The University of Oxford (2020) has found that after a month spent in lockdown, parents and carers of children aged 4-10 years have seen increases in negative emotional behaviours, such as feeling unhappy, worried and being clingy. It’s no shock that home-schooling has been tough on the majority of both parents and children. Parents are having to constantly juggle childminding and education with their own busy work schedules and daily tasks. Children are again having to adapt to life in the kitchen classroom, with few opportunities to socialise and no physical interaction with peers and teachers. Until we come out the other side of the pandemic, there is no magic wand or quick fix for dealing with the difficulties that we are experiencing as a result of the stay-at-home message, however, there are some simple tips that can make life just that little bit easier.
First, establish a routine and stick to it. What works for your family may not work for another, but it’s about finding a good balance between work/school and family time. Even though the commute is off the table, make sure the whole family is dressed, downstairs and fed by 9am. Don’t slip into endless pyjama days! Depending on the age of your child, you may be able to allocate them some tasks that they can complete independently. Younger children will need that little bit more support, but the amount of work that is required of them as well as the depth in which they need to explore this, should be less. At school, time with the teacher is split between the whole class; at home, learning is one-on-one, so the school day will naturally be shorter. In reality, learning could take place in one longer morning or afternoon session, or shorter bursts throughout the day depending on individual preference and learning styles - the school day will no longer be six hours long so be flexible here. Schedule in some family activities: a lunchtime walk or a run around the park is a great way for the whole family to exercise together and get some fresh air. Make sure to schedule in dinner and bedtime so that the day is broken up in the same way as it was pre-lockdown.
Take advantage of the flexible working hours that most employers are offering. If you have a partner who is also working remotely and is capable of overseeing the home-schooling, find a balance that works for both of you. You and your partner should be able to reach some form of reasonable solution in terms of dividing up household responsibilities and childcare. As this is not possible in some households. Where support in this way isn’t possible, single parents may find it easier to start work an hour or two earlier to squeeze in some hours before the rest of the household wakes up. Ensure not to burn yourself out and find the time to switch off and sign out.
Communication is key. Children aren’t able to physically socialise with their peers on a daily basis as they did pre-home-schooling, so offer attention and presence wherever you can. Block our short periods of time throughout the working day to communicate with your children and ensure that they feel supported and loved. Ensure to prioritise this in non-work hours – cook and bake, enjoy family mealtimes, watch movies, play board games and exercise outside. Get creative.
Last but not least, try and block out an hour for some daily you-time. Home-schooling is extremely tiring and often stressful, so don’t forget to practice some self-care, whether this is by going on a run, indulging in a candle-lit bubble bath or just getting stuck into a good book. The choice is yours.