As part of an ongoing series about our changing lives under quarantine, we’re sharing some of the products, services and activities that have helped us stay connected with our friends, family members and colleagues.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many parents are currently living the new reality of working full-time jobs at home whilst looking after their children. In addition to the challenge of being a guardian, parents take on other roles too, including cooks, child carers, and teachers. Parents, whether single or partnered, face the daunting challenge of navigating parenting under quarantine in all types of households.
Independence comes with age, and for those with younger kids, finding ways to manage obligations at work while keeping kids occupied calls for inventive solutions to adjust to the new normal. At the same time, making this experience less stressful requires us to be kind to ourselves.
Flexible working hours can only help so much, and parents now more than ever may feel that there is not enough time in the day to tick everything on their neverending to-do lists. To help parents through this difficult time, we’ve compiled a list of 15 recommendations to help facilitate working from home during quarantine based on research coming from experienced remote workers with kids.
Coping with the everyday
1. Have someone you can count on
Working parents raising a child together have the fortune to work as a team and swap shifts to take care of their kids. Depending on their quarantine situation, parents can work as a team and swap turns working with their partners or divide tasks and activities to do with their kids. Depending on lockdown laws, single parents may be able to plan ahead and have trusted friends, sitters, neighbors, or relatives help with childcare in case they have an unforgiving schedule or fall ill.
2. Maintain routines and have a defined schedule
Routines are the building blocks for a sustainable work and childcare schedule. To keep tabs, parents can lay out the schedule of all family members to better keep track of everybody’s day at once. Setting a sequence of activities over the course of the day provides a sense of familiarity within the family, and allows for clear boundaries to be established between our professional and private lives.
3. Spend your lunch break with your family
One of the blessings of being a working parent under quarantine is the added family time. Take advantage of afternoon or lunch breaks, close your laptops, and reach out to your loved ones. Despite a busy job, investing as much extra time as possible with this newfound intimacy can help turn a stressful situation into a special moment.
4. Instill independence at home
If your kids are old enough, delegate certain responsibilities to them to help around the house. Spreading out some tasks such as setting the dinner table or putting their toys away helps teach kids about responsibility while handling daily affairs. To build independence in children, parents can also let their children make decisions such as their afternoon snacks for themselves while having one less task to oversee. Kids can learn by helping out in the kitchen, such as learning maths through cup conversions, or literacy by reading out ingredients and condiments. To avoid overdoing supervision, parents can also find creative ways to make sure kids can cover the basics of care such as spending the right amount of time washing their hands through tricks like singing the happy birthday song twice.
5. Respect one another by using visual cues
Parents can establish a designated work zone in their homes and familiarize their children with it to avoid or wear noise-cancelling headphones to avoid distractions from kids during office hours. However, this heavily relies on having another partner to watch over young children. For single parents, visual cues are salient. Through non-verbal signaling – such as using sign language or using a stop sign – parents can minimize interruptions and continue meetings at work.
6. Prepare as much as possible for emergency situations
Keep your pantry stocked with essentials and comforts such as pain relievers, honey, ginger, and lemon in case of illnesses. To stay on guard, it also helps to have a supply of face masks, hand soaps, cleaning supplies, and disinfectants at home. While there may be a shortage of face masks and hand soaps in stores, making them at home provides for a simple and cost-effective solution.
- A 1:1 ratio of castile soap to water does the trick to make homemade hand soap, with essential oils as optional add-ins for enhancements. Lemon is naturally antibacterial and great at improving skin conditions, whereas peppermint is a mosquito-repellent and has a gentle cooling effect ideal for hot days.
- Several different approaches to making a facemask at home are available, but for busy parents, the easiest way to make one can be done without a sewing machine.
Single parents should make sure they have at least one other person to check in on them, and to prepare their kids in case of emergencies, such as knowing when to call for help. For all parents, it also helps to pack a “go-bag” to the hospital and keep it by the door, stored with essentials – such as health insurance card, a family health-history list, phone number of contact persons, basic toiletries, masks, chargers, and garments – which can either be disinfected or disposed in case of emergencies.
