The age of COVID has created a collision course of sorts, with the roles as parents, employees and educators all converging together. For those finding themselves in the midst of that, setting yourself and your family up with a solid plan forward is the best way to achieve both success and sanity! There is no perfect plan, but there are things families can do to put their best foot forward when it comes to this new way of life. We’ve all been thrown into this and our world has been in a tailspin since March. But it’s never too late to take a step back and hit the reset button. Here are some things you as a parent can focus on and improve upon that will help you feel less stressed as you juggle between all of your roles as employee, parent and educator.
Scheduling out and managing your precious time is key. If you often feel as though there’s not enough time in the day, you are not alone! Modern day parents are expected of A LOT! Whether you are working inside or outside of the home, it is hard to juggle everything that is thrown at you. While parents can’t schedule in every little thing, especially when things are constantly changing, you can pencil in a schedule that is flexible, yet rigid enough to help you feel both accomplished and less stressed at the end of the day. Setting up a clear and concise schedule will also help you establish boundaries between your own work, housework and your child’s work. As parents, it’s natural for us to feel as though we should be doing everything at once. However, multitasking just causes you to put less concentration and energy into multiple things. In a time when ‘multitasking’ is both possible and encouraged by society, it’s very easy to over schedule yourself. While multitasking is definitely something that is necessary at times, it is often just as efficient to focus on just one task at a time. You may find that by doing this, you will be both more relaxed and less stressed. Not to mention more productive. If it’s a scheduled work time, you shouldn’t be throwing in laundry or scrubbing the stove. Have respect for your own schedule and don’t distract yourself by trying to squeeze in housework when you should be checking off your work to-dos! While this post isn’t meant to tell you HOW to manage your time, we do want to highlight how important it is to set up a schedule/calendar that not only includes all of your roles and duties, but also your meals, breaks and self care! After all, you can’t expect your car to run on fumes, so why should you expect that of yourself?
Another important part of reducing stress as a modern parent is setting up efficient routines for your family. You as a parent may have a normal routine, but is it efficient? More importantly, is it compatible with the “COVID age?” The family routine(s) you had last fall likely won’t work anymore. On the other hand, with many parents now working from home, it can be easy to forgo any sort of normal routine at all. Additionally, with your kids participating in remote or hybrid (combo of both remote and in-person) schooling, multiple routines may be required. Before COVID hit, maybe you used to wake up from an alarm clock, hit the snooze a couple times then jumped into the shower quickly while you thought about the day of work ahead. Now, it may seem like there’s no rush to go anywhere. It may seem easy and logical to skip those normal ‘routine’ steps you’d be taking if you were leaving the house. So what’s the point? Actually, studies show that people working/learning from home are more productive if they start the day as if they were actually going somewhere. It makes a ton of sense, and helps you stay on a productive track. Whether you’re still commuting to the office or your office is your bedroom, setting up a daily routine will help your family get into a normal rhythm. Eventually what once seemed overwhelming will get easier, as all members of your family get used to doing what needs to be done. There will hopefully be less conflict, less stress and more productivity!
One of the best ways to create a stress-free (ok, ‘stress-free’ may be a stretch!) at-home work and learning environment is to have a dedicated and organized work space for each family member. Constantly stepping over stuff and moving things out of the way is distracting. Many studies show that home clutter can negatively affect productivity. The learning and work environment should be mess-free and organized so materials can be easily located. If you have children doing remote-learning, it will also help them to cope and adjust to this new routine if they have a dedicated space to call their own. Whether it is a stand alone desk or a corner of the kitchen table, organization is key!
Ask for Help
It takes a village! It sounds cliche, but it is so true. No one expects you to do this alone. Ask your partner for help, ask your neighbors, family, friends. We’re all in this together. Families and communities used to live closer together. Extended families used to all be under one roof. Now we all live separately and everyone in the neighborhood is doing the same exact thing, but behind their own four walls. Let’s find a way to bring that feeling of community back safely. Maybe you form a ‘pod’ with a couple of other like-minded families nearby. The kids will be able to socialize and the parents can too. Another solution is to start/join a babysitting co-op with people you trust. If you’re wondering what that is, this sums it up perfectly: The concept is simple: A group of parents babysit one another's kids, exchanging points or other currency with each sit and meeting regularly to build relationships within the group. The details—like how to award points, keep track of activity, or add new members—are easily customizable.No cost? Check. Available sitters who we trust? Check. Plus, it was the ticket into a cozy little community of like-minded parents with kids around the same age as ours. Nowadays, we bump into them at the park and the farmers' market, and several have become close friends. And our neighborhood feels a lot more like home.
Staring at a computer screen all day will make you cray-cray! Taking breaks are very important for both parents and children. Whether you choose to schedule breaks, or you just can’t concentrate and you need to step away, go for it! Go outside for a walk, have a cup of tea or just sit back and do nothing! Sometimes our minds just need to re-set.
Allow for Fun Family Time
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” Just because you are now being asked to both work and conduct school from home doesn’t mean there’s no time for fun. In fact, quality family play time is more important than ever. Especially face-to-face time disconnected from technology. With distance working/learning’s dependence on technology, comes less time spent actually interacting with one another. Whether you’re going outside on a hike, playing a friendly game of wiffle ball or a championship game of Rhino Hero at the kitchen table, fun family time is so very important. Did someone say games? No matter your family’s age range, HABA has a fantastic line-up of board games they’ll actually want to play at family game night!
With so much more being expected out of parents these days, there isn’t a whole lot of time for cooking. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of not eating well when nearly every second of your day is spent working or caring for others. Choosing convenience over nutrition is one of the biggest mistakes we can make as parents. Eating balanced meals is the key to having energy and mental clarity to tackle the day. The solution is to plan meals ahead of time, scheduling in eating times to prevent excessive snacking, and utilizing your crock or insta pot to cook in bulk. If you’re not eating properly, chances are by 2 or 3 o’clock you’re ready to call it a day. Healthy eating will also have a tremendous impact on your kids. Hungry stomachs make concentrating on learning difficult and healthy foods tend to satisfy those bellies more efficiently than the empty calories of a convenience food.
Get Adequate Sleep
Don’t be in the habit of staying up late to catch up. This will drag you down! Adults need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep. Give yourself a bedtime if you have to. And try to reduce your exposure to blue light at least 1-2 hours before bed. Blue light from electronic devices such as TV, lamps, computers and phones/tablets delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin - a hormone that regulates sleep.
Activity in some form every day is very, very important. Whether you enjoy a good kickboxing class in the gym, love firing up something on youtube to get you motivated in the basement or prefer to walk around the neighborhood and listen to an audiobook by yourself, movement is key. Not only will you feel better getting up and out of your seat, excessive sitting can affect your metabolism, increase blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and lead to excessive weight gain-- all of this making you more prone to getting sick. Experiment with different times of the day to find what works for you. Some will be able to fit in a work out in the mornings by walking the dog and following that up with a jog. While others may prefer a lunchtime session away from their desk. If the kids are the issue, involve them! Movement is great for the whole family.
Take Care of Yourself
As parents it’s so easy to get burnt out. Taking care of other people is hard work. But it’s ok (and necessary!) to take care of yourself! Re-charge by setting aside time or even a full day where you focus on yourself. Meditation, self reflection or maybe even some retail therapy. If time alone isn’t your thing, plan a night out with friends or a date night with your partner. And self care doesn’t have to mean going out. It can simply mean a long hot shower or sleeping in on a Sunday and letting your kids watch a couple of extra shows. Self care is an opportunity for you to re-charge so you have energy to tackle the needs of others once Monday rolls around again!