Home—for many, it’s the place of solace. But as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, home is evolving into something different. This week turned homes into the office, the classroom, the movie theater, the gym. The list goes on and on.
As a working parent, I know it’s a luxury to be able to work remotely right now. I don’t discount that. That being said, the task we’ll shoulder doesn’t feel like a small one. Managing our full-time jobs while also keeping our little ones engaged and learning during a critical time of development will be a feat.
For me, the feeling is fresh. As a Chicago based parent, I’m not so far removed from this year’s Teacher Strike which resulted in a 2-week long school closure. While it’s not complete apples to apples (general human interaction wasn’t actively discouraged during the strike), there are key things I learned (plus a few more) that I’m taking with me into family quarantine.
Start the Day Talking
Start the day connecting with each other. The breakfast table is a great place. Talk about how everyone is feeling about the day ahead. Then start laying out plans for the day. Are there times when you need to focus? Are there times when you can all take breaks together? If you’re home with your partner as well, are there activities you can tag-team so the kids are staring at a computer all day?
Lean on the Digital Village
Educators and creators are generously donating their time to enhance free online learning. From Science Mom in the mornings to Mo Willems leading art sessions at lunch, the parenting collective is really stepping up to bring some much-needed resources to working parents in times like these.
Pick a Subject
What was your favorite subject in school? Pick that subject to fully embody that “teacher” for quarantined times. It has the potential to create a unique bonding moment that will be therapeutic for you and the kids. For example, are you missing the gym? Become the household gym teacher, plot out a list of drills you can do together for 30 minutes at some point in the day.
Kids thrive on routines. Try your best to establish yours early on. Have a signal that starts your day and ends your day. Before remote working, that was the simple act of traveling to and from work. What can that look like for you when you’re all sharing the same space? For us, we’re kicking off the day by all standing in a circle and doing 5 big belly breaths and then breaking the circle. To end the day, a 5pm living room dance party.
Go Easy On Yourself
Under normal circumstances, the pressure on modern parents to do everything perfectly is intense. Throw in a crisis like the world has never seen and the pressure cooker level gets amped to 11. The best thing you can do for your kids is to cut yourself some slack when juggling keeping them engaged and working.
If You Feel Overwhelmed, Step Away
The work will get done. Your children won’t be stunted if they aren’t dynamically engaged at every moment. Maintaining your mental health is critical. If you feel overwhelmed, be honest about the feeling. Ask for support. Take a break. Take care of yourself.
Find the Joy
When you can, find the joyful moments. It won’t always be easy but, for better or worse, parents working remotely have been gifted more one-on-one time with little ones that are growing so fast. Taking a moment to appreciate that can help shift the perspective of the entire day.
We will get through this. Humanity persists. Take care of yourselves and each other. Before we know it, we’ll have our drop-offs, playdates, and school days back.