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How Working Parents Can Adjust to the "New Normal" of School Closures

Knife safety at its finest.

How are you doing so far with the #coronaclosures?

On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being hellatious and 10 being amazing), I’m giving myself a very generous 7 (my husband says it should be a 3, but I am an optimist #sorrysteve).

On Day 1 alone:

  • The kids whined through 30 minutes of academics and reading.

  • They played for hours in the yard and only fought 32 times – in the span of 8 minutes.

  • Only one kid sliced his finger open with a knife making lunch (but I had a Paw Patrol Bandaid at the ready!) and the strawberries camouflaged the blood (see picture above).

  • I was only interrupted 6,327 times while I tried to write a 3-sentence email.

  • I didn’t eat the entire refrigerator (but my kids did).

  • I sent an invoice to a client and danced to “I just got paid.”

  • I had virtual wine with a friend at 8:30 pm.

  • I was on amazing text chains with mom friends.

  • I squeezed a 20-minute workout in on the Peloton treadmill.

Even if it's been a total shitshow and you scored a 0, there’s always tomorrow! (And the day after that… and the day after that… and the day after that… Sorry. I know. Not helpful.)

Honestly, give yourself some grace if that amazing color-coded schedule hasn't worked out the way you planned. We are ALL adjusting to a new normal. Take the wins where you can.

Here’s what you can do to adjust to this new normal.

For Yourself

o Prioritize your Most Essential Tasks – for work and for life (METs). Now, more than ever, you need to be freakishly efficient. What is essential for you to get done today? Write it down now so you don’t forget after you’ve doled out the third snack by 9:17 am. Work with your partner to juggle the childcare schedule so you can get 1-2 blocks of time to get your METs completed. Cancel or postpone EVERYTHING else.

o Wake up earlier than the kids. This is a good habit even when you’re not trying to work + homeschool. Use this time to do something for yourself or get those Most Essential Tasks done.

o Reframe your thinking. This is not an ideal situation. It’s easy to go all Debbie Doomsday pretty quickly. Stop. It. Now. While this is undoubtedly hard, it is also an opportunity. For you. For your kids. For your work. How might you make the most of it? What do you want your kids to gain from this experience?

o Create time to recharge. Now, more than ever, you need to find time to rest and recharge. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. You cannot burn yourself out. Make time for sleep, exercise, meditation, connecting with friends, reading – whatever fills you up. Exercise is a Most Essential Task for me. If creating time feels like a struggle, pick one small thing – like drinking a glass of tea in peace and quiet – and give your kids the iPad and their favorite game. Let Fortnite support your mental health for once.

One resource that has been particularly useful to me is the Meditation section of the Peloton App. Peloton is now offering a FREE 90 day subscription trial to the app. You don’t need to have any equipment to access the content. My kids are obsessed with Anna Greenberg’s Meditations to fall asleep.

For Your Kids

o Stick to a routine. A routine does not mean a rigid schedule. (See here for our routine.) Just try to get your kids up, dressed, fed, and in bed around the same time every day. Routines provide a structure and rhythm to the day and give everyone a sense of what to expect. They’ll also help when the kids (inevitably?!?!) head back to school.

o Give them choices. No one likes being told what to do. If they must work on academics, give them a choice. Do you want to focus on math or English first? Let them decide how to use their free time. Giving kids agency promotes happiness and a sense of control. How can you help them understand the choices available to them?

o Let them play, explore, and do some chores. There’s no need to recreate school at home with endless dittos and hours of Google Classroom. Online learning can only get you so far - so check the box and move on (#sorryteachers). Round up your games, puzzles, arts and crafts, brain teasers, items to build with, gardening tools, etc. and let them learn through play. Older kids can also learn to cook, listen to audiobooks, take a virtual painting class, do chores like laundry, or complete home renovation projects, like refinishing a small table or dresser. (Thank God, Amazon is still shipping!)

o Encourage movement, ideally outside. Take the dog for a walk, run around the yard, go on a scavenger hunt, dig in the dirt. Kids need to be outside. Every time my kids started to fight today, I sent them outside and – poof – we were all happier. If you’re in an apartment, how might you build outside time into your day? (Update: Because the universe wants to push me to the edge, it is going to pour for most of the day. The kids may still go outside. But they can also watch a movie, do a Go Noodle (watch the videos under Good Energy at Home), or even walk on the treadmill.)

o Embrace boredom. This is so incredibly hard for kids (and parents) today. We shuffle them to sports practice or music lessons or any number of other activities. They find it hard to just be. Let them be bored. Boredom stimulates creativity. If your kids are struggling here, brainstorm with them a list of activity ideas and encourage them to turn to that list when they get bored. Eventually, they will start creating their own activities.

o If they do nothing else, read. People way smarter than me recommend reading as an essential learning activity during this time. Fiction. Nonfiction. It doesn’t matter. Just read.

There are so many great resources out there for kids. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. Here are a few helpful resources we’re trying.

For Your Work

o Be realistic. You will not be as productive as you were before school or daycare closed. The sooner you accept that, the better. Focus on the Most Essential Tasks. This is not business as usual.

o Be flexible. How and when you work will likely need to shift day by day given what you have to complete and the moods of your children. Roll with it. Some days work will have to give a little. Other days you will allow 6 hours of Nailed It! on Netflix to complete a big proposal. Give yourself grace to embrace the inevitable give and take.

Managers, this also applies to you. In this wild time, be clear about what’s essential for your employees to deliver and when but be flexible about how it gets done.

o Adjust where you work. Move your workspace, for at least part of the day, into a central location so you can be accessible to your kids. Use your home office, if you have one, for those times when you do not want to be disturbed – like video calls or when you need to concentrate more deeply. (I have noise canceling headphones too.)

o Switch off with your partner. If you’re lucky enough to have your partner at home too, make clear who is accessible to the kids and when. Each morning, discuss with your partner the times during the day when you each need coverage and note them down. While my husband and I both started the day in our central work location, we quickly realized there was no sense in us both getting distracted, so we took shifts in the office based on our schedules for the day.

o Set alarms for key times. When you’re juggling kids and work schedules, it’s easy to lose track of time. For anything essential, set an alarm first thing in the morning on your phone for 5 minutes the before the event so you can transition back to your computer.

It’s hard to imagine it now, but this too shall pass. How might you create some fun memories for you and your kids in the meantime?

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1 Comment

This is incredible! Thanks for keeping it real and helping the rest of us realize that we aren’t failing. The tips are awesome and you are an inspiration.

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