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#StayHomeSaveLives: A guide for parents

Posted onPosted on 6th Apr

Parents working from home, school from home and big events suspended. PE in my living room, supermarket trips only, and no seeing my friends. Will this go on forever?

For children, it might seem confusing and even frustrating that their personal reality is on pause. For parents, it might feel impossible to balance childcare, cooking, work-from-home (WFH), school-from-home, fun activities, food shopping, checking on older relatives (quick pause to breathe), keeping up with friends, relationships, news, housework, paying bills… and the list goes on.

For most of us, navigating change isn’t easy. How do I keep a routine? Will my children miss out on education? How will I keep them entertained? These are just a few of the questions that will be floating around many parents’ minds. Life couldn’t be more different, making it challenging to establish a sense of continuity and stability for your family. However, by keeping a regular routine and protecting our physical and mental health we are already halfway there.

That’s the view of Yoopies, a leading childcare platform, which has created a #StayAtHomeSaveLives Guide for Parents to help families adjust to this change.

How do I balance work-from-home and childcare?

As home and office blend together, striking a balance between family and work life might feel nearly impossible. It’s easy to feel distracted, unmotivated or unable to do it all. Feelings such as inadequacy, stress and worry are heightened as we try to balance home duties alongside work tasks.

Whilst WFH might feel chaotic at times, there are ways to ensure you are able to work effectively and get through a meeting without hearing “Mum, I’m bored” halfway through.

1) Honesty with your boss and team-mates

Trying to remain 110% at the top of your work game whilst managing your children is an unrealistic expectation, leading to feelings of failure and inadequacy from the get-go.

Remember that your children, much like yourself, have been asked to flip their norm upside down. Your number one priority is therefore to be realistic about your situation, and that means making sure that you and your family’s wellbeing isn’t sidelined. Honesty and open dialogue with your team, as well as prioritising essential tasks isn’t a bad place to start.

2) Be realistic with your time

Write yourself an achievable checklist by breaking down your bigger goals into easier steps. For example: 1) Check emails 2) Finish expenses 3) Make the kids a snack.

As you go through the day, tick off the things you complete. This will help nurture feelings of purpose and success. When you look back at your day, you’ll be able to visually see all the things, big or small, that you managed to complete.

Stick to your contracted hours. Whilst it might be tempting to do ‘just one more task’, give yourself time to switch off and recharge.

3) Separate your workspace and life-space
If you live in a house, try to separate spaces in which you work with the spaces in which family activities take place. For smaller accommodation, keep work to one side of the room and play for the other.

If your children are old enough and are getting on with school work, create a ‘work zone’ for you and the family. Older children will understand that parents still have jobs. You can divide your time effectively by using a timer. Focus on how much you can do in thirty minutes, rather than having to complete a specific task. If you have an important meeting, prepare in advance some online activities or quiet reading your children can do to create a quieter environment.

For parents with younger children, try to provide activities that keep their attention whilst you do essential tasks or meetings. Alternatively schedule meetings for when your child is having a nap to ensure a quiet space.

If you live with a partner, divide your day around who is keeping an eye on the children. For single parents, be open and honest with your colleagues that you are looking after your children single-handedly.

How do I entertain my kids?

Most parents struggle to provide continuous fun activities during the summer holidays, let alone in confinement, so be easy on yourself and your expectations as a parent.

Keep in mind that you are a parent and not an entertainer. Whilst structured and organised activities are undoubtedly important, there are also benefits of allowing your children to create their own fun. Skills such as independence, leadership and communication come from autonomous play. Set your children fun projects such as putting on a show for Mum and Dad.

Don’t put pressure on yourself. Try to schedule in an organised fun activity with your children where you can. This could be something simple such as watching a movie together, baking, dancing, theatre, drawing or reading a story. Sit down with your children for a chat about their feelings and thoughts. Children, particularly younger ones, will not be looking for dazzling acts of entertainment but for attention and love, which we as parents know how to provide.

Out of inspiration? Create an ‘I’m Bored Jar.’ At the beginning of the week, write fun activities on pieces of paper and place them in the jar. When your children say ‘I’m bored,’ they can take an activity from the jar.

How do I home-school my kids?

Looking after our children can be challenging at the best of times, let alone making sure their educational development needs are met.

When it comes to teaching, most of us haven’t looked at fractions or The Tudors for a fair few years. First things first, remember most of us are not a teacher by trade. What we can do is provide a similar school structure for our children and find creative ways to explore academic topics in a relaxed manner. There are plenty of resources available to help parents provide educational resources. Here are a few of our top recommendations:

1) PE with Joe Wicks : Kids and parents are taking to the living room for fun exercises led by Joe Wicks in the morning.

