We teamed up to offer some thoughts on managing all of the new roles parents are taking on during this most unusual time.
• Make a “For Now” plan — COVID-19 changed all of our lives dramatically, and with hardly any notice. We’re learning to work from home. We’re learning to implement distance learning with our children. We’re learning to ration and make meals when we don’t have all the ingredients needed for a recipe.
Now is not the time in our lives to be making monthlong fancy meal plans, color-coded schedules and sweeping changes in our health. This is a time to set small, achievable goals each day. A great small, achievable daily goal could be: getting outside to enjoy the sunny afternoon and spending 30 minutes reading together. Remember to lower the bar on expectations right now.
Set some time aside for physical activity each day — especially if it’s an activity you can engage in as a family. If your school district is requiring completed schoolwork each day, work with your child to create a plan for getting that work done and submitted. Our children are also feeling the impact of things being way out of sorts, so allow them to help in the decision-making process when possible.
Another important point is to remember that you are the expert on your family and what works for you and our children. If your kids need more time outside, go for it. If they need more downtime and want to do some yoga — great! Focus on your small goals for the day and try to let the rest go. Although it’s easy to feel the pressure when you spot a Pinterest Perfect craft and a social media post about flawless organization, you don’t need to do those things. Keep the focus on what works for you and your family.
• Do Get Organized — Do not go on social media and Pinterest for this! Do look at the calls and deadlines any adults working at home have in the next two to three days. Write those down. Next, go to your emails from your children’s teachers and write down those calls and deadlines. If your child can’t get to all of theirs, that is fine! Remember most of the teachers are in your position too, they get it. This is also a great time to use reminders on your phone, Alexa, etc. All of these new and different routines are a breeding ground for missing things.
The same goes for meal planning. Stay away from Pinterest and social media! Instead go to your fridge and freezer and make a list of what you have along with expiration dates. Use what you need to use first when planning your meals for the next couple of days. Think simpler meals, unless you’re like me and enjoy having the time to make a meal with a nice glass of wine, since we’re not rushing out these days.
• Consider what is most important to your family. If being organized and staying on top of things is important to you, go for it. Maybe you want to use this time to make connections with your family, and maybe your kids don’t do all of the zoom calls and virtual field trips. This is a great opportunity for us to push pause on our lives and build on a new normal.
So many of our friends are struggling with working at home and helping their kids with school work. Elementary school-aged kids are almost all capable of working with a to-do list. So, if you need to get your work done (or just need a break from being teacher mom or dad), get your chalkboard, piece of paper, or use an app (some are using Trello and sometimes a piece of paper schedule) and make a to-do list for them. One of my wise friends has broken her kids’ school work down to 30 minutes of independent reading, 30 minutes of independent writing, 30 minutes of math apps, and a science experiment with mom. The rest of the day the kids play. So, she is needed for the science experiment and that’s it.
The situation around the coronavirus that we are currently trying to manage as parents is unprecedented. Remember that — unprecedented. Most of the people alive on Earth today have never experienced a global pandemic of these proportions. Let that sink in for a moment. There is no blueprint for how to parent during times like these.
So take a deep breath, lower that bar of parental expectations, make some boxed mac and cheese for dinner, close that Pinterest tab, and think about what it is that you and your family really need right now — in this very moment — and do that, and then repeat.