There’s no getting around it: Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures mean you’re going to be home for the foreseeable future. So are your children.
They’re fortunate that they probably don’t have to attend a video call-in for their class’ presentation on the War of 1812. You — a working parent — are not so lucky at your job.
What do you do when you have to be a parent and employee at the same time?
Here are some suggestions to help the growing number of work-at-home moms and dads new to this dual role conquer the day:
First, talk about why everyone is home
And by talk, I mean listen. Don’t push. Don’t lecture. Just ask questions and give room for their response. UNICEF put together an excellent guide to help parents discuss coronavirus with children.
They will be bored. You will be frustrated. Acknowledging this is half the battle.
Just because you and your children are not leaving the house doesn’t mean your day should be completely different. Wake up around the same time you and the kids normally do (OK, let them sleep a little later so you can get some stuff done if you need). Get dressed. Eat breakfast and start the day. Lunches and naps should happen at the same time every day. (Bonus: watching a documentary at lunch helps with naps after – you’re welcome.) Keep it up.
Draw up a rough schedule for work, learning and play. Set some boundaries. For example, let your kids know that when you sit in “that chair,” you’re at work and you need to focus.
Routines, schedules and rules are important for order, but let’s face it, this is a weird situation for everybody. Go easy if things take a bit longer than they should … or if they don’t happen at all.
Breath. Play. Go for a walk around the block. Be silly. Connect.
If you have a spouse or partner also at home with you, take turns checking in on the kids. It’s just right.
Screen time can be OK
It’s what is on the screen that matters. Try to lock things down with educational shows before lunch and silly shows after. If you are an Amazon Prime member, check out FreeTime (usually available for a free trial month and the $2.99 a month after) which curates age appropriate content for children 2 to 14 and can restrict certain content until educational requirements are met. If you have Disney+, check out the new Disney Junior program Bluey. Surprisingly, or refreshingly, the dad and his daughters share some incredible modern dad relatable moments. Plus, they have Australian dogs — so that’s fun!
It never hurts to stop, look around and take a deep breath.
Good luck, team. And remember, you are not alone. Chances are there’s someone else on that TPS report conference call battling little fingers for the keyboard and fielding snack orders like a vendor at Fenway.
Zane Sebasovich, a member of our Philly Dads Group, is a proud full-time dad living in South Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, with his wife and two toddlers. He holds two degrees from Ohio University and has worked for a number of no-profits including several public media stations.