In the wake of COVID-19, the bulk of the nation has been asked to shelter at home whenever possible. Schools and daycare centers are closed, and many non-essential employees are working remotely. Parents and children co-existing at home for most of the day is unprecedented and comes with unique challenges. As parents struggle to balance their children’s childcare and schooling needs with their work schedules, many are wondering how a better balance can be achieved.
For most people, working from home is a new experience. Add kids and other family members to the mix, and supreme professionalism is thrown out the door. While parents should strive to do the best they can, at this time, it’s perfectly acceptable to be imperfect. You may have a work conference where the kids are making noise in the background or the dog is barking outside. It happens.
Fast Company created a roundup of the best working from home fails. They include people talking to their cat thinking mute was activated while 68 team members were listening, a spouse running naked for a towel in the background during a video meeting, and someone’s child singing “I like bananas” loudly in the background.
The point is, everyone is struggling to adapt to the “new normal” right now, kids or not. If you can accept that things may not run seamlessly at this time, you’ll save yourself some undue pressure.
Request a Flexible Work from Home Schedule
Speak with your employer about your work hours and how flexible they are. Working from 9 AM to 5 PM may be easy when you report to an office, but working in shifts of four to six hours at a time is more challenging when you’re working from home with kids.
Your kids may need your help with their schoolwork and lesson plans. Being home all the time also means they’re likely missing their friends and usual social interactions, potentially needing your attention more than ever. Working in one- to two-hour increments may be more realistic right now so you can be there to guide your kids through their study schedule, prepare and have meals and snacks together, and arrange for short outdoor breaks to play and relax.
Set Up a Designated Work and Study Space
Now that your home is a classroom and office, setting up distraction-free work and study areas that give each family member some privacy is crucial for everyone’s productivity.
It may be as simple as setting up an at-home classroom in the dining room by using the dining table as the work table and setting up a small conference area and office corner in your bedroom for you. Being apart from your kids while you work and they study can improve everyone’s co-existence.
Depending on the ages of your kids, the home classroom area can be as simple as a table or counter with a comfortable chair and baskets to hold books, art supplies, and other items. If your kids tend to bicker or behave disruptively, you may want to create a schedule where you assign the home classroom to your kids for set periods of time.
For example, young children may do their schoolwork in the home classroom area in the mornings between 9 AM and 10:30 AM. Your teens, who are more likely to sleep in, can access the home classroom in the afternoons.
Upgrade Your Internet Plan
It’s likely that your internet use is currently high. If you’re sharing the internet with your spouse and kids, the basic plan you have may not be able to handle the increased bandwidth. After all, several members of your family will be streaming online classes, games, and business meetings at the same time.
Some plans may even limit how much data you can use per month and slow down or shut off your connection if you surpass that limit. Talk with your internet service provider, and consider upgrading to handle your increased usage.
Work Together to Bond Together
Working, studying, and doing everything together from home comes with its challenges, but it also creates an opportunity. With a little adapting on everyone’s part, your family can grow closer during this difficult time. See your family as a team that works together to support each other.
Give everyone some responsibility by assigning chores. Teach your kids about setting and respecting boundaries by allowing everyone to have their time of privacy and space throughout the day to study, work, or rest. There are lessons in everything you do at this time that will serve your kids well in the future.
Take Advantage of Free Learning Resources
While juggling so many different responsibilities, it’s helpful to utilize resources that are freely available. K12 and other organizations are offering free educational resources that will help keep kids engaged and learning while at home during the quarantine. Here are some of the resources your family can take advantage of right now:
- Reading — Project Gutenberg also has thousands of ebooks available. Free-choice reading provides several benefits, and with so many books to choose from, students are sure to find something that piques their interest and keeps them reading.
- Game-Based Learning – The Stride game-based learning system for grades pre-K to 8 engages students and accelerates learning in math, language arts, reading and science. Additional learning games for elementary students are also available through PBS Kids. Using gamification, these programs make learning fun and engaging.
- Writing – We are all living through a historic moment, and writing about our experiences can be helpful in both spurring reflection and improving writing, especially for young people. Your child can read about other students’ experiences in quarantine and then write their own reflections.
- Social-Emotional Learning – Since the current circumstances can make tensions in the home run high, this is a good time for all members of the family to work on social-emotional learning lessons. Whether that takes the form of a 30-day kindness journal or a lesson on empathy, modeling SEL practices can benefit the entire household.