10 Tips for Keeping it Together While Managing Back-to-School at Home
We are heading into a school year like no other. In the midst of this pandemic, many parents have found themselves between a rock and a hard place, choosing between maintaining financial stability/career growth and risking exposure to Covid-19. As I’m typing this, I am configuring our house to fit workspaces for our four children; two of which are in elementary school and two of which are in preschool <insert prayers here>. In a recent Instagram post, I explained some of the conflicting emotions that may emerge during this time: fear, disappointment, grief, guilt, pressure, and the list continues.
All of this is new and so there is a learning curve regarding how quickly we can figure it all out; however, the good news is that we are all charting the course at the same time. I put together a few tips to help you navigate it and I hope that they are helpful.
Build a routine (key elements of each day) rather than a rigid schedule (minute-to-minute breakdown of each day) is important. If the schedule for distance learning is already designated by the school, then allow for flexibility with the other parts of your day (meal times, outdoor activity, bedtime).
Begin each day by waking up before your children to give yourself a moment of mindfulness. I would recommend practicing a brief (1-3 minute) meditation and setting an intention for the day. This reminds us to take it one day at a time and also helps to clarify one's focus before the hustle and bustle of the day is underway.
Set aside time to speak with your partner or support system to decide on who will do what and how the routine will be executed.
Take a moment at the beginning of each week (Sundays are typically best) to set intentions for the week and to address any special circumstances or changes that are on the horizon.
Be mindful that your child may be struggling with the adjustment as well, and practice empathy if you are noticing increased behavioral issues. It can also be helpful to teach your children healthy coping skills which may include mindfulness, relaxation strategies, or a creative outlet.
Remember what your child needs above all else: to feel love, closeness, security, and permission to be accepted as their full self.
Practice self-compassion about the fact that you will not be able to recreate the exact environment that your child had at school and be as productive at your job while simultaneously adding managing child care at home to your plate.
Recognize that it is not reasonable to assume that you will be able to do this smoothly right off the bat.
Acknowledge what factors are within your control (how I treat my children, how quality time is spent, what I prioritize in a day, my attitude, what I am grateful for) and which factors are not (coronavirus, how long this lasts, whether or not others agree with my decisions).
Use your energy for what is within your control.
This is uncharted territory so we don't have a blueprint for how to do it "right." Working from home and providing childcare/distance learning/homeschooling is the equivalent of at least two full-time jobs. I encourage you to be kind to yourself and others, and be patient with your capacity for making such significant, ever-changing adjustments to your routine. We can do this!
*This post was inspired by an email exchange with Amy Shoenthal who used my feedback in a story in Forbes magazine entitled, “The Women Shaping the Future of Mental Wellness.”