Temporary work at home parents-come-teachers. A few tips for navigating this new landscape.
As 2020 dawned, no one in their wildest dreams expected the unprecedented global shift that COVID-19 has brought about. With many of us still trying to grapple with having our lives literally locked down, a significant number of us took our jobs home. And that’s where we’re going to stay for an indeterminate period of time. For many, this is not a huge deal, with many aspects of it actually beneficial for the child free. But what about the thousands of work at home parents who are struggling to work and look after their children – and teach them too?
One of the first things I would usually suggest to parents working at home with younger children would be to ask for help from other parents, friends or grandparents. But that’s not going to work with COVID-19 hanging around. So, if you’re going to successfully work at home with young children, you’re going to have to work around them because they not going to work around you.
First things first. You know your children’s habits, you know their good times of day and their bad. You generally know when they wake up and what time you put them down. So use this to put together some kind of schedule. Remember, it’s not going to be a neat nine to five day.
Planning and productivity
- Keep the lines of communication open with your boss and your HR team. Make sure they know what they can and can’t expect from you. Even with the best intentions, it’s very unlikely that your productivity will be as it was in the office. However, it’s also likely that they, themselves will have similar issues at home.
- Forget the nine to five. It’s unrealistic to think you will do all your work during office hours if you’re looking after a young child. So work in the morning, during naps and after bed time. It won’t be easy but you’ll get far more work done.
- A good productivity tip is to do what’s called time blocking. Allocate a set amount of time to one task and you work smarter, your focus remains on that one project and your mind isn’t cluttered with others. When you’re time poor this is a great way to work. Also, the best time for phone calls and hi-intensity work is when little ones are asleep, so keep those tasks for nap time.
- Make sure you share the load. If you and your partner are both working at home or your little tyke has older siblings. It’s time for relay child care! Also, consider handing over the baby reins for a whole day, where possible, if either you or your partner have a big project on. This gives you the chance to knuckle down to some uninterrupted work.
What about school age children and the new home schooling regime brought about by COVID-19?
Older children don’t need as much of your undivided attention as toddlers and babies. They’ll also understand what’s going on and why if you explain it to them. So, when it comes to actually home schooling your children, the first thing to remember is relax. Your child will pick up on your mood so if you are stressed they will be too. If you worry about your own work while you’re teaching your child, you’ll be impatient and short, which is likely to upset and distract your child from the lesson
No one is expecting you to become an incredible teacher overnight. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Just follow the instructions you are given by the school to help your child self-serve online training. Go through all the teaching resources together and make sure your child has everything they need before you start so they stay focused on the actual lessons.
Keep things simple
Try out different learning methods. See what suits them best. It may take a little while to work out what kind of delivery is easiest for them to absorb. Stick to a basic routine to develop good habits but don’t be too rigid with it or you’ll drive yourself mad.
Don’t think that you need to copy a school day structure. You’ll find a few hours a day will be enough. Learning is better concentrated and there is no transit between classes or any of the other distractions of a school. But make sure you do allow for regular breaks so that little minds can re-focus.
Remember there are many ways to learn and teach: When your child helps you to build their new desk they develop skills like, engineering, reading, communication, collaboration, patience and attention to detail.
Keep it fun
Learning can be fun and when you’re thrown into a situation like this, with no idea what is coming, you can do a lot worse than teach your children some valuable life skills when the academia becomes too much. From self-awareness and empathy, to strategy and teamwork. Add in some cooking, perhaps a bit of DIY and a few chores to earn some cash and you’re well on the way to raising well rounded, kind and clever humans.
If you have a garden take your children outside in the fresh air to learn. Whether that means taking their books outside or you give them a magnifying glass and send them off like little explorers. Time outside is good for all of you. Depending on their age, this may also give you the chance to squeeze in a couple of emails and a phone call or two.
Ease up on yourself!
Finally, it’s important to remember to give yourself a break during this work at home parents lark. You will get things wrong. You may upset your children, you will definitely have a few rows with your partner. It’s also likely a few deadlines will pass you by. But at the end of the day, you are doing all this during a pandemic that no one saw coming. Everything in your life has changed but no one gave you the instruction booklet for navigating your way through it. So let’s put that into perspective: Could you put together a peace of flat pack furniture without one? No. So how on earth can you be expected to navigate your way through this?
Remember: Your school aged child will not fail to be a good person because you failed to teach them properly for a couple of months. Your little one will only remember looking at another face he or she loves as you handed them over and closed the door to your temporary home office. All this will pass and you’ve probably done far, far better than you think you have.
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