It’s (unfortunately) been almost a year since the first cities in the U.S. started locking down to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Dishearteningly, we are still fighting that fight. So much of our lives have been flipped on our heads to adapt to the social distancing and quarantined groups we need to keep ourselves safe. This includes caregivers.

While life is moving forward and we’re making the most of it, there are important things that both families and caregivers should know and put into practice in order to maintain a positive working relationship while the pandemic continues.

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1. Understand the Impact the Pandemic is Having on the Working Environment

We can’t pretend that not much has changed. Take time to really talk through with each other how the school & work-from-home environment both positively and negatively impacts the kids, the parents, and the caregiver.

  • Are the kids unsure of who to ask for certain things?
  • Do the parents have the proper space to get their work done without distractions?
  • Does a loud school or playtime activity regularly overlap with an important meeting?
  • Does the caregiver feel micromanaged by parents throughout the day?
  • Is there a time in the day the parents want to spend with their kids? (i.e. mid-morning snack/coffee break or lunch)

Make sure that everyone has time to share their perspective and then discuss any schedule changes and adjustments that are needed.

2. Set Realistic Expectations & Boundaries

We can’t ignore the societal load everyone is experiencing due to the pandemic. There’s A LOT that has happened over the past year and we’re all still processing through it. Therefore, it’s important to set realistic expectations and helpful boundaries to support everyone’s mental well-being and energy levels.

Be as specific as reasonably possible. For example, if part of the caregiver’s job is to help with homework, discuss what the parents see as the ideal outcome for that, as well as the reasonable minimum. There might just be a day in which the child is completely overwhelmed and has no more capacity for learning. If it’s a bad day for the child, what do the parents expect of the caregiver?

Spikes and dips in the number and severity of COVID cases are happening all the time. Be sure to keep an open dialogue with each other about the practices and precautions everyone is taking. It’s easy to agree to “be safe,” but specifically talking about what that means on a regular basis will help keep the anxiety down for everyone.

3. Prioritize Frequent Check-Ins

Being in regular communication with each other is already an important part of a healthy family/caregiver relationship. But with a global pandemic, the world around you is changing all the time. Case numbers, infection rates, city guidelines, state mandates. It’s a lot of information for just one person to stay on top of.

Schedule time (like each week) to specifically check in about what’s changed in regards to the pandemic and whether or not that affects your working relationship. Having this specific time to sync on the news also creates an opportunity for either of you to express fears or concerns that may be more personal. Knowing how everyone is feeling (and allowing their feelings to change) is crucial to the partnership you have.

4. Take Intentional Time Off

There’s always going to be something that needs your attention, so taking intentional time off—both the parents from work/responsibilities and the caregiver from working—is an absolutely necessary part of sustainability. Building in rest allows for everyone to bring their best selves to the table.

Intentional time off also can bring perspective. It’s hard to see the full reality of something when we’re “in it.” Having the time and space to step away (both physically and mentally) can help you understand where changes might need to be made or adjusted.

5. Revisit Roles and Responsibilities to Find Balance

Life is going to continue moving forward, and there are always big and small unexpected things that arise. When needs change, that tends to affect the definition of the caregiver’s responsibilities. It’s important to regularly assess what the family’s expectations are of the caregiver to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Also, if additional responsibilities are expected of the caregiver, that typically means a re-assessment of compensation. Caregivers need to be honest about what changes would affect their rate, and likewise, families need to be realistic about reasonable expectations for a job.

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At the end of the day, thorough communication is the name of the game here. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first to plainly talk through everything, but once you establish that kind of a relationship between parent and caregiver, you’re setting everyone up to feel confident and comfortable working together for a long time.

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