The COVID-19 pandemic has, for many, meant a shift to work from home. Even without COVID-19 making it somewhat mandatory, many people regularly maintain a home office. Online applications like Skype and the now very popular ZOOM make it easier to facilitate working from home if and when you can. However, with kids being safe at home and with homeschooling to be done, that serene work-from-home environment just got an unexpected boardroom full of demanding voices in pajamas. For families of children with special needs, the workload is even more challenging as routines fall apart and need to be rebuilt.
The question now is how do we balance work and life when it’s all happening from home at once? Some suggest simply hiring help or asking family members to pitch in. That is unrealistic for many and not just because of the current social distancing rule. Hiring help costs money and asking relatives could put you and them at risk.
Parents working from home while teaching children now find themselves constantly adjusting to the new normal. Here are a few tips to help make that adjustment less stressful while working from home.
Take long breaks to do other things
One of the biggest tips to implement is simply taking breaks for other needs. While online work meetings may be set to specific times, not everything else has to be. Step away from the computer and engage with your kids or help them with their school work. A little quality time with the kids can buy you extra time at the home office. Remember, it doesn’t all have to happen at once. The great thing about working from home is the time flexibility. When at the office we often clock out at 5 pm. At home, you can shift the time around so it suits your family’s needs. It might feel like more work, but keep in mind this is all temporary, and we’re all in this together.
Create a new routine
For kids and youth with or without special needs, a set routine can be crucial. A lack of routine can result in behavioral and anxiety issues that need to be mitigated. Setting up a schedule that best mimics their usual day can help ease their concerns about sudden changes to their routine. Letting kids do whatever they want can be confusing and overwhelming, especially for the younger set. Keep in mind, while set routines can ease anxiety, they also help you when managing work. With a new routine comes new boundaries. That may mean setting a time when kids can interact with you and when they need to leave you alone.
If you have a partner who can trade off on duties then creating a schedule between the two of you can help with your anxiety levels. Some are finding an on/off ‘work a day/parent a day’ works well for them. Find what works for you and your partner. This can be particularly helpful for those parents who have a child with special needs. They often have requirements that go beyond what typical children need.
Don’t be afraid to use what works
One of the biggest things parents fear right now when there is nothing to do is the amount of screen time the kids eat up. Electronics have become the third parent. However, now is perhaps not the time to be overly concerned about screen time. If you can get work done and Netflix or xBox can help, then so be it. Apps like Prune and Sensory App House are useful and engaging for those with cognitive disabilities. For reviews of other mobile applications designed for those with developmental disabilities, go here.
Use tech to connect
Many kids miss the routine of connecting with friends. If you have the technology at home, do what you can to set up ZOOM or Skype chats. Familiar faces help instill a sense of normalcy in particular for those with developmental disabilities.
Use patience to your advantage
These are trying times for everyone, even for teachers who are rushing to create new ways to engage your children. As this blog is written, kids are being taught and lunch is being made. The world is finding out that patience is definitely a virtue and a little time and understanding, even for yourself, goes a long way. Give yourself time and space to accept the new normal and understand that many others in your community are having a stressful time as well. The great thing about humans, though, is just how adaptable we can be. This too will pass.