Every parent understands the concept and value of routine – it brings comfort and consistency to children’s lives. But as life as we know it has been turned on its head, and with parents juggling more responsibilities than ever before, the familiar routine most families relied on before has likely gone out the window.
If this has left you anxious and overwhelmed, you are not alone. With the ‘new normal’ comes the need for a new routine; one that may look a little different than before. But adapting to a new routine can be challenging. Whether you are a home education veteran whose regular schedule or activities are upended or whether you are homeschooling for the first time (perhaps while working from home full time), here are some tips.
Create a sense of normalcy
Routine is good, but a rigid schedule has the potential to add even more anxiety to an already difficult situation. So, rather than set a strict daily schedule, aim to create a sense of normalcy that includes schoolwork, opportunities for play and creativity, mealtimes, and bedtime. This will allow children to have predictability in their day, which is vital in these uncertain times.
Let go of traditional timelines
Just because you are educating your child at home doesn’t mean you must follow conventional school hours. Everyone has a different situation, and all children have their own learning rhythms. To maximise learning, follow a plan that takes your family’s situation and your child’s preferences into account. This might mean doing schoolwork after dinner or even completing the bulk of it on weekends. Flexibility is key.
Lower your expectations
Try not to be too hard on yourself or your children if things don’t go as planned. It is important to maintain perspective: while academics are important, it is not the alpha and omega; a clean house is overrated; and, if you are working from home, your productivity will likely take a dip as you try to navigate school, household and work responsibilities.
Let your children take ownership
Schoolwork and chores must be done, but having some choice about how it is accomplished can help children feel less pressured. So why not let your children take some ownership of their day (and learn some responsibility and time management skills in the process)? Present some chores around the house and let them choose which they prefer and when or how to complete them. You can also give them a choice about what they would like to do once their schoolwork is done.
If at first you don’t succeed
When it comes to home education, some days will be more challenging than others. If you or your children are having a difficult time and there are tears involved (yours or theirs), call it a day. You will only waste time and energy carrying on with the lesson. Taking full responsibly for your children’s education is very different to simply helping with homework. But you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to know everything, and you don’t have to do it alone. Recognising this will ease a lot of anxiety and frustration.
Be kind and patient
Especially with yourself. Parenting through a pandemic is uncharted territory. As well as worrying about your own health and that of your loved ones, you may have concerns about money and work. Add in disrupted routines and unexpected responsibilities, and even the most resilient parent may feel overwhelmed. In order to take care of your children, you need to take care of yourself.
When trying to establish a new routine, consider your family’s situation and your children’s needs, try to remain flexible and open-minded, and know that sometimes the best way to maintain order amid the chaos is to change old habits or bend the rules.
By Danielle Barfoot