Many parents, caregivers, and guardians face new and difficult choices about how their child will return to school this month, such as deciding between in-person and virtual learning.
School districts across country are desperately trying to figure out how to reopen schools safely this fall, many with ideas about proposing schedules that only include in-classroom learning a few days a week, and others choosing to spend this fall e-learning like spring, while the number of Covid-19 cases continue to climb.
No matter where your school fits in this new-style schedule, one thing is clear… coronavirus is placing an almost impossible expectation on working parents by also casting them in the role of teacher.
For parents who are able to remote work, this can mean attempting to manage you own full-time job in addition to home-schooling your children, something that many parents have no experience doing. For parents who aren't able to remote work because their roles in health care, food service, transportation, the media and more are deemed essential, the current situation is even more of a struggle.
Coronavirus is placing an almost impossible expectation on working parents by also casting them in the role of teacher.
Regardless of which school style you and your family fall into, here are a few strategies to navigate helping our kids learn during this overwhelming time:
Get a head start.
Getting one or two things done early in the morning before everyone else is up. Every morning, try and get a jump start on a general schedule for each child listing school tasks, chores and general activities outside of schoolwork as a way to keep things moving and on task. Mornings spent completing schoolwork can be followed by afternoon time that might be spent on activities, games or screens. Creating a schedule can be a lifesaver, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you get off track. Even with the most organized structure and system, many of us are processing a lot right now, and making adjustments from day to day or week to week may be necessary. At the very least, build a routine to start and end the day to maintain continuity in a time that seems disjointed.
Divide and conquer.
It is really useful to divide the day into a morning shift and an afternoon shift. Work out a system where, for a concentrated four-hour block of time, one parent takes the lead with teaching while the other one completes work activities, and plan to switch around lunchtime or when your schedule permits. This plan also works using any dedicated blocks of time, for those parents that have to be on the phone or zoom.
For those parenting without a partner, or who’s partner’s schedule does not allow work from home, the idea of dividing and conquering may seem dreamlike, but it’s still possible. Segment time into buckets of work, movement, and rest using outside resources, screens and activities. This will create blocks of time to complete necessary tasks. For an older elementary school student, having a video chat with a grandparent or family friend might provide a virtual check-in while a parent is in an important meeting.
Create designated workspaces.
It’s likely you’ve already found a dedicated workspace for where you manage your tasks and make your zoom calls, but it’s just as important for children to have their own designated space to take class, study, work, or Zoom with their teachers or friends. Finding someplace structured for kids to learn might take some creativity in your home but will work better than having all kids competing for common space at the kitchen table or couch. Separate bedrooms work fine for older children – middle and high school aged children are used to managing their own days. For younger children, your presence is likely necessary to provide structure as needed and support or help when kids need it.
Communicate with your employer.
Switching to remote work is challenging for any company. Add kids to the equation and communicating transparently with a boss and colleagues becomes even more important. If you have smaller children who need full-time supervision, or older children who need help with schoolwork, you may need flexible adjustments to your once-normal work routines. Block time off on your work calendar when you are unavailable for meetings and discuss priorities with your boss or manager to eliminate (or pause) projects that are not essential during this remote working situation. Many employers are already hard at work planning how to help you adjust while keeping their business going, so if you haven’t heard from them yet on the topic, ask.
Most importantly, if you are having a hard time managing this incredibly stressful time, it is highly likely your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place. While some programs are more robust than others, even the basic ones will offer resources or telephone counseling to help deal with stressful situations.
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