7. Errands through delivery services
Shopping and running errands for a family during a pandemic as a working parent can be a stressful experience. Mindfully, single parents without an established support system or free time can make use of services such as Ocado (UK) or local volunteer networks to run errands in place of visiting these stores themselves. Due to an overwhelming demand for grocery deliveries, however, households in a neighborhood can get together to order groceries to avoid multiple deliveries.
8. Manage expectations
Manage expectations concerning productivity with yourself and your team. Raising children during a pandemic is demanding of both your time and energy. Ultimately, parents are at a reduced capacity to deliver at work and it should not be met with guilt at the workplace. Expectation management with the team and being forgiving to ourselves are important to get by on a daily basis.
9. Change your kids’ bedtime
For those with young children, preponing bedtime by a couple or extending afternoon naps can help parents optimize their flexible working hours. For example, by putting kids to bed by 7pm instead of 9pm, parents can use the newfound time to wrap up their office hours, catch-up on house chores, and enjoy much-needed quiet.
10. Take care of yourself
Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about the well-being of others that we forget to take care of ourselves. Parents sacrifice an unquantifiable amount of their time and energy for their children, but it is important to make sure to check their mental and physical health as well. Otherwise, they would not have the capacity to take care of those they’re responsible for.
Products and Activities for Kids
11. Stay in touch with loved ones
For children, being away from their relatives and a sudden change in their normal routine can cause anxiety, stress and confusion. To nurture familial relationships, kids can stay connected with their beloved either by catching up over video conferencing, or the old-fashioned way by writing letters everyday to maintain a quarantine diary.
12. Bring the outdoors indoors
When it comes to indoor entertainment that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen of some sort, a little preparation can go a long way. Making a tent out of a couple of chairs, sheets and pillows is one easy solution that can occupy children for hours. In addition, parents can prepare an indoor scavenger hunt for kids to do while at work, leaving clues for them around the house. Since added screen time is inevitable during quarantine, parents can also consider letting their kids do an emoji scavenger hunt using a phone’s camera. Users are tasked to look for the items the game throws at you, and can prove their findings using a smartphone.
13. Reinvent storytelling
While it can be extremely tempting to turn on the TV screen or iPad as a quick fix to distract children, multiple studies have proven that for kids, increased screen time can affect cognitive and language development, as well as the ability to hold attention. Instead of looking at a display, children can make use of the audiobooks by listening to stories on an interactive listening tool such as Toniesboxes. Pre-recorded adventures are available online, and to get extra creative, kids can use a unique key with the purpose of helping us tell our own stories. On the other hand, family members can record a story of their choice, be it a memory or a fable, for children to listen to.
14. Multitask (with some help)
Sitting idle on a chair may be exhausting, and those with infants may need to attend to a napping baby during office hours. To cater to both needs, a height-adjustable standing desk helps parents swap between sitting and standing throughout the workday. More than watching over the baby, parents can also rest assured that they’re doing their backs a favor by taking a break from a seat.
Those with a newborn may also be breastfeeding, and for multitaskers, having an extra hand free would help wonders. Hand-free pumping bras are generally more efficient than manual pumps and make it easier to do something else while pumping milk.
15. Open-access and new approaches to learning
As thousands of schools and daycare centers close indefinitely, parents are coming to the realization that their children may be falling behind schedule on their learning. Parents currently deal with more than they can chew, and while learning is important, educators advise that coping with the syllabus during a pandemic is not a responsibility expected of parents. Remote learning offers a great opportunity for many children and students alike to continue their education, but for those in remote settings, distance learning proves to be a challenge. Instead, parents can get creative with the ways they teach children fundamental skills, such as reading books to their kids and playing with legos. Parents can access the resources from public libraries online to continue their children’s education and benefit from the wealth of knowledge available for children to learn from in their own time when livestream participation may not be feasible.
This pandemic has created conditions for a rise in domestic violence that young victims, spouses, and senior citizens may find difficult to protect themselves from. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a tip sheet for parents dealing with stress over Covid-19. Advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages. Survivors can also chat with advocates here.