This year, the back to school season looks vastly different for working parents. Some children will return full time to the classroom, others will be hybrid, some will be full-time virtual or home-school, and no one really knows what the full school year will bring. It will require flexibility and adjustments, but with the benefit of hindsight from the spring we can see what helps create productive environments.
In a recent Facebook live webinar, Manpower covered ways to manage the uncertainty and anxiety of being a working parent during shifts and changes with school amid COVID-19.
Designate your own spaces
If you started virtual learning at home back in March, chances are your schedules and spaces became a bit of a free for all. Students and parents worked and learned in whatever areas and time slots they could find as they made adjustments on the fly. Many people assumed remote working and learning would be short-lived, so they didn’t feel the need to create lasting structures. Now a half a year in, the value of creating dedicated parent home working area, student space and keeping to a schedule is evident. Mark these spaces with physical representations to help get both parent and child in the right mindsets during the designed work and learning periods.
Communicate your schedule
If you have virtual learning and need to be available for your kids, let your employer know what times work best for you for meetings. Arrange if you need to take time to block off your schedule to answer educational questions for your kids. Employers will benefit from knowing what’s happening at home and should respect ways to be proactive, rather than needing to make adjustments after the fact. Planning ahead for flex time takes the stress of everyone rather than trying to cram into a school and work schedule at the same time. If you have a partner in the house, you may also want to divide and conquer mornings or afternoons, depending on what works best for each person.
Be flexible as needed
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to schedules. Know that not every minute needs to be educational or productive. If you have an important meeting, you could allow time for TV or play at home. This may also change day to day or week over week, depending on what comes up. If you child has a hybrid schedule, you may also be able to plan to fit more in on those days they are in school, and communicate with your employer that things may come up on virtual schooling days.
Plan for breaks and rewards
Have recess. Take the dog for a walk. Go outside for fresh air. For your child and for you, have a loose schedule of breaks and rewards and knowing that’s coming up can help both of you buckle down and focus as needed. The fact that you all may be under the same roof is another reason why taking breaks away will help everyone’s mental health.
There will still be some hiccups along the way, whether it’s technology problems, kids walking in on a Microsoft Teams call or getting virtual schedules mixed up. Both employers and educators will expect that now, knowing that this is still an adjustment for everyone. But it will lower your frustration levels to not expect perfection, set a structure but go with the flow, and know that tomorrow is always a new day.