As the pandemic stretches into winter, home is increasingly where work and school are happening – often at the same time. The new normal can be challenging for parents. To smooth the days ahead, take a page from lessons learned in the trenches:
Rely on Routines
Keep daily routines intact, including baths, showers, brushing teeth and getting dressed for the day. Change out of pajamas and into school and work clothes as doing so resets the mind for work and school and encourages momentum.
Designate a workspace and working hours. Be upfront with colleagues about no-call times -- such as during dinner or bedtime. For kids and your spouse, use a stoplight system so they know when it’s okay to interrupt you.
Red: Interrupt only for true emergencies.
Yellow: Brief interruptions for urgent issues.
Green: Interruptions are welcome.
Divide to Conquer
Avoid getting overwhelmed by writing a to-do list. Divide items into 4 Ds and categorize for that day:
Doesn’t need to be done
Dividing and delegating tasks helps you feel productive while decreasing your load.
Look to Elders
Get the grandparents or other relatives involved in distance learning via Skype and Zoom. Maybe an elder can teach a lesson about history or introduce your kids to another language. Plenty of useful skills can be passed on, from knitting to woodworking. Creating is calming, educational and fun!
Outsource and Adjust
Take advantage of conveniences wherever possible, such as having groceries delivered or hiring a neighbor teen to shovel. Meanwhile, lower your expectations. The house can be a bit messier for a stretch of time and meals don’t have to be perfect. Keep your energy on what matters in the moment and give yourself grace.
When you schedule every hour for your kids, you take away an essential skill – the ability to fill their own time. Experiencing boredom can actually help kids be more creative. Think of it as free-form time that fosters independent thinking and problem-solving.
Put Multitask on Pause
Juggling various tasks all day might feel like the only way to get everything done. It’s important to take a brief break and do only one thing for part of your day. Be fully present, whether it’s coloring with your child or writing a business brief.
Pull an All-Nighter
If you feel like you’re falling behind, throw yourself into a late night of work. While sleep is important, an occasional late shift can provide the kind of productive results which end up boosting your mood.
Resist Making Comparisons
Social media can make it look like others have it completely together. Remind yourself that the family enjoying an idyllic learning activity probably didn’t include the 2-year-old’s meltdown or the middle-schooler’s eye rolls. The simple fact is there is no perfect in a pandemic, so don’t let social media prey on your insecurities.
Remember to Connect
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with your own pile of tasks, but make sure to take time to connect with your spouse or partner. Ask about their day and make them feel heard. Checking in with each other, even for a few minutes, goes a long way for your relationship.
(Jessica Clement, MS, LPCC, is a counselor at CHI St. Alexius Health’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). She provides services to individuals, couples, and families and incorporates person-centered, solution-focused, and cognitive-behavioral therapy into her work.)