We're all in this together. In our own houses. With our own families, but nevertheless, all together, pretty much no matter where we live in the world.
This, of course, has meant having all members at home either studying or working. As someone who has been working from home for a while now, I thought I'd share some tips that you might find helpful to survive these uncertain and even trying times. It's not always going to be easy, and I've had to adjust because the kids are also home now but there are definitely ways of making it work for you and your kids.
1. Make your bed. It literally takes two minutes but there is nothing as good as coming into your room after a long hard day, and seeing a nicely made bed that you can slip into. A bed that's made exudes calm and order, which is something that we all need a bit of right now. Try and get your kids into the habit too. Make it a game if you have to - time who can make their bed the fastest or make it look the most instagrammable or who remembers to make it the most times in a week - and reward, reward, reward!
2. Get dressed. After coming home from hospital with my first baby, all I wanted to wear was the most comfortable home clothes I owned - trackies. Every single day. And because I was home most days, I felt it didn't really matter as I knew no one would see me. I soon learnt though that for me, wearing trackies made me feel like lazing around and not being very productive. I eventually made it a rule that even if I was home, I would get dressed. Obviously not in a power suit, but I'd pop on something that made me feel dressed, and it really made a difference.
My kids' schools have enforced the rule of wearing their school/sports uniform for their online learning. At first I thought it was a bit over the top, but then realised the benefits. Firstly, they don't have to think about what to wear every morning. Secondly, it gets them in the right mindset for school and learning. Now not every school requires this, and that's ok too, but for the days when your kids are 'schooling', encourage them to switch out of their pyjamas and into clothes that are comfortable and makes them feel good.
Of course, there's always going to be room to have pyjama days, and it will make those days even more special if you're not wearing pyjamas every day! Looking for some comfortable clothes for your teens? You can check some of our favourites here. Look good, feel good, work good.
3. Do your face.Following on from the above principle, take a couple of minutes each morning to do this. For some, it may mean a quick cleanse, tone and moisturise. For others, a light foundation and bit of lippie. The aim is to do what makes you feel good and not have that just-got-out-of-bed look the whole day. Because for most, it will mean there's no longer the big rush out the door in the morning, it's a great time to introduce your tweens or teens to looking after their skin with a quick cleansing routine.
4. Create space. Having your whole family working and studying from home is going to present its challenges especially as everyone needs space. Try as best as you can to allocate everyone their own area so you aren't sitting on top of each other. It might mean having to take a day or two to declutter and plan so that each person can be designated an area. A pair of headphones for each person also wouldn't go astray.
5. Set out a routine. Whatever routines you had in place at the beginning of 2020 have probably gone out the window. If they haven't, then you can probably throw them out now. Trying to do life the same as you did before the big 'C' is only going to frustrate you. But routines are still good and all my experience as a teacher has taught me that all kids thrive on routines. They like to know what is happening in the day, even if it's something they don't look forward to. If you have younger kids, it might mean you need to sacrifice a bit of your work day to try and accommodate their learning. This might mean allocating time to be with your kids when they have activities that require your assistance and creating a list of activities they can do independently to allow you time to get work done and have meetings. I'll write more about this on a future post.
6. Find some me-time. I don't know about you, and I know it's early days yet, but I have quite enjoyed all this home time. It's possibly because of the introvert in me. I'm enjoying not having to drive kids from activity to activity after school and the more relaxed afternoons we are having. I know that for others, this lock down will be a huge struggle. So it's important to find some time for yourself. You might use this time to have virtual drinks with friends or it might mean sneaking into your bedroom with a good book. Whatever it is, don't forget to look after yourself so you can recharge your energy and be ready to face the family the next day.
7. Throw out all your usual rules on technology. From reading parent forums, screen time, or getting kids off their screens, has been a big problem in many families. We hear from experts all the time telling us they need to spend less time on screens and all the damage it can do to your children. But we are now living in these strange times where your kids actually need their screens more than ever. Not just for online learning, but also to keep in touch with their friends. These screens that we once despised are now actually being needed and used as a tool for good.
Of course, it doesn't mean that kids need to be glued to their screens every waking moment, but it does mean relaxing the rules. For our family, I've let the kids use their screen during their breaks throughout the day. I'm happy for them to be playing safe online games with their friends or being on a video call. I also let them have an extra half hour or so at the end of the day to 'hang out' with their friends.
After their day is over, we try to find other options for them to relax, whether it's to take the dog for a walk, play a board game with the family, handball in the backyard or even to read a paperback.
I know that these times are uncertain and maybe even scary for some of you. Change is always hard but it can certainly be made easier if we are willing to shift our minds slightly about how we tackle this new way of life.
What changes are you making to your family life to help you survive? I'd love to hear about them.