A significant population in the world is currently locked down due to the escalating threat from Corona virus. Like most workers, I am also working from home these days. Being a parent of three kids who are also staying at home all day, I have a few tips for the parents in such a situation.
- Make a routine somewhere between strict and light: A daily schedule is appearing at many websites these days for balancing between school work and fun time. This includes fixed wakeup and breakfast times followed by academic work, then lunch, house chores and screen time before dinner and ends with a fixed bedtime. During the past few days, I have observed that it is not only difficult to strictly enforce some of these rules but their immediate benefit is also not visible. As far as I am concerned, we are enforcing some of these rules while taking others lightly. For example, I am in favour of letting the children sleep in the morning if they are sleeping. It is much better to utilize that time for your own work rather than waking them up forcefully at a time and later be angry with them for not allowing you to do focused work. If you are finished with your work before they are awake, e.g., by continuing from 4:30am to 8:30am, there is no harm in kids waking up at 9am or so. Moreover, you will also be relaxed in dealing with them and helping them in their work. Similarly, there is no harm in taking the outdoor walk (if possible) or playing in the backyard earlier if the weather is more favourable at a particular time. A fixed time for such a play does not make sense since weather patterns work beyond the scope of our wishes. On the other hand, lunch, dinner and bed times must be fixed to avoid drifting too far and treating the lockdown days as summer holidays. Once it is time to sleep, it is time to sleep.
- Exercise: Being home all day can make one easily forget about exercise. This is the number one priority you should have and forget it at your own peril. It is not just that whenever the lockdown is lifted, you will have 3 inches added to your waist. Exercise is important for physical energy that finds its way into your career work and happy relationships as well as your emotional wellbeing during this period. Here is a simple workout that can be done without any equipment at home.
- Most important things first: If you are in the middle of your own work, it is tempting to allow the children watch some screen right after the breakfast so that you can continue uninterrupted. The problem with this approach is that kids are used to doing school work at school in the morning and their energy levels are at their peak. Moreover, once the most important thing — school work — is done first, it is out of the day now and cannot be affected from unexpected changes and/or swinging mood patterns arising from the body hormone levels.
- Monitor screen time: I know that most parents know this but drift into doing the exact opposite. Let kids watch the screen but only for a certain duration. The viewing time can be moved but a fixed duration will keep them hungry for more the next day. Furthermore, this will leave room for boring time that (a) boosts creativity as children think to figure out how to spend it, and (b) builds ‘patience muscles’ by spending time against their wishes.
- Reserve a time and place for family catch-up: It is easy to think that since everyone is at home all day, the family is automatically catching up. It is great, specially after dinner, to sit down together and have a chat about how everyone is doing and what they are looking forward to. Longer periods of lockdown will create a negative gradual impact on many minds, whether that of parents or kids, and observing this feedback at regular intervals within the family circle will prevent any catastrophe down the road.
Since every family is in a unique situation depending on many factors, I urge you to read everything everywhere but adapt it to your particular circumstances.