The COVID-19 lockdown is an extremely challenging time for parents. Not only do they have to deal with the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, but many are in the difficult position of trying to work from home and look after children who are off school at the same time. With your work colleagues on a video call in one room, and screaming children in another, the situation can quickly become chaotic and manageable.
So how can this seemingly impossible balancing act be achieved? How can parents devote time to both their work and children, without neglecting or letting down one or the other? It’s a difficult situation, with no magical miracle cure, but the following tips will help you in your quest to achieve your impossible.
Create a timetable – and stick to it
A clear, structured timetable for the whole family to follow will help to create order out of chaos. Split the day up into manageable, bitesize chunks – for both you and the children. Assigning specific hours for work, followed by specific hours for breaks and lunch, will help everyone.
You may even wish to mimic the school timetable that your children are used to – falling back into the familiar grooves and rhythms of the school day will help them to focus. They know exactly which subjects will be studied and when, as well as (perhaps more importantly) when they can look forward to their next break!
Having dedicated hours throughout the day for you to concentrate on family time, and switch off from work, will be a lifesaver. Rather than feeling the stress of trying to give both areas of your life 100% attention at exactly the same time, give your mind a break by allowing it to focus on only one thing at a time. Numerous studies have shown how important it is to take breaks throughout the day. Small, focused spurts of concentrated work are more effective than longer, unfocused periods of work – especially if your mind has to deal with constant worries and distractions.
As any teacher will tell you, lesson planning is far from a piece of cake. Hopefully your children’s school has already set a lot of the work for you, but your child will still be in need of further guidance. Even ten minutes to quickly run through the school work that needs to be done will help to structure your child’s studies and give them focus – allowing you to then focus on your own work, too.
Communicate with work
At least a part of the stress you will be feeling, as a working parent, is likely related to the worry of letting down your work colleagues and not achieving the levels of focus you had before the pandemic. But they will understand – let them know if you’re struggling to give both work and your family 100%, and see if there’s a way they could help. Maybe you need to work more flexible hours, or take a few days’ leave.
Letting colleagues know which particular hours in the day are likely to be dedicated to family time will help with setting their expectations, too – and allow you to truly enjoy that time without worrying about other commitments.
Have realistic expectations
It’s also important to be kind to yourself. Remember that this is an unprecedented challenge, and that no parents are dealing with this perfectly. Even the best-laid plans can fall apart sometimes, and that’s okay. It’s a good idea to aim for a structured timetable, but don’t become too disheartened if it’s not followed to the letter. This is a difficult time for the whole family, so appreciate and celebrate what everyone does manage to achieve!
All work and no play is not good for anyone. Have fun as a family, and enjoy the time you have together – one of the silver linings of this crisis is that you’ll likely be seeing more of each other than ever before. Whether it’s a weekly game night or a family karaoke sing-along, it’s important to maintain a healthy family dynamic through shared fun and activities. If you have a partner, this will help to bring you closer to them too – and, as research from Direct Line shows, many parents believe that a strong partnership is crucial for their children’s well-being.
Juggling home and work life is a challenge at the best of times, and it’s definitely an even greater challenge in the current circumstances. Setting up a clear structure and timetable, planning lessons, and communicating with work are all good ways to improve the situation, but don’t be too harsh on yourself if everyone doesn’t go exactly to plan – and remember to have fun!
Jessica Kelly is a freelance writer based in the UK, writing on a range of subjects including lifestyle, small business, and transport. When she’s not writing she can be found curled up with a good book and a cup of tea.
Thank you, Jessica for this lovely article, encouraging parents to find the way in these crazy days!
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Have a beautifully Imperfect day!