility in working hours, days off, furlough and paid/unpaid leave. It may also be worth looking at policies related to the needs of working parents or newer, specific Covid-19 policies.
4. "Act as if" school is open
By this I don't mean turning up to the school in full uniform and waving goodbye to little Dennis in the playground (oh how I miss being able to drop them off!), but in some ways acting as if it is a normal school day can be helpful. For example, making a packed lunch for yourself and the kids the night before rather than cramming it in during your time-limited lunch hour. Even taking a short walk before and after the school/work day to simulate a commute to stretch your legs (and make you feel a bit more human before logging on to the computer in the morning!). Taking some time out for a walk after work can act as a bridge between work and personal time which can prevent a blurring of the two, otherwise we may find ourselves overworking and finding it difficult to shut off.
5. Be kind to yourself
We might find ourselves being critical of the way that we are feeling or handling life throughout this pandemic. We might tell ourselves that we should be doing better, doing more work, spending more time with the kids, getting them off the devices and whatnot. The reality is that this is hard and its okay to not be doing your ultimate best in all areas right now. You are spread very thinly right now and likely without the things that you would usually use to wind down or feel better such as spending time with family, spending an evening down the pub or getting your shopping bags ready for some retail therapy. Consider talking to yourself in the way that you may speak to your children or a loved one if you noticed they were struggling. We know how to be kind to others, but we can also learn to be kind to ourselves too. And that is okay.
Lastly, after a long day, just take a deep breath and sigh it all out! Deep breathing exercises can be a handy tool to let go of the stresses of the day, relax your body and mind and feel able to enjoy quality time with your family after a busy day. Try a quick 3 minute breathing exercise below: