Many parents are facing the decision of whether or not to send their children back to school this fall. While some parents have a choice, many are only being given an online learning option due to local and state guidelines.
While doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 is of the utmost importance, many families are now facing the upcoming challenge of how to balance working from home while their kids are virtually learning. Unlike what we saw in March thru April, with drastic shifts from classroom to virtual learning in a matter of days/weeks, this time around, there is an opportunity to prepare for your new work-school-home-life balance. The good news is most school age children are comfortable navigating the virtual classroom especially since they had time to acclimate in the Spring. The downside is the return to virtual and not the classroom means re-establishing or finding ways to work and parent within our homes. Here are five tips to help you navigate the start of the virtual and or blended learning school year.
1. Have a conversation with your boss
First and foremost, it’s important to notify your boss of your situation and communicate your new normal. Although this may be a new conversation for you, rest assured that it’s one your boss has likely had with many other employees. Most companies are becoming increasingly flexible and accommodating when it comes to their employee’s child care challenges, so it’s important to be transparent with your leaders so you can work together to develop a plan that works for everyone.
2. Get creative with your schedule
It may be tough to complete all your work tasks during business hours if you’re on duty with your kids. Depending on their age, it may even be impossible. Try getting creative with your schedule to allow more time for uninterrupted work time. Whether that means waking up a bit earlier, staying up late while the kids are sleeping, or scheduling conference calls while your kids are occupied, create a schedule and stick to it. You’ll thank yourself later!
If there’s another adult in the household, consider working out shifts or “blocks.” For example, while one adult is working with kids on schoolwork, the other is taking time to knock out important work tasks or conference calls. Switch at times that are convenient for both of your work schedules.
3. Think of your children as your coworkers
Taking business calls while your kids are learning interactively may cause your home to get a little noisy. Rather than thinking of the commotion as a distraction, think of it as your co-worker in the cubicle next to you trying to close a sale! Make sure to take the time to explain the importance of ‘quiet time’ during certain calls and set hand signals or ways to communicate without words. Of course, closing a sale couldn’t possibly be as difficult as learning elementary mathematics, try making the most of your situation and enjoying the time spent working with your impressively young coworkers.
Depending on the age/grade of your children, seeing their parent(s) handle work situations, relationships, engaging with other employees by phone or video chat are all good teachable moments…especially when your child veers off course or interrupts conversations. When/if the situation allows, invite your kiddos to say hello to your clients or co-workers.
4. Join online support groups
Even if you feel like you have a flawless game plan in place, there may come a time when you need some extra support or encouragement. Parents all over the US are being faced with similar challenges and joining online support groups is a great way to exchange ideas, find out what is and isn’t working, and maybe even vent a little! Afterall, “we’re all in this together,” right? Click here for some helpful resources.
5. Consider working with an in-home childcare service
If all else fails and you decide your work or your children’s learning is being negatively affected, it may be time to consider working with an in-home childcare service. With an in-home caregiver or nanny, your kids will have someone to keep them engaged and on track while they’re learning online. This will also allow you time to finish your own work assignments with limited interruptions.
An in-home caregiver will give you the unique opportunity to check in on your child’s progress at any point in time. This will give you more time for your work while providing your child with the undivided attention of their caregiver or teacher. Although these services can sometimes be pricey, consider exploring discounts and promotions that childcare companies are currently offering. Another option is to only use childcare services a couple times per week to cut back on costs.
Although these are certainly unprecedented times to navigate, know that you’re not the only one in this predicament. Get a head start on this school year by using these tips and remembering not to be too hard on yourself.
Have any tips that we didn’t mention? We’d love to hear from you.