Working Parent and Teacher at Home: Tips for the Times
“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity- are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”
This quote from author James Patterson is one that Megan E. Adams, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication at University of Findlay, said guides her right now. Adams and other parents all around the world are finding themselves having to do their jobs from home, while also having to do another job: that of the home school teacher.
How do we manage our own work and that of our children at the same time? To answer that question, we’ve enlisted the help of Adams and Julie D. McIntosh, Ed.D., Dean of the College of Education. Here’s what they say:
- Be graceful with yourself and your family. The most important thing is maintaining mental and physical health, so if homework doesn’t get done in a day, don’t feel guilty about it.
- Try to keep some type of routine or habit for yourself and your kids. Schedules help and sticking to them as you can reinforces normalcy. This might seem contradictory to the first point, but different circumstances, i.e., sickness or other parental obligations might create the need for adjustments.
- Make sure not to display annoyance or verbalize frustration. Staying positive and enthusiastic will translate to your kids and help them adjust.
- Be flexible with time and your attention. “This week,” Adams said, “I’ve gotten into a nice rhythm with my kids. When my two-year old goes down for a nap, my daughter knows it’s time for homework. If we miss a day of homework, because Mommy has to answer a bunch of emails, we make it up the next day. Remember, quarantine extends into the weekends.”
- Don’t feel guilty about extra screen time. Now is not the time for guilt.
- Just do what you can and remember these are unprecedented times. How you react sets the tone for how your kids will react. Put on some music and be silly. Tell funny jokes. Remember, there’s more to life than work and home work.
- Keep in touch with your child’s teachers. Every school district is handling schoolwork a different way or they have a different Learning Management System.
- Research and use what is available online. “There are a lot of online resources, virtual tours of museums, and reading of books online that parents can utilize,” said McIntosh. “The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library has a lot of online resources and they recently increased the number of items patrons can check out from Hoopla.”
- Don’t seek balance. “I would say that is really tough to balance everything right now and that balance is definitely not something I’m striving for as a working parent, said Adams. “I would advise prioritizing every day. Be honest with yourself about what’s possible to get done and when you can do it.”
Here’s how Adams handles the specific tasks she needs to complete work:
- Every morning I’m waking up an hour before my family to meditate and plan my day using time blocking. I do this anyway, but the habit seems even more necessary right now.
- With the time blocks, I prioritize what needs to get done and when it will get done for work. So, I try to anticipate how long it’s going to take to complete a task and prioritize the top three tasks (which amounts to four hours of work during the day). So far, I’ve been able to loosely stick to the schedule. Anything else that needs to get done is icing on the cake for me.
- I think the key is to prioritize the most important work stuff and be okay with letting the other (less important) stuff go or wait for a later time.
- Also, know when you can get the most important stuff done. I know I can’t give brainpower to work in the evenings. Everyone’s schedule is different but time blocking can help immensely.
There are many parents in this situation and they’re all attempting to do the same thing. Undoubtedly, parents all have similar reservations about helping their children through their school year. If they can lean on each other for support, it will, as a virtual collective, help to make the current climate as positive as it can surely be. And, Adams said, make plenty of room for positivity in all forms. “I joined TikTok last night and laughed for a solid half hour at cats and dance videos,” she said. “Mental health is important. Self-care is not optional. Work will carry on.”