The spread of the Coronavirus has forced thousands of working parents to work from home WITH KIDS. My best friend mentioned she was unsure how she would manage it. This is a relevant issue affecting so many of us. Managing working from home with children who need to be homeschooled can be overwhelming Kids, especially younger kids, demand around the clock attention.
As a VA, providing outsourced marketing support to small businesses, I’m somewhat experienced in this space. Have I mastered it? Not exactly. Did I have to home school as well? NO! But the philosophy remains the same. There are most definitely strategies you can put in place to minimise the fallout – and even thrive. I’m implementing them, and fine-tuning them, and so can you. We can do this, not alone but together! So, if you’re struggling to navigate your new life outside of the office, These strategies from a home working Mum may help you survive these challenging times with your sanity mostly intact.
1. Mindset is key
Be kind to yourself
You’re going to have wobbles during this experience. After all, humans are not built to be in close confines without the ability to socialise! Add in working from home while homeschooling the children. ahhhh! Expect extra emotion and acting up, (from the kids too.) This is not normal, this is an unknown, scary and huge change. They will miss their friends as much as you will.
With routines disrupted and families thrown into close quarters, cabin fever is a real danger.
Adding to this, fear is in the air. Working Mums have shared their fears of running out of work, money, Losing family and friends. The physical and mental strain of needing to add even more hats to your existing workday. Fear of letting your children down by not teaching them in the way a teacher could. Fear of the impact isolation may have on mental health. Or being pulled in directions, so you’re not giving them the love and gentle care they need, especially at a time like this. Even the fear of not being able to wipe yourself after going to the toilet. Know you’re not alone.
Aim to eradicate your fear!
Step 1: Acknowledge your fears. They’re valid.
Step 2: Understand its purpose is to keep you safe. Be kind to yourself.
Step 3: Breathe deeply 3 times, inhale, exhale!
Step 4 – Choose a new more helpful focus. Redirect yourself to ACT. Our thoughts are POWERFUL and can stop our actions towards positive outcomes. I was stopped from positive action all last week. I’ve refocused. I took some vital ME TIME – A virtual 1:1 yoga session from a gorgeous friend. I washed my bedsheets and sent the family for a fun camping venture in the backyard so I could enjoy the simple pleasure of quiet night, in a freshly made bed. #Restorative. What can you put in place to improve your mindset?
Step 5 – If you feel yourself slipping back into an unhelpful headspace. Shift it again. Sing and dance with your kids, or take up a hobby, or do a family meditation, using deep breathing. I use the calm app. as do my kids. They have bedtime stories, focus on anxiety, or lack of sleep, meditations and much more. Even Matthew Mcconaughey shares a story. Switch the channel. STOP what you’re doing, get up and refocus.
Versatile VA has been liaising and collaborating with Everymind over the last 6 months. They have a program called Ahead For Business. It’s a great small business resource to use. Take the mental health checkup. Use their toolkit to equip yourself with further support and ideas.
Ghandi summarised the importance of mastering mindset with this quote:
Your beliefs become your thoughts.
Your throughts become your words.
Your words become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your values.
Your values become your destiny.
2. Dedicate an office area
You need a designated place for your home office, so all family members are aware it’s your office. Even If it is on the kitchen table. At specific designated times, they have to respect this is your workspace and not disturb you while you’re sat at it. unless it’s an emergency or urgent.
Avoid OH&S issues, keep it as ergonomic as possible. Create a makeshift foot stool. Or use a box to get the height of the computer correct. Ensure Wi-fi is fast enough. The lighting needs to be sufficient. A headset and a printer/scanner is a nice to have also.
Create a schedule/routine but be flexible.
Set a time block routine from the outset. Aim to keep your wake-up times the same as they were, consistency and routine is key. You’ll all cope better, when you know what and when you are doing each day. Even if it’s as simple as wake time, eat time, play time, learning time, exercise time.
In saying that, ensure it’s flexible and adaptive. For example, if you need to get up an hour earlier than everyone else, for self-care or to smash out some urgent work, do it. Equally, if one morning you all want to stay in bed until 10am…do it!
Work smart not hard
- Work out the best time to make phone calls or be on teleconferences with the least distractions.
- Set specific times for activities to break up the day. Feel free to use our Daily Routine 2020. Provide a print-out of the routine for your kids. Prepare any materials /supplies they may need.
- Set alarms/Bells. Use Google Home or other devices to help your kids remember what to do next. (Automate it as much as possible). Above all, be realistic and flexible, expect to be interrupted.
- It isn’t easy to work from home with kids. Use our resource sheet which lists brilliant, free aged-based school resources for your children. Utilise these as a supplement to the school’s online learning or alternative learning plans.
- Consider working late at night when kids are in bed. However, please ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Easy to say, with so much to juggle, often hard to achieve, however we all need to stay healthy!
- Allocate your most critical work during a time when your kids can sit for a good 2 hours straight. If they’re really young, capitalise on their nap times. In our household this occurs during electronics time. Because when they’re absorbed in a movie, playing Minecraft, reading eggs or Mathletics, I smash out work!
