You with your laptop, your partner with theirs, and the kids using tablets to access classes—or maybe you’re a single parent juggling the dual challenge of working and schooling on your own: This is what our days look like now. Everyone is grappling with the new way of life imposed by stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Here are some tips for navigating this brave new world.
Create a Schedule
One thing that’s been disordered by staying at home to limit the spread of COVID-19 is a daily schedule. Start and stop times for work and school have become more fluid. One way to create some normalcy in these most unusual days is to establish or maintain routine.
A schedule provides structure to your days to ensure you and your partner get your work done, your kids study, and that you all eat well and keep moving. Develop a schedule collectively and adjust it as needed. One of the adults has a conference call at 11 a.m.? It’s quiet time for everyone. Around 3 p.m. is when the kids get antsy? That could be a good time to take the dog out for a walk.
If you need to accomplish work that requires focus and concentration, consider doing it early in the morning before the kids wake up. You can always schedule a nap later.
Designating time for breaks and mealtimes can also help curb eating out of boredom or stress. (We’re not judging!) Use alarms and timers to keep on track.
If there’s more than one adult in the household, take turns supervising the kids.
And, if your schedule goes out of kilter, it’s okay. Some days you’ll hit the mark and other days you’ll have interruptions and meltdowns. It’s your schedule and you can change it. Adjust and keep going forward.
Brains and Bodies Need Breaks
Working and schooling at home mean a lot of time tethered to our devices and screens. Build breaks into your day. Stretch. Have a mini-flash-mob dance party in the living room. Meditate. Sing a song. Play catch outside. Go for a bike ride or walk. Connecting with nature is a proven way to reduce stress.
Speaking of bodies, keep some basic ergonomics in mind while working and studying at home. Assess your work area to ensure your body is physically supported and comfortable. Take advantage of adjustable seating and tables if you have them to enable posture changes. Remember that “the eyes always win,” so the position of your monitor, laptop, and chair will affect your ability to see your screen the best. (Learn more about ergonomic work positions here.)
Explore New Topics
Reach into your memory and recall the days you were bored at school. Was your boredom simply a result of being forced to study something you weren’t interested in? Your kids probably feel the same way. Guide your student(s) to explore topics they wouldn’t ordinarily cover in school. It’s a great activity for adults, too.
For younger children, pre-select websites, videos, and resources for them to explore. (Check out these sites: 30+ Totally Free Educational Websites for Kids by Grade Level, Teaching Tools from Scholastic, and Mystery Science.)
Older kids can pursue independent studies with guidelines you discuss together.
Encourage your kids to share their findings with you at your next break or meal time. Ask investigative questions that will help them delve even further into their topics of choice.
This period of confinement can be also be used to build skills that aren’t in most curricula. For example, creating websites, making movies, editing videos, and doing research might be what make your students come alive. Many public schools have cut art and music programs. Use this time to share your artistic know-how with your kids.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
As difficult as it is being confined at home because of COVID-19, there are some silver linings. You get to spend time together as a family. You get to model good work and communication skills for your kids; they’ll see your self-discipline and focus. Your kids get to share their interests with you. You get to see what’s expected of them at school too.
There will also be interruptions. There will be frustrations. The dog will bark while you’re on a call. Patience will run short. Don’t sweat it if you lose your cool. When needed, sincerely apologize. Make amends. Move on. If you’re not sure how to apologize to your kids, check out these tips from Fatherly.
Loosen up and cut each other slack: Understanding and empathy will get all of us much further in the coming days.