As someone who has worked at home for almost a decade two days a week alongside having a child doing school at home, I wanted to share with you some tips encouragement and help to get through these last six weeks of school.
I know this is been said but I want to remind you. You are not homeschooling. Families who do this create schedules, time and financial resources and activities which involve an adult whose job is to home educate for this lifestyle. You have been thrust into school at home which is being driven by someone else and that looks very different.
First, before the week begins it’s important to have a family meeting. I am working with so many families in the counseling office who are not training their kids how to interrupt if they’re working. If you don’t want to be scowling or yelling at your kids, your family needs to create a system.
My husband and I have taught our children to enter our offices quietly knowing that if the door is shut that we are working and only need to be disturbed if necessary. We have let them know that we will try to come out and take a quick stretch break and find them and offer them some encouragement or direction when we can.
My son entered the other day and handed me a quick note. This is a great way for kids to interrupt parents especially who are on calls a lot. You didn’t know the content and usually they will write less than they speak. It also gives me the freedom to either write back or whisper a quick word.
Make sure you’ve already taken care of the important things like meals and snacks. Our kids both have a list of things they can get themselves quickly and if your kids need to be monitored with their snacks, I suggest you put them in a bag or a basket for either the day of the week and that way they can monitor themselves. This is a great opportunity to empower our kids to make wise choices and work within limits.
We have also discussed options of what they can do when they finish their schoolwork and how much time they can spend on the electronics. We use Screen Time and IPhone family settings which is an app to monitor that amount of time without us having to helicopter over them. I will be honest we have been more generous with the amount of time since this begin. A child’s character isn’t created or destroyed in a day and our kids are needing more of a distraction as well. I also believe they need purpose and productivity. We have helped both of them come up with some activities that fit their unique talents that they can develop more fully with little direction.
Second, it’s so important that you as the parent and now director of the household make a plan either the night before or the morning of alone or with your parenting partner. This process was not a hard step for me to implement because I have been doing this for years. The night before or the morning of I review the appointments I have, often pray for certain situations or tasks that I know I will want to avoid, and make sure I don’t have any conflicts or questions for my assistant at my office. I went to counseling center managing 15 to 20 employees on top of my own client load as well as do some writing and speaking so without a plan I get overwhelmed with what I could get done and who needs me. I choose three things that if I accomplish that day, I consider myself having been productive and it really helps me manage the overwhelm. I use a planner and write everything down because it helps me get bigger than the tasks in my head after doing a large brain dump. I know some people are super successful with digital but I just haven’t gotten there yet. I still like drinking a cup of coffee or tea, playing inspirational music in the background, and starting my day with quiet alongside positive Scripture or devotional reading and prayer.
I have scheduled into my day time to check in with the kids through short breaks and meal times. These breaks are often 5 to 15 minutes but they allow them to know that I’m thinking about them and that I care about them. It also gives a chance for either encouragement or redirection if needed. I know that if they don’t eat they are going to get moody at some point so I make sure that they have had breakfast and I often bring my almost teen daughter a warm drink up to her room as a way to serve her. She often doesn’t get up until right before she has to. I also find she is more receptive to my checking in then she is without it as is pretty independent.
We have talked during a family meeting before about greeting one another with a pleasant face and tone of voice. This practice is some thing we as parents try our best to model. Often when I work with families where there is a lot of unpleasant interaction, parents admit that they are not initiating the positivity to begin with. I know it’s hard during these tough times as we are all struggling with some anxiety and irritability, but you are setting the tone for not only your day but the environment in your home. It is a lot easier to manage when you are calm and use your professional skills like you would as a manager with your children.
Finally, expect the unexpected. There are going to be days when your schedule falls apart, they get stuck on an assignment and are frustrated, or you are going to get that email from a teacher saying something is missing. Again, I think you need to plan with the kids of what to do if they get stuck. We have told ours to take a break and when we come up for air we will try to redirect them unless they can move onto another subject and they are to go ahead and complete that and wait on us.
I have worked in education for over a decade from being a teacher, school counselor, to reporting directly to the assistant superintendent as a crisis counselor. I missing assignment in the days of COVID-19 isn’t a crisis. I know keeping perspective is hard sometimes but we need to do it and we need to help our kids do so as well. I love a phrase by Maria Foreo that says “everything is figureoutable.” Approaching our kids education during a time of everyone figuring out what it looks like, definitely requires this attitude. If your child is continuing to struggle or the work is taking much longer for your household than others in the same class, reach out to your teachers because there are options. Some kids need more direction than others and you can request shortened assignments or extended time. Remember they are working from home as well and many with small children so they get it. Every once in a while we are in the counseling office, we encounter an educator who is either under stress or not very understanding. If this occurs with you, encourage you to keep going up the ladder all the way to the superintendent if needed. Your child’s academic confidence and your sanity are worth it.
When you were done with work, you might need to take a very short break before leaving your office. I take a couple minutes often to do a relaxation exercise or just breathe and listen to some music for a couple of minutes and stretch. I do this to transition out of my workday and also leave the stress behind before I dump it on my kids unnecessarily.
I would definitely have a cut off time for major parenting or worrying about all of this in the evening with your family. Families need some moments of relaxation and fun together on a regular basis. It can be a family walk, game or everyone goes to their rooms and you get a hot bath, watch a show while you hang up your clothes or straighten your room so you can prepare well for sleep. I know it is tempting with flexible schedules to be all over the map with bedtimes. I would encourage you to keep arrange for not only your kids but during the week and on the weekends but also for yourself. I have to admit when this started that I fell prey to staying up late and sleeping later and losing my morning routine. After a couple of weeks, I could see the damage this was doing both to my mindset and my productivity. Every day is a day to start new! Praying yours is a good one today or a new start tomorrow.
Finally, if you are having specific troubles or have questions about how to come overcome obstacles to the processes that I talked about above, feel free to mention them in the comments below. We are in the mental health field want to be a support to you during this time. Many of us are working with the insurance companies and are offering sliding scale’s and creative solutions to getting you the support you need. If you are feeling overwhelmed to the point that you feel like you can’t keep this up or are losing your self control with your family members often, please reach out to someone. Now more than ever our households need to be safety zones for ourselves and those we love.