Pre-prepare the day’s food as you would for school and show the kids their lunch bags. This is what they get to eat between 9-3pm. This will minimise the ‘Muuum I’m hungry’ distractions, and ration the food stores as well. They seem to eat twice as much at home than at school otherwise. Align break times to school or daycare timetables. Crunch and sip in the morning, then recess, followed by lunch.
Plan to enjoy a minimum of one meal with them. You need a lunch break. It’s nice to connect, re-set and recharge the batteries too. So why not enjoy it together. Be sure everyone has water, and drinks regularly.– 2 litres of water a day is optimal. Give someone a job of being a water monitor – kids love power! 😉
Set time for you and kids to exercise together, it’s important to stay healthy, and active. There are so many activities, from zumba, aerobics on tv at home, to jumping on trampoline, go for a scoot, bike ride or walk around the block. My favourite online kids workouts where its fun for mum too are Cosmic Kids Yoga, and a visual pleaser P.E with Joe . Similarly, this re-connects you and the kids, they’ll feel recharged to go off for some more solo activities. Vitamin D, sunshine and fresh air are vital for mental health and for defeating/preventing viruses including COVID-19.
Plan activities together! Now more than ever your kids need some extra parent time. Squeeze it into your plan. Bake bread, make play doh, play scrabble, kick a ball in the backyard.
Stay connected with friends and family. It’s so important for maintaining mental health and social engagement. Try conferencing tools like: Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp video, House Party to name a few options.
Allocate some quiet time
Allocate some quiet time for you all throughout the day. If possible, create spaces in your house for zones. A games zone, learning space (with some activities set out). A chill out corner with pillows and headphones. If it’s too small for this, then stick with the boredom box (see below) and bedrooms when people need alone time.
4. This is not normal homeschooling and you’re not a school teacher!
Go easy on yourself. Be flexible and adaptable. Utilise the school curriculum provided. If your kids don’t complete all the tasks one day. It doesn’t matter. This is far from a normal situation and any learning is good learning.
I interviewed a fellow Virtual business owner, with a Diploma of Education, Sandy Pisch. Sandy is a homeschooling single Mum, with 2 boys with disabilities. (Autism, ADHD & Tourette Syndrome).
From a Mum who certainly understands the juggle of working from home. Sandy shares with us her 3 top tips for our temporary home schooling/ home working gig:
- You don’t have to do every subject every day.
- Have shorter blocks of work, nothing more than 30mins, with numerous “brain breaks” (5-10mins). Even though, at school, they’re in the classroom for an hour or more in between starting/recess/lunch/home. They actually fit in numerous short blocks of work. There’s lots of ‘teacher talk’ and moving around between the floor and desks. A fantastic website for “brain breaks” is GoNoodle.
- It’s super important to connect what they’re learning with real life. Talk about things. Let the kids ask questions. Tell them stories and experiences. Play with them, go outside and let them explore the natural world. ALL of this actually ticks off SO much of the curriculum, without even realising it.
TOP TIP: Many neighborhoods are getting on board the ‘bearhunt’. Search on Facebook for your local area. People are putting teddy bears in their windows. Go for a fun walk and see how many you can spot…turn it into a maths exercise and add a teddy bear to your window too!
5. Create age appropriate boredom boxes
Dedicate a weekend to gather boxes you have lying around the house. Label them, 1 box per child. Let your kids be involved in this, and for creative time or free time, this box can come out for inspiration.
For kids without reading ability print images of the activities. Search around the house for the initial box contents. Some of their favourite books, stickers and pencils, with paper. A sewing kit. Then place on your to-do list to order more craft etc. (planning ahead is vital refer to tip 2).
6. Use screen time and virtual support networks
Sometimes the kids are going to go a bit cray cray… so enlist the support of Netflix and put on a movie. Or Zoom call your Mum, or an elderly neighbour or childfree friends and ask them to spend some virtual teaching time – they could teach piano, or read a story, or tell a story of their past – include some modern history. Or family history. Win-win-win.
7. Fill your bucket and invest time filling up their buckets too
It’s important to acknowledge when you need time off, to be proactive about your mental and physical health! Each person will need time alone in a sacred space that they can retreat to.
Remember to appreciate the forced time together. Be present to the amazing opportunities to really re-connect with your family. Spend some extra quality time together. Smell the roses, soak up the sun on a walk together, have a picnic in the backyard while weather permits. If cold camp out in the house, have a dance party, do the biggest puzzles together, make music together, bake and have movie nights.
It is absolutely possible to work from home with kids. You just need to be realistic about the quantity you can get through as do your employers. Find the balance that works for your family, utilising your circumstances and resources. And remember, kindness is key. We need to support all those around us too, so if there is one thing today that you can do for yourself or someone else, amongst your crazy busy day. Do it!
Don’t forget to support your local small businesses. They’re the backbone and heart of your community.
Support leads to success. Versatile VA are sending everyone strength of spirit, structure, focus, love and calm in all this crazy time.
Need help with your digital marketing? At Versatile VA, we provide professional outsourced marketing support for small Aussie businesses. If you’d like to find out more, check out our services, or book in a complimentary discovery call. Don’t forget to download your free kids resource list and a copy of our daily routine. And, if you suddenly have some spare time to look at your content marketing, to become more visible in business. You’re invited to download a free copy of our seasonal, printable content calendar.