Okay – your working from home. That’s not so bad right? In fact you’re probably saving time not commuting and being distracted by office gossip. Maybe you’re even more productive. That is unless you have kids home with you too.
If you’re a parent that relies on your child being in school or daycare so that you can work and provide for your family, the latest set of quarantine regulations might be particularly hard for you. While Austin Kids Retreat remains open (see our Facebook page for updates) for the children of essential workers during Austin’s shelter in place regulations, we know many people have their children home with them, at least for these first important few weeks that Austin ISD and Leander ISD remain closed.
Now your child is home with you for the foreseeable future. So how do you handle it all?
1. Take a Deep Breath.
Now deeper. These are stressful times right now with coronavirus mandating kids home. And the entire world is in the same situation in having “normal” shifted. Do your best. That is all you can ask of yourself and those around you.
2. Create a Workstation at Home.
If you didn’t already have one, I would suggest creating a workstation at home. This is a place that should be away from distractions like the television and other family members if possible. Just keep in mind – this station is great if you have the opportunity to lock yourself away (say taking turns with watching the kids with your partner or in the evening after the kids are in bed).
BUT during this crazy time, it’s important to be flexible! You may have to work at the kitchen table next to your child as they might need help on an assigned project, etc. Sometimes younger children are more likely to engage in independent play if you are near them and on their level! So set them up with an open-ended activity like magnatiles, duplos, etc and create a mobile workstation on the ground if possible! At the very least, work in the same room during those times that your child seems to crave your attention – even if you are not playing with them, being in the same space as them can make them feel more secure in their independent play. We have put together some fun ideas for things to do while at home if you don’t know where to start!
3. Make a General Schedule for the Day and Stick to it!
In your schedule, include time to go on family walks (everyone gets the exercise they need) – I suggest doing this before lunch because it will be a natural break for you. Exercise is a great way to stay healthy, get rid of your child’s excess energy, and studies have shown outdoor exercise in particular aids in better sleep! Oh and speaking of lunch, or rather food in general, have a food schedule. This may seem absurd but how do you think kids survive without the 5,000 snacks they seem to eat when at home, while at school? Set snack times (9:30-10) and (2:30-3), set lunch times (11:45-12:15) and set dinner time (5-5:30) to create a reliable schedule of food for your child. They learn to become hungry at these times, wait for the snacks that are served, and are still hungry enough for dinner. Encourage lots of water and engaging activities for times they seem insatiable out of the eating schedule (often hunger is actually boredom or thirst!)
If you have older children and would prefer they self-regulate snacks this genius mom came up with this snack basket solution.
Plan out dinners in advance and divide which parent is going to be responsible. If you’re uncertain of what healthy meals to make, this article is a good start. For those of you with picky eaters check out these picky eating tricks in order to make it easier to make just one meal for the whole family.
Lastly, in your schedule include a set bedtime. It can become easy or tempting to slip into a late-night routine when you don’t have school the next day. But sleep studies show that younger children sleep better and are more rested when they go to bed between 7-7:30 and get a 11-12 hours of sleep.
Now make a really specific schedule for your child’s activities. Your child will be more engaged and you will spend less time setting up activities or figuring out how to entertain them when you need to work if you have a specific schedule put together. Have grace if the routine needs to flex but take the time to really outline exactly what to do or at least have a general idea. If your day has academia – what will it be? What exactly will they study? What will they watch? What toys will you set up for prepared play? Children should have a period of independent play each day, but they are likely to be more engaged when the environment rotates (toy rotation) or is set up in a unique way (animal toys are pulled out next to a bowl of water and a brush, your child is instructed to give the animals a bath). There are lots of Facebook groups and Instagram accounts set up solely to indoor activities for your child based on age (@busytoddler for example). Additionally, schools are launching at home schedules or you can access a homeschool plan like the one on @othergoose has on Instagram (at the time of this posting they are offering free homeschool plans during the COVID quarantine).
*If you have multiple children I strongly suggest scheduling part of the day so that your children have a little bit of distance from each other. This allows them to flourish independently and truly let’s them miss one another. Too much togetherness isn’t good for any relationship!
4. Set Up A Cleaning Schedule
More bodies in the house for more hours = more mess. And it might seem overwhelming with your work schedule! Here are some easy tips to keep the house clean
- Empty the dishwasher in the morning and load it through the day
- Put a load of laundry in first thing in the morning / switch it to the dryer at lunch time / fold it right before bed.
- One glass for the day! Fill up a water bottle for each person in your house. That’s their cup! No 20 dishes for the day
- Meal prep. If at all possible meal prep in some way – this means less cooking separate meals which in turn means less dishes for you. If you don’t like cooking multiple dinners at a time, I would suggest at least doubling most dinner recipes so they can be used for lunch the next day as well!
- In your kid’s schedule give them a new task each day…scrubbing the bathtub, magic eraser the baseboards/doors, sweep all the dirt into a square, and more. A toddler and older should be able to help in some way (maybe not perfectly but they’re learning and might have to do it with you).
Be sure you’ve set yourself up for success by implementing these COVID-19 cleanliness tips in order to stop the spread of germs like Covid-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus.
To make things easier for you, we’ve attached a sample cleaning schedule and a blank schedule for you to make your own cleaning schedule if preferred. There’s a downloadable PDF link here: PDF Sample Cleaning Schedule | PDF Blank Cleaning Schedule
5. Take Turns.
Take turns with a partner, if possible, where you each get solid chunks of time to focus and buckle down. By breaking up the day this way you can both have windows of hyper-productivity and a nice break to the day connecting with your children during your time playing together and instructing your child. If you don’t have a partner to take turns with, you can try implementing this same strategy (depending on your children’s age) where you have a time of the day that you spend with them and meeting emotional needs, and then a time of the day blocked off where you are heads down working. During this time you might try to implement an activity or even utilize some screen time. No shame in that!
6. Work Habits – Are Yours Good or Bad?
Take a quick look at your work habits. Are you interrupted by long stints on social media? Do you tend to spend the morning doing busy work rather than the priority tasks? Do you often barely make deadlines? Then you might want to look at how you work and see if there are ways to find improvements.
The best way to start your day off right is to “eat the frog”. This means you start off your workday by tackling the most important task (even if it’s the most difficult). We have a tendency to push these time-consuming tasks off until we see a solid chunk of time in our schedule. This often results in the most important task being pushed to the brink of our deadline and even being late! Yikes. This can make you feel even more stressed out and can cause emotional lashing out to those around you. By reorganizing your day by using the right tools, organizing your schedule effectively, and efficiently completing tasks you will find that your productivity level will increase while stress decreases!
Additionally, you might have to change how you have traditionally worked. Maybe instead of a one big chunk workday, you now work early in the morning, a stint in the afternoon, and finish up after bedtime. Be gentle and flexible with yourself as you navigate this new normal. NO ONE expects perfection and a complete schedule flip in just one day. It will take time and there will absolutely be days when nothing goes right, your kids go crazy, and not an ounce of work was done. And you know what. That’s okay. It WILL happen. Prepare yourself mentally and attempt to let go of stress when it does go wrong. There’s always tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day to try.
And a last reminder for managing your day…remember to prioritize making time for you – whether it’s 15 minutes of meditation, a 30 minute bike ride, or a brief moment after dinner sitting outside with a book and a glass of wine – find moments that are just about you that will recharge you in these uncertain times. You cannot possibly be a super-parent if your own tank is empty. So fill your tank first, then gear up and tackle the day the best you can! In this article, there are lots of healthy habits both you and your children can implement that will benefit the family mentally and physically.