Contributed by Marianne Simon, PsyD, Director of Behavioral & Therapeutic Supports at Wildwood
We are in unprecedented times right now. COVID-19 has led to millions of families being asked to work from home, homeschool their children, and continue the day-in and day-out tasks of keeping a household running.
Before March 16, 2020 we were used to juggling many hats, but were able to leave for work wearing our “employee cap,” then take that one off before coming home where we would then put on our “parent cap.” Now there is no time to switch roles; instead, you find yourself on a video conference call for work when all of a sudden, a child creeps over your shoulder and you try to shoo them away without anyone noticing. Then immediately after getting off your call you need to jump into teaching a math lesson on fractions—but first, you google how to do the assignment before you can teach it.
So how do we handle all this? There’s no magic wand we can wave to turn ourselves into superheroes, but by using the tips below we may be able to survive this period of extreme multitasking and physical distancing:
- Create a schedule or routine. Children are used to being in school all day where they follow a schedule. Trying to recreate the school day exactly is impossible, but having a routine in place will help the entire family function more smoothly. Have your child participate, to the best of their ability, in creating the schedule. Structure provides comfort and a sense of control.
- Have boundaries. Find a place in your home where you can “work” that is separate from all other operations of the household. When you are “working,” you should be in this identified area. Same for your child: find a place where “school” can take place that is separate from their play area. The change of environment throughout the day corresponds to a change in expectation and will help maintain boundaries for everyone.
- Schedule time with your kids. Just like replicating the school day is impossible, replicating your traditional work day is also unrealistic. We know our kids will need us. We know they will want us to engage and play with them. So, build this into the routine of the day so they know when they’ll have access to us.
- Practice physical distancing, not social distancing. Both you and your child need social connections outside of the family home. Use technology to help your child stay connected to others – extended family members, peers, teachers. Set up a time for your child to watch a favorite show while a friend is watching the same show and let them FaceTime each other while watching. Even better? Plan this during a time you know you have an important work call for some (hopefully) uninterrupted work time. Of course, limiting screen time is still important, but don’t worry if they are on a device more than usual, especially if it’s allowing kids to stay connected to others.
- Remember, it won’t be perfect, and find the positives. Find a system that works best for your family. Observe how everyone is doing with what has been put in place and tweak along the way. Don’t forget to notice the positives. In what other time will you get to spend so much time as a family. Go for family bike rides or walks, make a math lesson by counting rainbows in your neighborhood or cooking together. Document this time. Take pictures, journal together.
Remember, we will get through this. Often out of crisis comes many positive outcomes. Be safe, and stay healthy.