The Working Parent's Guide to Surviving Coronavirus School Closures
Many of us have braved conference calls on snow days or when the backup to the backup childcare falls through. But closing schools for weeks on end? That is another level entirely.
Here’s your plan to survive the coming weeks.
1. Create a basic routine for your kids
Listen, I’ve seen the beautifully color-coded school closure daily routine on Facebook too. But we are talking potentially weeks (maybe months?!?!) with multiple kids at home; this is like summer vacation without summer camps, playdates, or the pool plus daily schoolwork and your own video conference calls.
Be realistic. Create a loose routine that makes room for fun but also isn’t a nightmare to adjust when the kids eventually head back to school. (Dear Lord, please let it be soon.)
Also, no kid needs hours upon hours of dittos or Google classroom to learn. Make the most of this unique moment in time by letting your kids learn through exploration and boredom.
Here’s the routine we’re trying. We’ll hold tight to the highlighted activities and adjust as needed. (I’m also planning to work in the dining room for a bit rather than my office to keep a general eye and ear out.)
2. Map out a plan for your work week (on Sunday or nightly)
Review your schedule for the week each Sunday (or the night before) with the following questions in mind:
What can I cancel or postpone? If you can cancel it, do it. Non-essential meetings can be pushed off until the kids are back in school. This is not business as usual.
When do I absolutely need coverage? For example, I have two one-hour calls that I simply cannot miss this week. Work with your partner or even older children and trusted babysitters to cover you during those times. Ask your partner when they need coverage too. Pray the times don’t overlap.
Which tasks are essential to complete? Let's face it. Work is going to be a challenge with kids in the house. Consider what is absolutely essential for you to complete. I MUST invoice a client this week – or else I won’t get paid for another few weeks. Expect to complete only what’s absolutely necessary. If you must, wake up early to make it happen.
For everything else, embrace this moment with all of its ups and downs. If you need to take a video call with a kid on your lap, who cares? If you end up playing Barbies while listening to a conference call on mute, and then have to say, “Can you please repeat the question?” when your name’s called, that’s okay too. Cut yourself some slack. This too shall pass.
3. Get your supplies ready
I do not mean go panic shopping which, in full disclosure, I have also done (but apparently, not before all of the toilet paper & Lysol disappeared).
No, what I mean is gather the items from around your house that will make life easier for you to both work and keep the kids occupied. Set up a supply station with the fundamentals. We put ours in the dining room because it’s the most central room in our house.
School supplies – pencils, pens, crayons, scissors, glue, tape, laptop
Various activity books – coloring books, puzzle books like Highlights Puzzle Buzz, seek and finds, Mad Libs, etc.
Cool art supplies – Perler beads, beads for bracelets, stickers, construction paper
Play-Doh & kinetic sand – use a cookie sheet with edges for easy clean up
Small games – UNO, (actually UNO Attack), Spot It, Old Maid, Sleeping Queens, Rush Hour, and a deck of cards
Small jigsaw puzzles and basic legos & magnatiles
Helping your kids find a new activity when they get bored and you’re finishing up an email is super easy with readily accessible supplies you don’t have to hunt down.
If you’re looking for some cool activity ideas or kits, I’ve loved Hands On As We Grow and Kiwi Crates.
And when you get desperate, snacks are always a lifesaver.
4. Relax screen time rules
Technology is a really efficient and cheap babysitter. When all else fails, turn to TV, iPads, or gaming systems.
I try hard to leave tech time for later in the day because once my kids start playing, it’s a fight to get them to quit (even with those apps that shut everything down). But I also don’t judge, so you do you, boo.
My best advice here is to use tech when you absolutely need it – to get your work done or for your own sanity. If you’re on a deadline and need to allow five extra hours of Fortnite, do it. If this isn't the definition of desperate times, I don't know what is.
Some of our favorites are the app Hay Day, Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego and Nailed It!, and anything on Disney+ (The Mandalorian was a hit here!)
5. Get outside and get moving daily
Finally, with social distancing, we will all be cooped up way more than usual. Get outside and get moving every day. It’s essential for your physical and mental health. Bike rides, nature walks, scavenger hunts, silly relay races, playing catch, hide and seek, etc. are just some ideas to try in the coming weeks.
Y’all, we will get through this. And when it’s all over, I suspect each of our families will have some hilarious and wonderful memories from the Coronavirus closures of 2020.
(As an Amazon Affiliate, I may earn a small commission, at no cost to you, if you buy an item from the above list of supplies. Trust me though, I'm not getting rich from it.)