And just like that, COVID-19 has changed everything. Many of us find ourselves trying to juggle working from home, managing our home, and teaching our kids. All of a sudden, we find ourselves putting clients and work on hold to help the toddler use the bathroom, all while trying to fit in a Math lesson with the older child. Or perhaps we’re now sharing a laptop with an irritated tween who thinks she needs to zoom with her friends after her class zoom session ends. We suddenly find ourselves facing new challenges that we never even dreamed of. Some of us are in families with two parents working from home in the chaos of a house with multiple kids who are going stir crazy. Other homes have one parent in the home trying to manage everything. Whatever the situation, I think we can all agree that we are walking daily into uncharted territory with super high stress levels. Not only are we stressed about how to get everything done, but we also have this underlying stress about our job security or someone we love catching this dreaded virus known as COVID-19.
So, what can be done to help us stay afloat as many of us feel as if we’re treading water or even drowning in all of this chaos. Here are a few tips from the therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling to help you stay afloat and manage working and homeschooling your kids during this quarantine time:
- Make a Schedule. This is one of the most important things that you can do for you and your family. If you’re sharing devices, then make a schedule of who will use them when. If you’re managing work and schooling, then block off your time in hour blocks. Set aside blocks of time that are exclusively for work and others where you give your kids your undivided attention. This will also help your children know when they can expect you to help them, teach them, or just play with them. Help your children to make a schedule for their schooling. Let them be invested in the process. Allowing them to write out their schedule will make them feel more excited about it. For example, from 9:00-10:00 is Math time and from 10:00-10:30 is silent reading time. Stick to the schedule as best as you can, but be flexible. Some people get stressed out when the schedule doesn’t go exactly as planned, and if you’re dealing with kids, you know that challenges and interruptions arise frequently. Also, don’t be afraid to tweak or rework your schedule if it isn’t working after a few days. It may take some time to find the schedule that best suits your family right now.
- Create a workspace for you and your children. Set up an area at home that is your designated workspace. When you are in this area, your children know that you are working and that they should only come get you if there is an urgent need or emergency. Likewise, you should create a workspace for your children. In my home, it works best if my children do their school work in separate rooms to limit the disruption and conflict. Creating a workspace for your children lets them know that when they are in this space, they should be working and not playing. It should help them to focus better and work harder to know that they are having “schoolwork time.”
- Make space for downtime in your schedule. If you are managing a job and schooling for your kids, you are probably in overload right now. There are a lot of big responsibilities on your plate, and you are probably dealing with great anxiety and stress. It may seem counterintuitive, but you need to create downtime in your schedule or you will exhaust yourself and burn out very quickly. Take 20 minutes to take a walk when your spouse gets home, or go on a bike ride with your kids after lunch. Take a warm bath at night, or get up 10 minutes early to journal. Maybe you just need to get in your car and drive around for 30 minutes after dinner. Whatever works for you, make it happen. Having some downtime to yourself to think, process, pray, or meditate will be key to surviving this time. You should also create downtime for your children in their schedule. Give them 30-60 minutes of “quiet time” each day. This may be a time for them to read, play quietly in their rooms, or color or draw. Children also need space in their day to process and think and be quiet.
- Be silly, smile, and laugh. Laughter is good medicine for the soul. It also helps our brains to begin thinking more positively. Make sure that you are daily laughing, smiling, and being silly with your spouse or kids. This crisis that we are facing is scary and stressful and really, really hard. Our kids are missing their friends. We are missing our friends. We are scared, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Tell jokes around the lunch table, or have a silly face contest with your kids. Maybe you tickle your three year old until you are both laughing, or play a silly joke on your spouse. Whatever it is, smile and laugh. It will do your mind, body, and heart good!
- Give the people in your family grace. One definition of grace is giving someone what they don’t deserve. We are all stressed and anxious, even our kids. Emotions are heightened right now. Be patient with your children when they are disobeying, whining, fighting, and back talking. They are thrown off just as much as you, and are sorting through their feelings as well. Instead of punishing them or blowing up at them, talk to them about why they responded to you that way, and try to get to the root of their emotions and behaviors. Give your spouse grace when he or she snaps at you over finances or if you used too much toilet paper. Love them for who they are, and be thankful for the people in your family. Give yourself grace, too. This is a hard time. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you totally lose it, or don’t remember to call out your child’s multiplication facts, or forget to email that last client before shutting off your computer. All of us are taking it one day at a time, trying to figure out a new normal in these circumstances. Our new normals will most likely be a far cry from our old normals, but that is okay. Your new normal may look messy for a season, but this season will end.
The therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling want you to know that you are not alone in this struggle. We are here to help if you find that managing your day to day life is too much. Please give us a call. We would love to help you walk through this difficult time.