#Ask Alyson: Top 10 parenting hacks for the pandemic

Headphones, gratitude and planning ahead can help with COVID stress.

Alyson Schafer February 2, 2021
parenting in pandemic

A look at how to ease the burden that comes with bringing up kids while working from home. Getty

Dear Alyson,

School is a joke. I can barely hear my Zoom calls over the chaos happening on my son’s classroom call. He’s so frustrated because it’s so hard to hear what the teacher is saying. I went up to check on him this morning and he’s playing a video game during class. And I can’t say I blame him. I feel bad that he’s not learning, I feel bad that I am working so I can’t focus on helping him, I feel bad because I can barely get lunch ready for him, as I juggle my work deadlines, which by the way, I am missing constantly. I’m not exercising, I’m drinking too much wine and by the end of the day I wonder what I accomplished that was worthwhile. Help!

Dear Help!,

Let me assure you, you are not alone. The insanity of trying to work from home while kids are doing (or not doing) online schooling has become the subject of many social media comedy memes. While it feels cathartic to have a laugh at the lunacy of the situation, it doesn’t solve our problems.

Let me offer some parent hacks for working from home during on-line schooling that will help.

Make a plan. Sit down with your son and let him know that you don’t think things are working well the way they are now. Ask him for input in laying out a better plan to get the grades he would like to achieve over the next few months. Kids are more likely to follow plans if they have a hand in creating them.

Set priorities. Try to prioritize a few things that you each must get done daily and let the rest go. Let him know you value your exercise time. Perhaps you can even find something active to enjoyable together — lots of families are doing midday walks in the sunshine.

Cover your ears. Buy headsets, even if they’re cheap ones. This will not only help block out noise from other people in the house, but research says the right kind of music can boost your productivity and reduce your stress. Some of the best background noise apps are listed on Zapier.

Connect. Talk to your son’s teacher. If noise and chaos are an issue for him, it’s likely a problem for other students. Look for solutions with the teacher to increase student engagement, or ask about the possibility of his working independently and non-synchronously. As long as he reaches the learning objectives, the teacher may be fine with his non-participation in certain portions of the day.

Schedule. If students know they can connect with their friends after class and in the evening, it’s easier to focus on school. When parents have unreasonable limits on tech in the evening, many kids will forgo school in order to socialize. Create a good tech plan that supports learning, socializing and a good night’s sleep.

Prepare. Make lunches and snacks the night before just like you did when he was going off to school for classes. I know it might look weird seeing your kid open his lunch box at the dining room table, but by keeping the old system that worked, you won’t be so stressed in your work day feeling you need to be providing lunch and snacks for your kids. The kitchen will stay cleaner and kids will likely eat healthier too!

Practice gratitude. At the end of every day, think of what you did get done and what you are grateful for. It’s likely more than you think. If you only focus on your shortcomings you will demoralize yourself and zap your motivation.

Share challenges. Talk to your workplace about the demands of home schooling and how it is impacting your work. If you communicate openly and share with them the challenges you are facing that is causing you to miss deadlines, they will appreciate your dilemma and work with you to find support and solutions.

Be nice. Speak kindly to yourself. Treat yourself like you would any other human being. Think of what you would say to a friend who came to you complaining about the same issues.

Take a break. If you are feeling burnt out, see if you can step away from both work and family obligations for a short time, like a long weekend — some hotels and AIRbnb’s are still open.

Hopefully the schools will re-open soon and the vaccine will be available so we don’t have to endure this predicament for much longer. Hang in there. You have come this far, and you have managed somehow. Trust yourself to be able to push through this last haul too.

Alyson Schafer is one of Canada’s leading parenting experts. She can be reached at hello@alysonschafer.com or on Twitter @alysonschafer.

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