Juggling your professional and parenting roles might be a challenge as you’re working from home and your students are distance learning. Like much of the world, our team of mentors at Command Education has shifted from office life to working remotely. Though we’ve always supported our students over video calls, the change has been a big one for our mentors and their students.
Your space has shifted from a home to an office-gym-classroom-home hybrid, and must now be shared by your family as such. While it’s important to remain productive at work and school, it’s also crucial that your home remains a home – a place where you and your family spend quality time together or peacefully spend some time alone. Such an unprecedented and sudden shift can either cause strain on your relationships or strengthen them. These steps can help ensure that the transition leads to the latter.
Separate home from work spatially: create productive work spaces for you and your student
It’s important to set aside a space to work in that is your own. Ideally, separate your work space from the spaces you use to relax and unwind. If you don’t have a separate room that can be devoted to work, then create spatial boundaries within the room in which you work. If this is your bedroom, work from your desk and reserve your bed as a sacred place for nonworking hours. Keep your space clean and uncluttered.
Your space should ideally be quiet and have ample natural light. If you don’t have a desk, it is worth buying one for this period of time. Your workspace should be near enough to your children that you can keep tabs on them, but private enough that you can maintain your own space and focus on your work. Set up a silent communication system. For example, an open door means your kids can come in and ask a question. If the door is closed, they’ll know you’re mid-meeting or focusing, and to come back later.
Just as important as a dedicated work space for you is a space your student can call their own. It’s important for students to feel that they can be just as productive at home as they were in school. If your students do not have desks in their bedrooms, now is the time to invest in one. The rules that apply to your work spaces also apply to your kids’ school spaces. They must have their own designated learning space that is comfortable, quiet and relatively private. Students’ workspaces should include access to books, pencils, pens, calculators and other resources they may need. This space should be separate from designated play and rest spaces, as this spatial separation will allow a mental separation, which in turn, allows students to focus and succeed throughout distance learning.
Create schedules and goals for you and your students
While you may want to be a super-parent and take over as a full-time teacher or check in with your student frequently throughout the day, you also need to prioritize your own work, and, depending on your students’ ages, should allow them to manage their own time. Before you set goals, have an open conversation about what your student would find helpful. Find out what they need help with on a daily basis and what they feel confident finishing on their own. Maybe it’s helpful for you to ask them if they finished their chapter of SAT studying, or maybe it only adds to their stress. You want your kids to make the most of this time to get ahead, but be aware of how drastic a change this has been for them, and adjust goal-setting accordingly. Pay attention to your students’ needs and give them space and direction as you see fit.
Don’t forget self-care and home care
While staying productive with work and school are important, it’s equally important to separate yourself from your work and focus on yourself as well as your home. This has its challenges in normal life, but it can be especially difficult during this time.
Maintaining a clean house can help with overall productivity. Teaching your child to pull their weight and take responsibility in the household will instill broader values of contributing to family, society and their community. Starting small, such as creating a chore chart together, is a great way to have these conversations and to set expectations.
It’s equally as important to take care of yourself. This includes stretching, exercising or meditating. This can be an activity you do on your own or with your kids. Wake up an hour earlier than you usually do and enjoy alone time to do yoga or meditate. Or, you can exercise with your kids by teaching them the basics of your practice, or by having a mid-day dance party. YouTube and Instagram Live offer an abundance of free online workouts and classes. This can be supplemented by a discussion of the importance of taking care of the body.
Make sure to maintain basic positive habits in your and your students’ daily routines. These include making beds in the morning, getting dressed, washing faces and brushing teeth. Even though your kids aren’t leaving the house, it’s still important to maintain a daily routine. Children pay attention to their parents’ habits, and setting an unhygienic example because of special circumstances could have negative repercussions down the road.
Balance productive fun with pure leisure time
Fun activities balance out a busy schedule. Productive fun activities are those in which your child can pick up life skills, such as learning to cook by helping to prepare dinner. They also include reading for pleasure, working on a craft project or practicing a musical instrument. It’s a prime time to discover new passions that can potentially be lifelong. Your child can do many of these activities on their own, freeing up time for you. Respecting boundaries and having alone time is crucial, especially now.
For younger children, establishing weekly routines such as Pajama Party Monday, Formal Friday or Wacky Sock Wednesday helps instill a routine and sense of time in a fun way. A movie or episode of a favorite series can be something to look forward to at the end of a busy day. It’s critical to find a balance between work and play so that you and your kids can lead a healthy lifestyle.
Set aside time and space for socializing
In addition to leisurely activities, remember to set aside time for you and your kids to connect with friends and family through video calls. You could encourage your students to explore the arts by viewing virtual exhibits at the same time as their friend or exchanging creative writing pieces with each other. This encourages young students to develop their communication skills while still partaking in their favorite activities. Older kids could start a book club and schedule weekly Zoom meetings to discuss the book. Adults could join in or host one of their own as well! Or you might encourage your child to collaborate with their friends by playing online games such as Roblox. Encourage them to reach out to their teachers to ask questions and to check in to see how they are doing. Students could also keep in touch with their classmates through virtual hangouts or schedule regular FaceTime chats with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
Now more than ever, socializing and communicating with loved ones is essential to maintaining a positive outlook. Social media has allowed people to establish and maintain relationships with friends and family all over the world. Although the phrase “social distancing” means that people should maintain a socially responsible distance from others, that does not preclude parents and kids from keeping in touch with their friends, classmates, teachers and family via the internet.
Christopher Rim is CEO of Command Education, a company that provides college admission consulting and private tutoring.