2) Maths with Carol Vorderman: Presenter and maths whiz has made her site free for primary school pupils, offering video tutorials and fun games to help kids learn maths.

3) Duolingo: Learn a language using the fun activities and quizzes available on the app.

4) BBC Bitesize: The website has a range of videos and activities to help your children stay on top of the national curriculum.

5) National Geographic Kids: Plenty of child friendly information about the world around them, as well as easy to understand content about Coronavirus

6) Story time: Elevenses with David Walliams, a new free audio story is available at 11am everyday!

7) Free virtual tours: Major British museums are offering online virtual tours and activities for kids to dip into culture during quarantine.

Don’t worry about mirroring lessons at school. Instead, aim to help grow your child’s interest and general knowledge about whatever topics he/she’s studying.

Be creative by using the resources around you, keep in contact with your children’s teachers and try to stick to a familiar school structure: eg) regular break time, playtime and lunchtime alongside academic activities.

How do I establish a sense of routine?

With exposure to worrying reports, statistics and images, it’s easy to feel like we are surrounded by impending doom or crisis. Children may find it difficult to distinguish between what they hear and see online or on TV, and their own personal reality. Keep your home environment calm by scheduling time for fun activities, school work and avoiding over exposure to the news. Keep you and your family up to date with what is happening in the world in a controlled and calm manner.

Children are reassured by a sense of familiarity, so where possible, stick to a regular routine and set times. This means getting up and starting your day around the time you normally would on a weekday, as well as keeping lunch, dinner and bedtimes familiar. You could try a Covid-19 Calendar.

Differentiate the weekdays to the weekend to stop the days merging into one:

Establish ground rules: wake up before 9am on weekdays vs. lie-ins at the weekend. Dressing in daytime clothes on weekdays vs. PJ on the weekend.

Organise a regular special event eg) Pizza and movie night on Saturdays for something to look forward to and a sense of regularity.

Keep in touch with elderly relatives and friends

With strong government advice to only see your household members, many children will miss their grandparents, cousins or friends.

Keeping communication channels open is still achievable and very much recommended to avoid feelings of isolation. We are incredibly lucky to live in a world in which technology brings us together. Tools such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Hangouts, Skype, Facetime amongst many more will help keep family ties together and friendships thriving.

Schedule in time for grandparents to chat to the family. Invite them to dinner via video call or ask them to read a story over the phone. Make it fun and lighthearted so both the grandparents and children benefit.

Many children will be wondering when they will next see their friends. Organise virtual playdates and catch-ups to ensure your children develop their social skills and keep up friendships.

How do I reassure my child that things will return to normal?

Often as a parent, we are confronted with questions we simply don’t have the answer to, namely: when will this all be over?

Explain to your children in an age-appropriate way that for now schools are closed in an effort to slow the spread of this virus in the wider community.

For many children, school is their whole world. It’s therefore important to reinforce that school isn’t cancelled forever and even if a few weeks off feels like a long time, one day, this will be a “remember when” story. Try to focus on the positive things: extra time with mum and/or dad and extra time for fun family activities.

Remind your children that the best doctors and scientists are working on a vaccine but in the meantime staying home is best solution to help others. Keep an open dialogue, calm tone and reassure your child that you are there for all their worries or questions.

How do I prevent my child worrying about Coronavirus?

The relative newness of Coronavirus means that in-depth knowledge regarding the virus is still unclear. Uncertainty may foster feelings of worry for children. Make sure to reassure your children that top scientists and doctors are in the process of developing a vaccine, which is why in the meantime prevention and staying home is so important!

Your child may naturally have questions. Remind your children they can always ask you questions and share their worries with you. Try activities such as drawing to inspire dialogue.

If your child is too young to understand the virus, make an effort to wash your hands in front of them regularly to encourage good hygiene practice. Whilst younger children might not understand the details of Coronavirus, that doesn’t mean they won’t be missing their friends, grandparents or trips to the park. Remind your children that there are also lots of fun things to do at home and keep in regular touch with family and friends. Children have the right to know about what is happening in the world, but parents equally have the responsibility to mitigate unnecessary distress or fear. Talk about what is going on in the world from reliable sources in a friendly, simplified and open manner.

There is no need to dwell on the number of deaths caused by Corona Virus with your children, as it fosters unnecessary panic. Of course, children are naturally curious and may want to know the death toll. However, couple your explanation with a reassurance that young people are much less likely to get the virus than adults. The people most at risk are elderly and those with existing serious medical conditions.