In the wave of the abrupt lifestyle changes prompted by COVID-19, having kids home all week without school or daycare is possibly one of biggest challenges for parents to manage, especially as we all adjust to working from home perhaps for the first time. Watching cabin-fevered kids binge-watch Netflix while inhaling their third snack by 10 am while trying to finish a conference call has us all offering immense respect to teachers. Sound familiar?
Most kids are enjoying this break from traditional school, but parents are quickly finding the need to create structure for their kids in a happy environment that fosters both stimulation for them and respect for their work schedule. Many kids have “optional” schoolwork during this time off, but does it have to be traditional learning? Is this a time to make learning fun and applicable at home? The parents at Financial Finesse figured there had to be a way, so we reached out to our colleague and work from home (WFH) veteran Teig Stanley, who grew up in an alternative-style school, home schools his daughter, and has worked from home for 20 years. Here’s what he had to say.
He broke down what we as parents need to do to remain productive, and secondly, what we can do for our kids to keep them stimulated and educated, while also just being KIDS!
1. Establish boundaries
If you haven’t already established them, coach the kids, their friends, your spouse, pets, etc., directly on what these are for you while working. Teig’s are:
- When the door to the office area is closed, or you are in the designated working area pretend it’s wired to explode if interrupted. I am only available for absolute emergencies.
- During calls or meetings, you cannot engage with me. If it’s an absolute emergency, you may write notes or questions on a piece of paper, but please make them only yes/no questions to which I can give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Discussion or negotiation can only be done after the meeting or between calls when I say it’s okay.
- I create my daily schedule and post it somewhere conspicuous so the whole family knows what/where/when for me.
2. Set up YOUR schedule for check-ins on their schedule
Let them know at what times in the day you’ll be checking and make them prioritize what they trade off or lose if they’re not sticking to the plan. Work with your manager to match up your schedules. It’ll make everyone more comfortable.
3. Schedule brief moments away for yourself
Take a walk, put on headphones, read a book, cook, paint, etc. Whatever is a moment in the bubble for you. Just make sure you SCHEDULE it – and stick to your schedule.
4. Schedule many moments of time with your kids and spouse
It’s okay to shut work out during these ‘me’ times assuming you’ve scheduled it properly. Work will still be there.
1. Establish boundaries
Discuss, write and agree upon:
- Rewards for getting through the day and for operating according to the boundaries
- Consequences for not operating according to the boundaries
- Ask them to set up their own boundaries and lead by example in respecting theirs
2. Learn life skills
This is a chance to work on some life skills – even some of the cool ones. All people need to feel like they are contributing (even if they don’t think they do) to survival during a crisis. The kids will eventually go back to school for the regular curriculum. Take advantage of this moment!
- Challenge the kids to accomplish one “adult” task each day (feel free to call them chores, jobs, operations, missions, etc.)
- Have them take the lead on replacing something you’d normally do – or doing something you wish you had time/energy to do that’s easy-ish. Maybe home maintenance?
- My kids love to help me cook. Give them a simple recipe to put together that can be baked for dinner or dessert that night. Who doesn’t love brownies (or licking the batter from the bowl)?
- Kids learn a lot from YouTube. They then report in on whatever new skill or set of factoids they learned that day – every day. Even if I know something about what they learned I pretend I don’t until they teach me something.
3. Create a fun schedule that works for you and them
In normal school, kids are engaged about 4 hours out of 7, so keep in mind they may even need less than that of actual schoolwork at home. Also, I count a lot of my kids’ life skills as schoolwork if there’s a chance to apply them.
- Continue the school routine – or modify it. Just keep in mind that it’s the routine that’s important here. It can’t be different every day.
- Have the kids meet with you every morning and show you their day plan. It can’t be all recess.
- Reward them in some way for whatever effortthey put in to making it work. Especially if they try, fail, and then look for another way to do it. It’s what they try out at this stage that will give them a successful mindset down the road.
- If the school is still running on-line instruction in lieu of physical school, determine how flexible it is and work in fun activities around it.
- Real life stuff counts as curriculum (in my book, anyway) – here are some alternative curriculum ideas:
- Online reading and games on Squiggle Park
- Write 5 sentences a day on what you learned, what you read/watched, or a letter to someone
- Post a photo and have the kids caption it – a meme is born
- History/Social studies
4. Practice self-sufficiency
Access to self-sufficiency is key – kids like doing stuff for themselves.
- Set your kitchen/pantry/fridge/etc. up to give the kids access to stuff they can retrieve or make for themselves
- Post a list of food “ideas” so they aren’t asking you
- Their own plates/utensils/cups/etc. on their level if you’ve got little ones
- Their own office (like yours) since the kids are now working from home, too. Keep in mind they will mimic your work from home habits!
5. Let them be KIDS!
Most of all – let them be kids while they can be kids! Adult responsibilities will be here before they know it, and they’ll always remember how you reacted to this unique life event.
We hope this helps! These ideas can work for both you or your children’s caretaker. If you need more ideas or have questions about anything call a Financial Coach today!