So, you’ve been drafted to be your child’s teacher. NOW WHAT?! Not only that but you’re balancing all of that with working from home, trying to find out possible new stream of income, while parenting through a global pandemic. No biggie, right? Put any mental health issues on top of all of this and it can feel like at any moment you could break.
Believe it or not, I’ve been in this place before – minus the pandemic. That’s new. l remember when we brought our son home from school through a mental health crisis he faced of being suicidal at age 8 (age 8!! Can you believe that?!). After 3 weeks in the mental health unit of a hospital we tried to send him back to school. It didn’t go well. His anxiety went through the roof. The only option I had was to bring him home to homeschool – which I had NO idea how to do. Not to mention, his depression showed up as severe aggression that was sometimes extremely scary for me. I was now going to have to deal with this 24/7 with no respite AND figure out how on earth I was going to create a new income being at home all the time (Not to mention, protect myself from all the network marketers telling me that selling their product would be PERFECT. No thanks, not my jam).
I’m not going to lie, it was an adjustment for my son and I. We argued and fumbled around this new normal. I was hardly good at it, but then something surprising happened. As I learned the ways of the homeschooling force and was able to start giving my son what he needed his anxiety and depression LESSENED! Substantially actually! I found that being home together healed my son. There’s a whole lot to that story which you can read more in my upcoming book releasing this April (to which I am now hashtaging #bookocalpse) Info on my book here
In the meantime, I want to help you not just survive through this. I believe your family can THRIVE in this time because that’s what happened to us. Here’s what worked for us.
Organize your home
(Don’t worry, it gets better after this)
Before you throw yourself into your work schedule and getting the kids doing school, take a day and organize your home. Just this weekend I cleaned out my kitchen, living room, and helped the kids organize their rooms. We labeled everything so we could keep a sense of order while being home together till God knows when. In other words, I’m suggesting you clean your house. Not sexy I know, but what an organized home will do is give you and your family a sense of peace, being able to relax and feel “at home”. Home right now needs to feel like a haven for your own sanity.
Throw regiment out the window
Some parents I’ve spoken to have their days scheduled down to every 30 minutes. Do yourself a big favour and take your beautifully done schedule and throw it out because it’s going to get thrown out anyways. Regiment only works with super compliant kids. The rest of us should do ourselves a favour and throw out the idea that our children are going to behave like angels and be happy to robotically move through a minute by minute schedule.
That being said, you need to still create a structure. The structure you create for your home that works for YOU. Don’t listen to what other parents are doing. If we are stuck at home, then you’re going to need to figure out a plan that works for you and you alone. This means trying things that sometimes may not work. Just try something and re-strategize after.
Some suggestions to help you create this is: think of your days more in bursts or chunks. Plan out what mornings, afternoons and evenings look like “in general”. Keep a consistent bedtime. Make sure your kids eat. Plan to get up before the kids do so you can get yourself grounded for the day and respond to what comes up during the day rather than react.
An example of what my very loose schedule looks like to allow for disruption is as follows:
6am mom wakes up, has coffee, quiet time, workout and breakfast
Somewhere between 7-9am kids wake up (no I don’t wake them up, why would I DO THAT??) If you’re super worried about this approach remember, with a consistent bedtime often means a consistent wake up time. Make your battle bedtime and a decent wake up time follows.
- bath/brush teeth
- school for 1 hour (yes you read that right. More on that below)
- they can have free time to do whatever they want, which in our house with boys is usually video games, when they have: read for 20 min, been outside for 30 min or done something active, helped with 1 household chore. THEN it’s free time!
- time with family
- Bed by 10pm (or for my 13 year old it’s usually 11pm)
Plan for 1 hour of academics a day
If you’re new to homeschooling you may think this is nuts, but you’ll be amazed at how much you get done at home compared to school! Most of the school day is managing a group of 30 kids. I ask my kids for 1 hour of uninterrupted, focused attention on school. Here’s how we fit it all into 1 hour:
Mondays: 30 minutes of math, 30 minutes of social studies.
Tuesdays: 30 minutes of math, 30 minutes of language arts
Wednesdays: 30 minutes of math, 30 minutes of science
Thursdays: 30 minutes of math, 30 minutes of art or crafts
Fridays: 30 minutes of math, 30 minutes to explore something they are curious about
You will be amazed at how much they can do with this schedule! I do 30 minutes of math a day to keep their skills sharp. I put the academics at the beginning of the week so the end of the week is more relaxed. And remember, before they can have free time they still need to read for 20 minutes, do their personal hygiene routine, do 1 chore, and move their body. Your child may end up loving this so much they may never want to go back to school! (sorry about that…)
Write down what your expectations are and put it up somewhere in the house where everyone can see. Figure out your best working hours and explain to your children they cannot practice their karate into the camera while you’re having a business meeting over zoom. Right now communication is crucial. Start your week by going through the schedule of meetings etc so your kids know when you will need to work. Nothing is impossible when there is clear communication.
It is also important to communicate your needs. Beyond when you need to work, it is imperative during this particular crisis that you do a check in a couple of times a week with your family asking them what they need and communicating what you need. My oldest son loves satire. I am a highly sensitive person. I had to tell him the other day that during this lockdown I really need to watch shows and media that inspire me. Satire brings me down. I need humour and inspiration. It’s just what I need right now. Asking one another for understanding of our boundaries and wishes is what’s going to help our families come together more than ever.
Find room for curiosity and fun!
If all you did every day was get curious together, I consider that a WIN! Connection starts there. No child can learn until they feel connected, so start here. When children feel stressed they are living in the back of their brain where learning isn’t possible. You will find it more effective to get curious and laugh together and learning will follow.
It is crucial for the mental health of you and your family to find curiosity again. Exploring interests you never knew you had or which has been on the back burner could bring life to this season we are all in. Finding humorous moments in the day and choosing to laugh instead of getting annoyed. Not being thrown off by the day going sideways but instead learning how to go with the flow is a big resilience skill! The definition of mental health is: learning to adapt to what reality gives you. If you can’t beat it, join it. Laugh it off and see what new adventures disruption brings! interruptions are OPPORTUNITIES!
It’s time to think outside the cultural normal and create a new normal. Life as we have known it is on pause, and perhaps may never be 100% the same again. Allow yourself to feel that the way you need to. Acknowledge your feelings and the feelings of your family. Remember, to be human is to be creative. We were born to adapt to whatever life brings and recreate and build from there. You have what it takes, we’re just learning the skills to do it in this time.
This whole experience is a huge opportunity for you to rewrite the story of your family. It could be just what your kids need to bring them out of anxiety and depression and to strengthen the bonds in your family more than ever!
I want to invite you to my free weekly webinar From Surviving to Thriving at Home every Tuesday at noon MST where I will walk you through tips and tools of how to navigate homeschooling, work, and how to thrive relationally with your family rather than tearing one another a part. You can register for free here. You can also order my online course on this for only $20!!! Link here
I am here if you need a listening ear. It’s time to be brave parents. You ARE BRAVE.