Parenting in the Time of Corona: How to Juggle Work, Kids, and Everything Else
Every year, the CDC recommends that anyone over six months old receive a flu vaccine. But because there isn’t yet a vaccine to fight the spread of COVID-19, the only tools available are social distancing and staying home to flatten the curve. However, learning how to work from home while teaching and caring for kids is can be a real challenge many parents weren’t prepared for.
With no clear end in sight, the only option you have is to face the challenge head-on. Luckily, there are lots of ways to begin streamlining everyone’s work and play while keeping everyone sane.
Set a Schedule or Routine
Kids thrive on routine. Predictable schedules provide security and reduce their anxiety. Make a date to sit down and create a daily schedule. If the idea of a full schedule is daunting, start with simple daily tasks like waking up, morning routines, and bedtime routines. Take advantage of the many apps out there that help you create schedules, to-do lists, and healthy habits.
Create a Workspace
Though the national unemployment rate had decreased to 3.7% by September of 2018, that number has now shot back up to historic highs due to COVID-19. If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s able to work from home, you’ll need to set up a workspace.
Choose an area where you can escape from distractions and be productive. This could be a spare room, the basement, or your own bedroom. Ideally, you’ll want to have a desk and chair setup, but it’s possible to work from your bed or an armchair, too.
Teach your family that you shouldn’t be disturbed when you’re in your workspace. With time, the children will learn that your workspace means no interaction. When you’re done working, reward your kids with some individual attention.
Value One-on-One Time
You’ll want to spend at least 20 minutes per day with each child to give them the individual attention they crave. Not only will this strengthen your relationship, but it will nurture their emotional development and help them feel more secure in a time of uncertainty.
For younger children, you could sing and dance together, spend time outside, or turn chores or cooking into a fun game. Older children and teenagers might enjoy simply having a conversation with you about one of their interests. You might also go on a walk or exercise together to their favorite music.
Make Learning Fun
Perhaps the most challenging part of staying at home right now is trying to teach your kids. While teachers are working hard to provide guidance and learning activities, you can find ways to make the experience more fun for everyone. About nine out of 10 people think printed materials will always be a necessity, but you’ll probably be relying on a lot of digital materials during the pandemic.
Here are some ways to encourage fun while learning:
- Look online for free or low-cost learning materials. Lots of fun apps are available with learning games and content that kids love.
- Keep open communication with your kids’ teachers. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help. They’re still working hard, even if it’s from their homes.
- Try teaching your children a new hobby. Now might be the perfect time because they aren’t being pulled away by school and sports. They could learn a new instrument, take up a new art form, or learn to ride a bike.
- Order learning kits online, such as STEM or creative arts kits. Learning by doing is a great way to make the material stick.
- Teach your kids about science when you’re outside in nature. Collect leaves for leaf rubbings, look for signs of spring, and talk about budding plants. You can even garden together to emphasize the growing cycle or watch for seasonal changes in weather.
Manage Stress and Anxiety
So much about COVID-19 and its effects are still unknown, and humans tend to become anxious when answers aren’t readily available. Speak openly with your children about the pandemic in terms they can understand. Hiding this information won’t help them. Kids are smart, so they’ll soon wonder why their home life has flipped upside-down. Plus, kids need to face challenges regularly to build resilience for other problems in their lives.
Your own mental health should be a top priority, as well. Whether or not you have a preexisting mental illness, dealing with all the unknowns and dangers of novel coronavirus can leave your head spinning. Make regular dates with yourself for self-care, like an evening bubble bath or daily hobby.
For high anxiety, practice grounding techniques and positive self-talk. Keep a daily journal to work through your thoughts. Tell your anxiety that you know it’s playing a trick on you and that you simply won’t allow it. This type of self-talk can be taught to your kids, too.
Learn to Protect Your Family from COVID-19
Staying active in protecting your family to help curb some of your anxiety. Make sure to follow the general recommendations to stay home except for necessary trips, like grocery shopping or doctor appointments. You can eliminate entering the store by ordering your groceries online through a pickup or delivery service like Instacart.
Teach your kids how to properly wash their hands with warm water, making it fun with a song that lasts around 20 seconds — the amount of time they need to spend washing. If your kids go outside to play, remind them to stay at least six feet away from anyone else and that the playground is off-limits due to possibly contaminated surfaces.
Lower Your Expectations
While lots of advice is floating around about how to live a more productive and streamlined home life, be honest and accepting with yourself. Not every parent is excellent at homeschooling and not every worker can be productive from home. All you can do is your best; these tips can help you get a little closer to sanity with time. With any luck, your family will come out of this pandemic with new skills and a better appreciation for the outside world.
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