After months of eased restrictions and relative normality, the challenges of home schooling in lockdown, ways to support the community and how to deal with your mental health in a pandemic are back especially in NSW.
The uncertainty, isolation, job insecurity, financial stress and impact on mental health are just a few of the daily challenges. For parents, the additional stress of supporting a family and juggling work, all whilst pivoting to the role of teacher and full-time caretaker has further consequences.
Many self-reliant secondary students have adapted to the online environment, but for young primary school children, parents are required to be on hand to navigate online tools, supporting, supervising, and ensuring all classwork and homework is completed.
The financial challenges of home schooling
For many parents the demands of daily life have left them utterly overwhelmed: handling household chores, cooking, grocery shopping, assisting children with remote learning, all whilst carrying a full workload, has led to high levels of stress and even burnout.
For single parents and families who may be struggling financially and who are without support or with less support, the challenges are often much worse. Some families have large homes with enough space to set up separate workspaces for the whole family, but that is certainly not the case for everyone. Many workers are also not able to work from home or have been temporarily laid off.
Not only that, families face the additional challenges of not having access to multiple laptops and devices or even an internet connection to support this new remote landscape. Whilst concerns about job and financial security are rife, so are fears that children will be left behind without the necessary technology and resources.
How to support the community
Since the start of the pandemic, several initiatives and local networks have been launched to support families.
The Smith Family has partnered with Optus to address the issue of young Australians being left behind by creating a program that “provides eligible students on The Smith Family's Learning for Life program with a free Optus Prepaid service with data, talk and text.” Students can also receive additional data donated by Optus customers on either prepaid or mobile plans.
Pre-dating the pandemic — Optus Donate Your Data™, which launched in December 2019, has collected over 28 million GB of data. This has been possible due to the inclusion of new partners such as The Salvation Army, Mission Australia, Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation, ABCN, yourtown and Story Factor. The initiative originally began in partnership with The Smith Family and the KARI Foundation. It provides free SIM cards to young Australians in need. Recipients are equipped with unlimited national standard talk and text along with 10GB of data to be used in Australia.
You can donate your data via the My Optus App if you’re an eligible postpaid or prepaid Optus customer.
Mental health support
No doubt, the biggest challenge of lockdown is the strain on mental health. This month, the Australian Government announced it would be providing an additional $12.25 million, on top of the $5.15 million provided by the NSW Government, to ensure the people of NSW can access urgent mental health support during this challenging time.
This funding will be pumped into services and charities such as Lifeline, Sonder, Beyond Blue, Kids Helpline and the Butterfly Foundation who will aim to boost crisis counselling, community engagement, family, and youth support.
Safe to say, adjusting to working from home whilst contending with the challenges of isolated family life is not easy. One organisation providing employers and parents with vital family, career and wellbeing services is Parents at Work.
The membership service is ideal for employers looking to update their parental policies and for employees looking for resources to navigate these turbulent times. Members have access to a range of relevant webinars, including 'Digital Wellbeing for Children', 'Managing Mental Wellbeing for You and Your Family' and 'Maintain Motivation, Connection and Wellbeing while Working from Home.'
Quick home-schooling tips
Given the lockdown extension in Sydney, we have rounded up a few tips that can benefit both you and the kids during this home-schooling phase.
Set up a similar schedule to a regular school day to help get your kids into a healthy routine. Just ensure you allow for break times, playtime and activities that take place outdoors. Also, allow for a bit of flexibility, as we know how quickly a work Zoom meeting may be popped in the diary.
Creating designated workspaces for both you and your kids will ensure that you can switch off at the end of the day. Your children are used to colourful classrooms and visual stimulation, so why not allow them to decorate their space to ignite their inspiration and motivation?
If the weather is good, set up an outdoor working space to change it up for the day. And don't forget a good pair of headphones, so that they can listen in on their class while you get some work done.
3) Wind Down
With so many daily pressures, it's essential to have a little fun during this very unusual time of our lives. Put a few backyard activities, games nights or movies nights on the schedule, so the whole family can look forward to something.
What has become evident in the last few weeks is that, even in our isolation, Australians have sought out ways to connect and help people in the community. Whilst it may feel somewhat overwhelming at times, it's important to seek help using community resources, services, organisations, and talking with friends and family.