The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created a major shift in the schedules and lifestyles of most families, and it’s likely adding more stress and uncertainty to daily life. Many parents and caregivers have found themselves working from home while simultaneously taking on home schooling their children. While families are processing these changes, Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shares six tips to help parents during this “new normal.”
1. Keep Routine
Continue waking up and going to bed at the same time every day. Everyone should get ready in the morning and not hang out in pajamas all day. Keep consistent meal times.
2. Make a Schedule
Literally write out a visible schedule on a piece of paper or white board. This brings a sense of control and allows you to set expectations, which relieves anxiety. You can include important meetings you have on this schedule each day, as well as designated quiet time. Schedule time to play with your kids, so they know when they will have special time with you. Take breaks and eat lunch and/or a snack together.
3. Work When They Sleep
It isn't ideal but try to get work done before kids get up in the morning, during nap time and after bedtime. If your kids still nap, this is probably an opportune time for conference calls.
4. Allow More Screen Time
However, be clear with your kids that this is a special time and that this isn't going to be regular occurrence. Setting up virtual playdates via a video platform on an electronic device and finding science/museum or other lessons online can also be helpful. Try to also use electronics to create, such as drawing or making music.
5. Have Clear Boundaries
Create a stop light system for your office space, especially for older kids. A red light means that you're busy, and they can't come in. A green light means come on in! It lets them know when they can access you. Practice this system in advance so everyone is well-versed.
6. Lean on Teamwork (if/when possible!)
If your spouse is home, too, try to balance back-and-forth who can be available for the kids. Whenever possible, try to split the child care responsibilities throughout the day and have clear communication about when you have important calls and meetings. This will help everyone feel that the critical aspects of their day are calm and without distraction.
Remember to be easy on yourself and practice self-care. Parents and guardians can find more tips in this recent On Call for All Kids segment. Explore more advice from Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D.