Working from home as a parent during the pandemic rāhui

If you are a parent and now find yourself having to work from home because of the COVID-19 lockdown, stop right now and take a deep breath.

Deep breaths, in and out, over and over. Maybe this is all you need to do, and as far as you need to read, right now.

As the situation with COVID-19 has unfolded, the barrage of information flooding in through email, over the radio and via social media has been relentless.

At some point during the past week, your eyes probably glazed over as the pages-long emails from your kid’s schools, music teachers, sports teams and various other activities keep rolling in – all full of helpful information, but to an overworked and overwrought brain, it’s easy for this to become a jumble of words and a mishmash of ideas. How would you ever get through it all?

The energy around COVID-19 is reminiscent of being pregnant for the first time. Everybody has well-meaning advice to give and no one is backwards in coming forwards about it, whether they are an expert or not. 

So dear parent, we’ll keep this brief. Bullet points are what we’re about. Deep breaths and bullet points.

Our tips for those who are trying to work from home with kids during the lockdown:

  1. It’s okay it be finding this hard. It is hard. Be kind to yourself.
  2. It’s okay to not know how to work from home.
  3. It’s okay to not know how to homeschool your child.
  4. It’s okay to give your kids more screen time than usual.
  5. It’s okay to follow a daily schedule or just wing it.

That's it. Be kind to yourself and, remember, it will be okay. 

For those of you who want a little more detail:

 1. It’s okay it be finding this hard. It is hard. Be kind to yourself. 

If you are wondering why you are finding it difficult to do a full day’s productive work while looking after your kids during a lockdown caused by a global pandemic that has led to an unprecedented worldwide crisis, please read this sentence again.

This situation is like no other we have ever experienced. This is not normal for anyone. It’s okay to be finding it difficult. Accepting that the next few months are going to be challenging may help you have compassion for yourself and others when things don’t go as planned.

2. It’s okay to not know how to work from home.

If you don’t normally work from home, the sudden shift to having to set up office on the dining table or in your wardrobe or wherever else you have space, coming to terms with Zoom meetings and wondering when you’ll get to catch up on social media now that you’re not commuting, has probably created no end of headaches.

Try not to beat yourself up if you’re not being as productive as you normally are. Muddle along as best you can and don’t forget to take regular breaks. Fresh air is your friend.

Pro tip: If you find yourself working in bed, relishing a moment of quiet after the kids themselves are in bed, still wearing clothes from the day and wondering whether sleeping in them will save you one job in the morning then you're probably pushing yourself too hard. Have a bath, put on your PJs and get some rest – you can always work in your PJs tomorrow.

3. It’s okay to not know how to homeschool your child.

“I didn’t sign up for this!”, you may hear yourself internally screaming at the thought of suddenly having the full weight of your child’s academic future in your hands. Hold-up.

New Zealand's renowned neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis advises letting go of your concerns about your child’s academic outcomes. This is a stressful time for all of us. Don’t make it worse by being stressed about schoolwork. A 4-week holiday from doing schoolwork is not going to harm your child. Slow down, chill out and focus on simple tasks like making breakfast and playing with Lego.


Image: Not evidence-based, source unknown

4. It’s okay to give your kids more screen time than usual.

Remember that time you did a movie-marathon and binge-watched the entire [insert favourite movie/tv] series? Well, now is your child’s chance to enjoy an all-out eye-gorge. Make a fort and let them go for it. One day they’ll tell their grandkids about how awesome it was. 

Yes, we know screens aren't great for children's developing brains and can impact on their mental health, but as a short term fix a little extra screen time is okay. When your own brain comes back online and you feel like you have the capacity to absorb it, there are some great ideas in this RNZ article about helping kids survive and even thrive during the lockdown.

A handy alternative to screens are audiobooks. These do the job of holding your children’s attention when you feel like they need a break from the screen but you have a deadline to meet so can’t read to them yourself (we’ll get through this!).

You can download audiobooks from your local library or check out the fabulous collection of New Zealand stories on RNZ Storytime

5. It’s okay to follow a schedule or just wing it.

Lots of people on social media have been posting their homeschool schedules. If you’re interested, take a peek and see if any of them appeal to you and your style of parenting. Tweak away until you find something that works for you. Let your kids be part of the planning. Include some time outside, plan for quiet time and crazy raucous wild time. Eat together if you can. Be gentle with yourself and your whānau.




Images by incredibly talented NZ author and illustrator Sarah Laing (you can follow her corona-chronicles on Instagram )

Resources

Helping tamariki when times are tough Getting Through Together – Whāia E Tātou Te Pae Tawhiti (a joint initiative between All Right and the Mental Health Foundation) has created a range of information to support whānau at home.
These include:

Cosmic kids yoga Combines the movement of yoga accompanied by lovely storytelling of old and new classics, good examples being Moana, Frozen, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and original material made especially for Cosmic Kids.
Storytellers read to children During these times of distance learning, check out Storylines digital library of 57 books and activity guides to help educate and entertain your kids at home.
Free, online, boredom-busting resources
 Includes virtual tours, educational resources, geography and nature, music, cooking to literature.
David Walliams is releasing a FREE audio story every day for the next 30 days. 
Time for Kids free digital library
School Kit A secret club of NZ teachers who put together cool online learning materials. Shhhhh. 
Parents and whānau Getting Through Together, NZ, 2020

Acknowledgements 

The "it's okay" messages on this page were expanded on from an image by teachmemrs.z 

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Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.