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7 tips for surviving ‘back to school’ this year

September 1, 2020

It's hard not to be apprehensive about fall this year with many schools reverting to online learning at home for students. But if it helps, you're not alone. Recent statistics show that 51 percent of working parents said they'll be distracted to a "moderate" or "great" degree on days when their kids learn from home, and 42 percent are worried to the same extent about their job security due to the situation.

For those parents facing a kids-at-home-this-fall school season, here are a few tips to make sure virtual school plus remote work don't equal your loss of sanity.

  1. Communicate with your company. Be upfront with your needs and allow your employer the same courtesy. They want this new way of working to succeed, too. Flexible scheduling, shifting start times, job sharing, weekend work hours in exchange for time off during the week—these are just some of the ways companies across the country are collaborating with remote staff to get work done.

  2. Communicate with your spouse/partner. Without judgment or challenge, lay out your needs, requests and expectations, and decide how you'll split kid duty. To allow both of you uninterrupted work time, consider alternating—either in blocks of time or by day—as the "contact" parent who can work out among the kids, while the other retreats to a designated quiet space. Just be sure to split the contact duties equitably!

  3. Communicate with your kids. Let your children know the rules and expectations for the school year. Remind them that you're working while they're learning, and assure them that you'll all adjust together as needed. Where practical, give your kids some input into the process so they feel invested, too. 
  4. Do a tech check before you're in full virtual mode. Does your internet have the bandwidth to handle everyone being online at once? If not, contact your provider to see how you can optimize your connection.

  5. Create a schedule and keep it in full view. Get a school/class schedule from your school district or teachers and build the family schedule around it. Don't toss your usual school-year routines out the window because you're home. Set alarms for an early start, take showers, get dressed, have meals and go to bed just as you would in a normal year. Don't forget to include breaks, exercise, homework and family time.

  6. Designate dedicated spaces to serve as "school" and "office." Even if it's the opposite ends of your dining room table, set up visual cues that kids will recognize as boundaries to respect. Mark "walls" around your chair with painter's tape. Print out a red stop sign to hang on your laptop so they take questions to your partner instead. Have a box, basket or small rolling cart handy in each area to hold supplies, so you can move them easily if needed (i.e., to clear off the kitchen table for lunch).

  7. Have activities available to occupy your kids in their down time. Especially if you'd like to limit screen use, dollar stores are a great source for age-appropriate activities—toys, craft supplies, stickers, coloring books and reading books. Ask your kids for input on what they'd like to do and if possible, give them a number of items to choose from.

Most of all, cut yourself—and everyone else—some slack. Yes, there will be bumps in the road, especially at first. Just be open to making adjustments, and don't insist on an unrealistic level of perfection, from your family or yourself. Because if there's anything that this pandemic era has taught us, it's that we are all just doing our best.

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