The schools may be closed, but this is no holiday. Especially for those parents who need to continue on working as normal (or as close to normal as we can manage in the current health crisis). If you have suddenly become a stay-at-home parent, as well as a stay-at-home employee, here are a few ways to make the experience less stress.
WITH YOURSELF – You are unlikely to be as productive as you would be if your children weren’t at home with you, but very few are. The situation is stressful enough as it is so look at the tasks ahead and see how much grace you can give yourself.
WITH YOUR TEAM – Communicate with your team. Let them know the situation and what you are doing about it. Chances are, some of your co-workers are in the same boat. Consider whether doing flexi hours (when the kids are in bed) would help make your days less stressful.
WITH YOUR CHILDREN – Depending on their level of understanding, be clear about what is going on and how independent you expect them to be. Let them know when it is OK to interrupt you (e.g if their injured), and when it’s not (e.g. their favourite tv show isn’t on).
START THE PROCESS WITH A FAMILY MEETING
Having a conversation with your family at the beginning of the process can go a long way to achieving an easy transition. The children will feel like they are being heard and letting them make decisions about their day gives them a vested interest in the situation. A few discussion points could include:
- What is everyone hoping to gain from this time while the schools are closed?
- How will the days be structured?
- What happens with meals and snacks?
- How much education stuff are they expected to partake in?
CREATE A DAILY ROUTINE THAT FITS THE NEW SITUATION
Structure works at home for the same reason it does in school – kids feel comfortable and assured because they know what to expect from their day. Below is an example of a schedule that could be used:
- 7 am – wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, do morning chores
- 8:30 – activity books, puzzles, drawing
- 10:30 – educational learning resources
- 12:30 – lunch
- 1 pm – quiet time in their rooms
- 2 pm – free play (including some time outside, ideally)
- 4 pm – “quality” screen time
- 5 pm – regroup as a family and start making dinner
Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint to see who can win at parenting this week and adjustment can be made as needed.
If your partner is also working from home, agree on who will be the kids’ go-to parent at different times of the day. The simpler the better: if one person can take mornings and the other takes afternoons, that’s easy for everyone to keep track of. Plus, it ensures half a day of heads-down work time for each parent (in theory).
PLAN/ PREP MEALS AND SNACKS IN ADVANCE
Not having a commute works in your favour. Use this time to plan out the meals for the day, laying out a morning snack before you enter work mode and preparing something for lunch to leave it the fridge. This allows the kids to grab it when they want it and avoids disruptions. Let the kids choose from a couple of options so that they have some agency in the situation and are less likely to complain at lunchtime.
DON’T FORGET THE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Physical activity is a great way to stem boredom and help keep the school bedtime routine. There is a variety of workout, dance and choreography videos available on platforms such as Youtube that are directed at children of all ages. Those with a garden should get them outside if safe to do so. Classic hide and seek, tag and catch are great ways for 2-3 siblings to play with each other.
INVEST IN A LITTLE TIME TOGETHER
This can be the most difficult, as many working-from-home parents need to squeeze absolutely as much work into each day as they possibly can. However, if you have the option to take a longer lunch break or close your laptop for a half-hour in the middle of the afternoon, take advantage. (Before you feel guilty about it, remember how many coffee runs you’re not going on these days.) Read together, show the kids what happens when you drop Mentos into a bottle of coke or build a fort in the garden. This is a stressful time, no doubt about it, but you can also make it a special time by finding activities you can do together, even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day.
Stay well out there, parents. Be kinder than necessary to yourselves, your kids, and everyone else. That’ll make a massive difference as we all navigate our way through this.
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