For many working parents, balancing work and family has always been a challenge. Thanks to COVID-19, finding a balance has become even more precarious as parents and children kick-start schooling at home.
With many schools going virtual, limited support systems and before and after-school programs, you may find yourself adding “homeschool teacher” to your list of skills and qualifications. Between fielding calls and emails for work to teaching your child reading, writing and arithmetic—you may wonder if you’ve finally gone in over your head.
Working. Parenting. Homeschooling. Who says you can’t juggle it all?
“Parents are spread pretty thin these days, and now they are grappling with how to manage remote learning while working remotely,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale, AZ. “For some families, this means homeschooling. For others, it’s virtual learning. The truth is there is no one right way. We have to do what works for us and make the best of it.”
Although the responsibility of homeschooling your child may seem daunting, it is possible to homeschool and work from home. It may just take some planning, organization, some patience … and maybe a bit of caffeine to fuel you through this time.
If you are taking on your children’s learning this fall, Dr. Fox offers up some tips to help you strike a balance with work and homeschooling.
Keep a Consistent Schedule
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” One of the biggest keys to finding balance is creating blocks of time for work, school, self-care and family time.
Whether it’s a large calendar that’s posted in your house for everyone to see or a Google calendar for the tech-savvy family, planning time for working, teaching and fun keeps everyone focused on doing one thing at a time.
“Understand that sticking to a routine or schedule is very similar to what your child already does in school or as a parent does at work,” Dr. Fox said. “It doesn’t have to be a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. routine, but mimicking that routine and schedule is so important for your child. It helps them feel secure while also understanding expectations.”
[For more tips on scheduling, check out “Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work & What to Do Instead.”]
Work Your Work Schedule
If you are fortunate to have a partner or spouse also working from home, consider working a split schedule, if your supervisor or company approves it. This allows one parent to focus on schooling, while the other tackles work, and then vice versa. If this doesn’t work, ask your boss if you can flex your schedule a few days a week or consider doing some school during the weekend or off hours.
“Again, there is no hard and fast rule for when schooling should take place, so make it work for your family and stick with it,” Dr. Fox said.
Set Them Up for Success
Whether it’s a personal desk in their bedroom or the kitchen table, set up a learning space just for them. They can help by organizing folders and school supplies, setting up a designated spot for grab-and-go snacks and adding little flourishes of their own to make their learning spot comfortable.
Embrace the Chaos
Can’t go under it; can’t go over it; sometimes, you just have to go through life’s messes.
And with everyone under one roof working, learning and living, things can and will go wrong.
For example, the dishes may pile up a bit more, technology may fail you and your kids may fight you tooth and nail with learning some days. It’s OK. You’re OK. Embracing the chaos—even finding some humor in the situation—can be a wonderful way to weather the mess and teach your child invaluable resiliency in the process.
Focus on the Little Things
Life is hard, and right now, it’s really, really hard for many. Focus on little blessings and moments of gratitude through chaos of what is happening outside of your home. You now get to have breakfast or lunch with your child, your weekends are now free of sports and birthday parties, and you have extra quality time that you may have never had before.
“Remind yourself that you are only able to do two things no matter what: Love your children and do your best job,” Dr. Fox said. “The job of parenting is one of the hardest, but greatest, things you can do as a human being. Things will be hard but remembering the small things puts things in greater perspective.”
[For tips on teaching your children gratitude, read “Five Ways to Teach Gratitude and Not Attitude.”]
Make Time for Yourself
We’ve seen the social media posts of parents hiding away from their kids (and spouses) in their pantries and closets. Although it doesn’t have to be as sneaky as this, make sure you take time for yourself. You should do this even when it seems impossible. Whether it’s an early morning walk or jog, reading a book or making bread, do something just for you.
“Taking care of yourself first will make you better able to help others,” Dr. Fox said.
Adjust Your Sails
While in theory these tips will help you find balance while working from home and homeschooling, the reality is there will still be some imbalance from time to time.
“During these times, remember to give yourself a lot of patience – and your kids even more,” Dr. Fox said. “This is all new for you, but especially for them. Have compassion and understanding that things might not go according to plan, and if they don’t, it’s OK to adjust your sails.”
There will be good days and there will be bad days, but you will get through this time. Just remember to focus on what is most important, have a positive outlook and embrace this chaotic time together.