Online Therapy in New Jersey
COVID-19 Balancing Act...Parenting, Working and Teaching From Home
The hustle and bustle of everyday life can be exhausting and seemingly never-ending… that is, until COVID-19 put an end to life as we knew it. The disease has created a new set of so many challenges for so many individuals and families. A pandemic of this measure is something nobody could have predicted or have prepared for. The fact that not even the government knows how to handle it or when it will be solved is extremely unsettling. It is completely normal for people to feel anxious, overwhelmed or confused during this time and many families are struggling how to balance the "new normal".
Due to the pandemic, Francine and her husband Tom were instructed to work from home with very little notice. At the same time, schools closed and all of a sudden they were not only parents with full time careers but they also became full time "teachers" to their 3 kids with absolutely no training. They were expected to help their children learn remotely and they had absolutely no clue how to do that. Balancing these roles as well as other household responsibilities were causing Francine and Tom to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Their kids were not only feeling the effect of their parent's stress but they too had a lot of concerns of their own.
Family dinners became arguments, walks around the neighborhood became tedious, and the backed-up wifi became routine. Familial issues from the extended amount of time they were spending together started to grate on everyone's nerves. As if the Coronavirus pandemic wasn't enough stress, Francine and Tom were also trying to run a happy, healthy household by keeping the peace between the five of them.
If this sounds like you and your family, following these few tips may ease the stress of working, parenting and schooling under the same roof:
1. Now that both work and school are being done remotely, we have to keep in mind the inevitable fact that there will be technical issues that hinder our ability to work smoothly. Issues like wifi (especially with so many devices being used at one time) and computer problems (like microphone or video camera malfunctions) are common even in regular circumstances. It's important to understand how these things work and how you might go about fixing them as problems arise, or simply have a backup plan if no fixing is possible. For example, instead of having a video chat with a business partner, consider doing instant messaging or rescheduling until things get fixed. Most people are willing to be flexible with deadlines due to circumstance, so don't be afraid to ask.
2. Create boundaries between work, school and home. Sometimes the motivation to do your work and helping your kids do their school work can be extremely hard to maintain in the comfort of your own home. You would much rather relax and binge watch your favorite netflix show! Therefore, I would suggest creating a structured daily schedule that everyone can mostly agree on to help ease some of the inescapable craziness. For example, try getting yourself and your children dressed for each day as if you are still going into work and school. Make your bed, have a substantial breakfast, and continue to exercise once a day in any way you can. Decide who is going to do what and where. Understanding how the space in your house is going to be utilized is key. Many people see working remotely as an opportunity to do work and take their classes from their beds. While this method may work for some, it can prove utterly ineffective for others, especially those who get distracted or tired very easily. If you don't already have a quiet, organized space in your home where you can be productive, create one.
3. Along with a lack of motivation, it will likely be difficult to balance home and work life when considering things like work or school deadlines, and the amount of time and effort needed to complete these tasks. It might be effective to create a journal or calendar for yourself and your children to keep track of things. That way, it will be easier to accomplish tasks without missing any deadlines.
4. Being cooped up in a house all day commonly leads to what's known as "cabin fever", or the feeling of irritability you get from being confined within a space for an extended period of time. To prevent or balance your cabin fever try including activities such as going on walks, taking the kids for a hike, or family lawn games into your everyday routine. You could even take your work outside to get some fresh air and sunshine!
5. Internal family fights are unavoidable based on the amount of time being spent together. Make sure to take some time for yourself like exercising alone outside, reading a book, stationing your work space apart from others. It can be refreshing to just be on your own and get some personal space. Setting some time aside for yourself everyday will not only help you unwind, but help your family get some alone time and space as well.
6. Although quarantine can be a stressful time for the whole family, it can also be a positive thing. It means more family time; more time to focus on what really matters. It can be a reminder to slow down and make time for the things you may not always have time for, including house chores you keep putting off because of being "busy", having family dinners, taking the dogs / kids for long hikes, etc.
7. While you are at home with your family, it is important to teach clean and healthy habits that will help ease the stress and worry of spreading germs. Remind your family members to wash their hands frequently during the day, especially before and after meals and after coughing or sneezing. Regularly clean surfaces that everyone touches - door knobs, countertops and tables, laptop screens and keys, phones etc. Making cleaning a regular part of your routine will help keep your home safe, sanitary, and healthy.
8. These times can be especially hard for children with mental illnesses like depression, eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, etc. Continue to schedule online meetings with their therapist, encourage them to talk to their friends, and remind them to allow room for mistakes. These times are new and unpredictable, and EVERYONE is unprepared for it. Mental health is so important and should be treated like a priority, both with a pandemic and without.
9. Social distancing does not have to mean isolating alone and/or with just your family. You need to take a break from hanging out with your family and from balancing everything you have to do. You need to have some fun times with friends! Although you may only be physically allowed to be with your family under one roof it doesn't mean you need to stop socializing with others virtually. Now is the time to take advantage of technology and hang out with your extended family and friends on-line. Be creative with your virtual experience... enjoy a happy hour, share a meal, play a game, or even take a course together.
10. Be grateful that you your family are together in these unprecedented times. There are many people who are totally alone and/or may have older kids out of state who they may not see for months. There are also others who are single parents without a partner to share the burden with or have a shoulder to lean on. Have an attitude of gratitude and end each day counting your blessings.
Although this time is unpredictable and scary, hopefully keeping the above tips in mind can help ease your stress and worry. If you need help when it comes to balancing the "new normal" we are always here for you.
Risa Simpson-Davis, LCSW