Presenting pitches from your sofa, wrapping and packing your own product from the lounge-room floor and remotely continuing to offer your clients your services from your laptop on the breakfast table. Working from home is an adjustment for many. But adding children to the mix brings its own complexities.
How do we keep our children entertained and engaged while we juggle work, distance education and general household responsbilities? What happens to snack time, play-time and me-time?
It starts with a routine, not only for kids but also for us parents. Children need to understand this is not a vacation and that they must have fixed mealtimes and bedtimes. Many schools will be going online after the school holidays, this will take up a large part of their day. Right now there is the school holidays so have routine, but also realise that it is officially school holidays too. It find it useful to have a time-table of different activities they can do on their own while you do your work. Chores like making their bed and cleaning up their room do not require your supervision, nor does playing with their own toys.
I actually believe that chores are a golden opportunity for us parents to teach children to develop critical life skills and have them take up age appropriate and gender-neutral responsibilities of housework.
My children are 5 and 3 – My son had only done 1 term of Prep and my daughter was in daycare 3 times a week. I do think that the younger children are the toughest to keep engaged as older kids can be involved in much more housework to share the load and have become accustomed to being independent for a while, while the adults do what they need to do. I am maintaining nap times for my youngest and the same bedtime for them both, as well as mealtimes and the same help around the house they have always done. I do make a point of working during my youngest nap time and after bedtime, as I always have for years.
Gadgets or no gadgets:
In times like this, some parents are wary of giving their children too much screen time even while they struggle to keep them occupied. My philosophy is don’t fight screen time, instead, keep an age appropriate quota and use digital media strategically to get you through the most difficult times of the day. As a single parent I am very strategic about when I allow technology for my kids – It’s normally mid morning (just before lunch) and mid afternoon (just before or during the witching hour). This is because my kids start to fight and compete when they have spent too much time together and this helps them get time apart and then I also get to do whats really needed at that time.
It also almost impossible to limit and supervise screen time, instead, I try to find ways to make screen time more productive such as getting them to attend virtual classes via Skype and Zoom, FB Pages, listening to e-books, opting for virtual museum or zoo tours and watching YouTube videos. They have seen so much over the past 2 weeks of different countries, zoos, cultures, animals and everything in between. Google your child’s age and then just put in virtual lessons, virtual zoo, chemistry – and watch the list come up.
Nurture a hobby:
Make the most of this period. If your goal is to raise well-balanced, well-adjusted children with a broad base of knowledge, you need to move away from the idea that education is only what is taught in schools. For me personally, my experience of schools is versatile and unusual – I did school in many different countries, in private school and public schools and even correspondence school and home-school and most of my fondest memories was life eduction school, learning to build a fire, plant trees, carve a wooden mask, speak another language etc. My kids love this stuff too. They have learnt so much since we have been on my mums farm. very seed Monique has in her fruit, she saves and dries so nanny can plant them and Dustin knows what different trees look like and what berries and leaves you can eat and can’t. They both know what chickens eat and how to collect eggs and they can dig holes, use screwdrivers and even Dustin can use some power tools. They are gaining life skills gender-neutral ones at that. Some kids have a passion for painting or drawing or storytelling.
Develop tasks that tap that passion, if they are creative, find unique things that can be creative with. Painting on big leaves, or rocks, or toilet roll holders or empty cartoons. If they are more mechanical thinkers, get them to build things with Tupperware containers and see if they balance. Exercise is also great way to not only get rid of pent up energy but it raising the “feel good” endorphins which make them happier to be around and also within themselves, plus easier to get them to have good listening skills . Head to You-Tube and see what interests them.
Go easy on your kids and yourself. These are unusual times and no-one truly knows how to manage this or how long this will last – Take it step by step, day by day and what I often remind myself of is “these are my children memories and childhood, I’ve had mine and what do I remember and think of fondly and what makes me sad to think back on”. This will lead you in the right decisions for your children.