While we get to grips with recent changes and adapt to new behaviours, writes Parent Coach Aoife Lee, lots of parents understandably feel overwhelmed by the daily juggle! Remember though, we’re all in the same boat, and while we may not be able to control the numerous changes asked of us, it’s important to look at what we can influence in our lives. We can start by putting a plan of action in place.
1. Have a Flexible Routine
Working from home is familiar to some, but not everyone. With it comes discipline and keeping daily needs and tasks as predictable as possible. Children cope a lot better when they know what’s going on; it creates consistency and a sense of normality. When there’s structure around the day, they feel secure and are therefore happier in themselves. At the same time, it’s important that we don’t put ourselves under too much pressure to ‘make everything right’. As long as we set the alarm for the same time each morning, encourage regular mealtimes and keep bedtimes as we normally would during the school week, we’ll have a strong framework to go on. This adjustable structure encourages discipline from the time we wake, but it also helps children feel safe.
2. Create Your Workspace
If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated workspace at home, decide on a simple agreement like “if the door is closed, please don’t come in. If it’s open, I’m free to chat or help!”. Remember that children too are probably finding it difficult to understand what’s going on. They’re missing their friends and school routines. Keeping communication open and explaining what you’re doing will help them to understand why you’re not always available to play! If you don’t have that independent space, setting up in a corner of the kitchen or dining area where you can see the kids but they can’t touch your work gear is ideal.
3. Operate in Shifts with your Partner
If there are babies or toddlers that need more attention than an older child, it’s worth considering operating in shift work. So, while one parent focuses on their job for a few hours, the other keeps everything going with the kids. Speaking to many parents in recent days, they find doing this helps with their productivity while easing feelings of guilt. Make the most of the time you do have together by playing, painting, drawing or just chatting about your day.
4. Manage Your Time
While every person’s role may vary, this unusual time means that flexibility and understanding are a must. If you can, prioritise the tasks that need your undivided attention when the baby is napping during the day or the kids are in bed at night. Alternatively, get up an hour earlier in the mornings to get on top of things.
5. Schedule Breaks Outside
Whether this is with the kids or by yourself, you want to avoid burnout. Having some form of exercise is crucial, even if it’s a socially distant walk around the block! Exercise feeds the brain and is essential if you want to be more effective and efficient. It’s important to be flexible of course, so if it’s a rainy day, why not opt for an online exercise routine – there are lots to choose from on YouTube.
6. Eat Healthy
Ensure you have food that you’re proud of in the kitchen. It’s all too easy to fall into grazing on sugary snacks during times like these. Food is fuel for the brain, and healthy snacks that are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourish us. Keep the treats to a minimum and meals at regular times.
7. Work Vs the Kids
As you get your head around what’s working for you, what’s helpful, what you need to focus on or change, it’s also a good time to look at when to be switched off and fully present with the kids. They love our attention, and the more quality time we spend with them, the more it strengthens the relationship. Acknowledge and praise when they listen, when they follow a direction, when siblings are being kind to one another! When we pay attention to our children’s positive behaviours, it completely outweighs when we put all our energy into the negative ones.
8. Be Honest with Yourself & Your Colleagues
Remember, you’re not the only working parent who has to end a call because the children need you. What I’ve found helpful is telling the older ones before I pick up the phone that I need some time without any interruptions. This is the reality right now for so many around the world; for most parents, our colleagues have that mutual understanding and respect for the current juggling of work and family life – you are not on your own.
9. Keep the Kids Busy
There are some great resources and activities that the children can get involved in that don’t require our undivided attention.
• Go Noodle: Have a huge selection of free videos, including dancing, exercise, meditation, reflection activities. Something for everyone. https://family.gonoodle.com/
• Digital Scavenger Hunt
This is a brilliant app for older children who love a challenge.
• Online Coding for older children
Lots of primary school children are coding now – this website is an opportunity to continue at home – keeping the mind busy and active is always a plus. https://www.codeadvantage.org/online-coding-classes-for-kids
• Art for Kids Hub on YouTube is absolutely brilliant.
10. Be Kind to Yourself
We all know that this time will pass, and we’ll look back and wonder how we did it all! We have to make significant changes for everyone’s gain, and for now it’s about managing as best we can. You are human, and taking this time to look at what works best for you in your job and family is the main thing. Ask for help if you need it, keep communication open at home with your partner, the children and your team. Take time out to recharge the batteries. Stay safe and healthy.