Working from home with children is an unusual situation for many of us – and one with which Australian families have had to grapple throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. If you found it far from easy juggling your workload with your kids’ Zoom classes and remote learning, you’re not alone.
Many of the nation’s 4 million school children are back at school but school closures, due to lockdowns, mean families need to be flexible. We’re taking a look at some of the strategies to ease the burden.
Adapt to your new normal
Experts are studying the effects of the pandemic on mental health right now – and many acknowledge it’s normal to feel stressed and anxious about what’s going on. As a parent, you may also be worried about passing your fears onto your kids. Of course, it’s fine to talk to your kids about coronavirus in an age-appropriate way and answer any questions they may have.
Plus, modelling resiliency to your kids helps you and them, research has found. Studies around disasters show that when we stay positive we feel more resilient – so that might mean focusing on what’s going right in the world, sharing good news and positive stories when you can. It all helps teach your kids to be resilient and adaptable themselves, as well as boosting your mental health. Similarly, limiting how much time you watch or read the news or scroll through social media might be a good idea too, especially if you find it’s making you more anxious.
Adding a little fun to the end of the day can also encourage the entire family to take their mind off things. Discovering the neighbourhood with the kids is a great way to feel connected to your community, as is setting up a Zoom playdate, or doing a fun online workout as a family.
Carve out routines and order
When the world feels upside down (as it does right now), creating a consistent environment may help bring a little calm back to you and your family’s home life.
Putting predictable daily routines in place for your kids’ schoolwork, snack and mealtimes, exercise and relaxation helps. Aiming to keep common spaces around the home clean and tidy is another good strategy – and it’s proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your ability to focus.
If you and your partner are both working from home, split up the day so you both have pockets of time to get work done and to help with remote learning. Or, if one of you isn’t working right now, perhaps they take on the bulk of the home-schooling. Creating boundaries with your kids can also let them know what’s happening and give everyone a sense of stability and control.
Take the pressure off
If you’ve tried all the strategies and are still struggling with working from home with the kids underfoot, take heart: there’s no ‘right way’ to make it work. In fact, many experts argue that trying to achieve the optimum balance in the very strange and unpredictable home life we’re all facing right now is unrealistic to say the least.
Instead, drop the guilt and achieve what you can. Fit some relaxation into your day and to lessen the isolation, create a support network around you. A phone call with a friend or colleague, a Zoom catch-up over a glass of wine with your siblings, or a chat with a neighbour over the fence can go a long way towards boosting your mood and helping you cope.
Help your child transition back to school
While some children will be excited about getting back to class, others may not. They may feel worried about how socialising has changed, concerned about whether they’ll still have friends – or they may just have settled well into the home-schooling routine and not want to return to the playground.
Talking to your child about what is happening and acknowledging any fears they may have is important. Talking about what they feel and what they can expect can help give your child confidence. And even if you’re worried about your child returning to school, it’s a good idea to be as confident as possible and minimise your own anxiety in front of them if you can.
We’re likely to feel the effects from coronavirus in our work lives and home lives for some time yet. As we’ve suggested above, creating routines can give everyone in the family much-needed structure and a sense of control. A little order and organisation can help your whole tribe focus better – and feel calmer and happier.