What a world we are in right now. Parenting in the best of world’s is challenging at best, so this new COVID-19 world is taking it all to another level – quick kudos to all those original homeschooling / WFH parents -- we have a new level of appreciation. So how exactly do we navigate our way through these testing times and not completely burn out in the process?
Here are a few tips to (hopefully) help get you through.
This is a frequent reminder we need to give ourselves in a ‘normal’ situation, but as we face this global crisis, it is even more important. The struggles you have to deal with are so different to what they were before COVID-19 and yet oddly the same. One thing to remember is you don’t have to be a flawless Super Parent that has a day full of activities at the ready from 7am, perfect meals planned out and able to do all your WFH duties to top it off. Because let’s be honest – that’s exhausting and a really difficult standard to maintain. You might have to let your kids have more screen time during this period, but balance it out with continuing to encourage they get out into the backyard and stay active. If you don’t have a backyard, find some online kids workouts for them to do in the common area. The novelty of no school and being indoors will rub off quickly, so be patient with your kids and do your best to manage a routine and understand their needs. But the key words in that sentence is, just do your best, that is all anyone can ask for during this time.
This falls a little into the above, but don’t set the bar too high for keeping your children engaged. This generation has had easy access to immediate stimulation, so has a low tolerance for boredom, but boredom actually breeds creativity. So if you find that the kids are bored, simply tell them to find something to do and let their creativity flourish. You might be pleasantly surprised with what they are capable of.
Use these as a time to check in with the family and manage expectations of how family members will help out, work as a team, work with the new semi-permanent environment (eg when you only have one iPad/laptop/TV – how do you manage this). As things are changing at a rapid rate around us, it is important to keep the family in check as to what expectations are and ensure everyone is on the same page. This level of communication will not only go some way to eliminating misunderstandings and certain quibbles, but it will also make everyone feel involved and part of the team.
This is the time you may need to have an honest conversation with your boss and simply advise that you may not be as productive as normal, or you may need to work slightly different hours to accommodate having your kids at home. Set the expectations with yourself and your boss to ensure you are aligned with the new arrangement.
It’s easy to get caught up in the news cycle and find yourself worrying from day to day as to the impact that coronavirus is having on our health and economic systems. But for your kids, the impact on them is more around being away from their friends, missing out on key school milestones, missing sport, struggling with being indoors, etc. So check in frequently and look at how to make up for those things they no longer have with fun and laughter. Fun is the antidote to fear. Did you know that four year olds laugh about 600 times a day? (Adults laugh about 15 times a day...) You might find that while your bringing the fun into the day of your children, you’ll start to feel a bit of the anxiety and stress melt away as well.
If you find that your children and your partner are stepping up and supporting in new ways, let them know how much you genuinely appreciate them doing this and you will likely see their efforts duplicate. People love to know that they are doing something that is making someone else happy, so when they know that an action they are taking is being appreciated, they naturally want to keep doing it. See if there’s a way you can turn any nagging thoughts into verbalizing appreciation.
As parents we tend to put our needs behind those of our family – this has always been the case and is fairly universal. And now, with basic facilities that could help give us space, no longer open (think, that 3 hour hair appointment or the Kickboxing Cardio workout at the gym) we are having to find both the physical and the mental space at home. Keeping your energy levels up and mindset in check is not only going to help give you a fighting chance against catching coronavirus, it will also give you the strength to get your family through in one piece. We researched the best self-care apps to help get you started on just taking at least 5 minutes out of your day to dedicate to you.
There are plenty of resources online to assist parents with ideas to manage their kids being at home, including our own Springfree blog hub of information here. The key thing to remember is despite probably feeling like it, you’re not alone. There are plenty of support networks online and even if you can’t catch up with Karen for a coffee, physically, don’t dismiss the opportunity to have a virtual coffee catch up. It’s not the same, but it'll be a great feeling to close yourself in a room with a coffee, your phone, some headphones, your preferred video chat app, your bestie/s and share your challenges and triumphs together. The laughs (and maybe tears) you share might be just what you need to keep going.
While it doesn’t feel like it, there is an end to this pandemic. When and how we get there is unknown, but we will get there. And how good is that first gym workout going to feel, a wine at your favorite local hangout, full shelves at the supermarket or just dropping the kids off at school without any fear or concern for their health? The little things, right? So Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and Stay Home… (that last one, fortunately, is just for now).