Suddenly, your world is different. For many of us, there are new schedules and routines both at work and at home. If your practice has adjusted work hours or split into smaller teams to handle alternating shifts, you may find that you’re at home more often with your kids and at the same time, still trying to get things accomplished. There are no more play dates, daycare, or organized sports. It’s just you, the kids, and a tangled web of competing priorities and unfamiliar systems. But there are some things you can do to make this time successful, whether there are two of you, one of you, or both working – whatever the case. Here are five things to consider as you try to make this new world a productive and successful one.
1. Set and communicate expectations
Reality that is different from expectations is the source of most stress. Yet sometimes we set ourselves up for stress by having unrealistic expectations, keeping expectations to ourselves, or both.
First, set realistic expectations with your spouse about how the day might look and what will reasonably get accomplished. If you are expecting to get all of your work done, take time for the kids when they need it, be the magical mom or dad that drops everything to build a pillow fort and monitor the day’s online schooling, then you could be setting yourself up for failure.
The answer might be to deal with the top priorities today. Maybe you can add in a few extra things, maybe you can’t. Life is different now than it was several weeks ago and your “best” may look different as well. Give yourself grace to know that doing your best is enough.
2. Make a plan
If you and your family work together to put a plan in place that everyone understands, you have a decent shot at a good day.
Maybe it’s, “I plan to get some work done this morning. Then I will play with the kids at 2:00 and we can all take a walk together at 4:00. How does that sound?”
The answer might be, “Well, I have a call at 10:00 that I have to take. Can you run interference from 10:00 to 11:00 if I need it?”
A response may look like, “Ok, I can work on my project from 11:00 to 1:00 if you could do lunch with the kids.”
High five, go team! (Or elbow bump if you are trying to build a new habit around that and want to practice).
3. Involve the kids.
Once you have a plan, involve the kids.
The conversation might go something like this, “Ok, Team Quarantine, here is how tomorrow is going to look. We will have breakfast together; how does smiley face pancakes sound? After that, you focus on your classes and Dad is handling lunch. When I finish my work at 2:00, we can build some pillow forts and then we are all cruising the neighborhood together at 4:00. How do you like the plan? Is there anything we need to change?”
This is where the kids can jump in, “Mom, instead of pillow forts, can we do window art so everyone can see it when they walk by our house instead?”
“Window art sounds amazing! During lunch, you guys think about what you want to draw, and I will bring the dry erase markers at 2:00 for us to get started.”
4. Talk about the new behaviors together.
We want the kids, and maybe us too, to practice the new behaviors and routines. For example, “What do you do if Mom or Dad are on the phone and you need something?” Having these conversations helps your kids understand the new expectations of the household. Talk to your kids about what working from home, and schooling from home, means and how the family can do it well. These conversations can even be a two-way street. Get your child’s input by asking, “Hey, what should I do if you are in the middle of a class and I have a question for you?” This is about everyone collaborating to make this work well, not just your kids understanding your boundaries.
5. Celebrate success.
When you crush a work-from-home day, you can look for fun ways to celebrate. Maybe that’s with a walk around the neighborhood, sidewalk art, milkshakes, or some family movie time. It’s important for everyone in your family to reflect on the fact that they did their best and had a day that was both productive and fun. These might be new skills and celebrating progress makes all the difference when you are learning. Then, you get to create a plan for tomorrow so your family can rock another amazing day together.
There’s an incredible new world that you just might create on the other side of the chaos. Embrace it. Even, enjoy it! How you handle this will teach your kids how to handle their own adversity. Chances are they will need that somewhere down the road.