Pandemic Parenting

Kids' Health
Parents watching two children doing homework

How Adults Can Manage Remote Schooling Stress

Sally McDaniel, LMHC, LMFT, SUDP, CMHS

Parenting in the age of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t something you signed up for. There is no playbook to tell you how to guide your children or yourself through remote learning experiences. Couple your parenting challenges with new ways of working and social isolation, and it’s easy to understand your surging stress-level.

I hear different stories about pandemic parenting every day. Everyone is struggling to some degree.

Here are five ideas that seem to ease remote schooling stress and provide parents with relief during this chapter of life.

Build Routines

Nearly all of us benefit from an established daily routine. Remote learning and a school schedule both offer a foundation for a daily routine. Some tools that help build healthy routines include visuals, like a white board with a schedule for the day or asking your children to write out their daily tasks on paper. Include space for kids to make choices about their activities on their daily plan. Allow time for several breaks.

Along with your daily routine, consider some rituals each week that the whole family can enjoy. Examples include:

  • Daily routine visuals. On a white board, chalk board or piece of paper, make a grid. Write out the hours of the day, e.g. school starts at 8:30 a.m., lunch at 12 noon. Each child should have his or her own column. Ask children to write in activities, select screen time (if allowed) and the work they do around the house. This way they are part of the routine building process.
  • Allow for mid-week levity. Family board game night is usually a winning idea. Put it on the calendar.
  • Celebrate the weekend. Planning happy time can lift spirits for everyone. Some families we work with make dinner together on Friday night, others order pizza. Some prefer to share an activity on Saturday morning.

Make Learning Fun and Engaging

This is the time to think outside the box and try things that you know your kids enjoy. Learning can happen anywhere. Create or build something together. You could even research an interest they may have together. This could be their favorite animal, favorite band or transportation vehicle. Going on a hike or a walk on the beach has educational benefits. Learning doesn’t just occur in front of the computer, so follow their lead. If your children seem bored and unengaged, change it up and make learning fun!

Expect Interruptions

You are going to be interrupted. This is true whether you work from home or are at a job site. If your children are old enough, have a family meeting to discuss expectations for their behavior during the school day. Create criteria for when it is okay to interrupt. Consider having a schedule of your own prominently on display where your kids can see it. This should help you manage through the interruptions.

Set Realistic Expectations

Very few parents are working under normal conditions. If you have not already, have a conversation with your boss, and possibly colleagues, about some of the challenges your family life presents in your professional role. The intent of this conversation should be for you to offer some solutions to fulfill your obligations and to request flexibility at work as needed. Gaining some understanding and coming to an agreement about what is possible is a good way to relieve work-related angst.

Understand that Marriage is Different

Remote schooling demands that we take on new roles.

It’s helpful to accept the pandemic has changed you and your partner’s roles as parents. Current restrictions limit our ability to get out and connect with each other on date night. Make the most of it by enjoying family togetherness. Also, find ways you and your partner can create intimacy. Some ideas include:

  • Set a time daily when you and your partner talk without interruption for 20 – 30 minutes. You can tell your children that you need to have a grown-ups meeting.  Take turns discussing your day and what’s on your minds.

Have a bedtime ritual. Assuming your kids are not in the bedroom, you and your partner can do something relaxing together. Some couples read, some chat, some exchange massages. Choose something that works in your relationship. You could use knowledge of each other’s Love Language to determine what kinds of activities to enjoy together.