Working from home has taken on a whole new definition in the midst of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Many parents juggle working while also guiding their child(ren) through distance-learning. This new normal leaves many parents feeling overwhelmed and maybe even concerned about the future.

Canopy Children’s Solutions’ Nurse Practitioner Leah Rigney is the mother of five-month-old and five-year-old sons. She provides telehealth psychiatric care and medication management while her husband works outside of the home at a local hospital. She shares her work-from-home experience and tips to help families.

“This is a crisis.  It is not normal for anyone so, don’t stress too much about getting everything right,” said Rigney. “Do what you can as best you can and know that it’s OK.  Find a system that works for you and your family.”

In situations where a child must remain at home, Rigney recommends parents being up-front with employers about what you are having to manage at home and how you are going to complete your assigned tasks. Parents of infants or toddlers may need to bring in help, whether it is a babysitter or leaning on family for a few hours while you work. If kids are home, schedule a daily rest time or quiet time to give yourself an extended break.  Those with elementary-aged children should plan and prepare activities a child can choose from to do independently. This will help minimize interruptions and optimize efficiency while you work. Schedule frequent breaks for children and yourself. When planning for her child, Rigney prepares independent activities such as:

  • handwriting sheets
  • coloring pages
  • age-appropriate crafts
  • a charged tablet for educational apps
  • snacks and drinks a child can access without help
  • a blanket for rest or nap time

Aside from preparing activities and things your child may need, establish expectations about what you have to do and how you need your child to help.

“I have telehealth sessions all throughout the day. I talked to my son about what I was doing and why I need him to stay out of my home office while my door is closed. I let my patients know ahead of time that while I’m working in a confidential and secure space, they may overhear a child call out in the background. As parents themselves, they have all been very understanding,” said Rigney. “If you have a child wander in on a conference call, understand that he or she may be curious and they want your attention. Calmly redirect them to another activity and resume your call. I think regardless of what you are doing from home, you must set expectations for your family and for those you are working with. Make others aware of your own situation to limit surprises.”

For those who are juggling work and distance learning, a schedule and flexibility are essential. Rigney’s son is in kindergarten and she blocks her time early in the morning to attend to his assignments so she can be hands-on.

“Younger elementary students are not independent learners,” said Rigney. “Younger-aged students, those 4th grade and under, require your attention and the ability to ask questions. Meeting those needs requires some dedication and creativity. That may mean getting up extra early to work before others wake up so you can spend time during the day helping your child with school, or tag-teaming with your spouse. I’m a former teacher and even we struggle to get everything into a single day. If you have multiple children and feel overwhelmed, set small goals like one quality learning objective a day.”

You can only do what one person can do in a day, assures Rigney.

When students return to school, teachers expect that there will be a learning gap. For some kids, it will be bigger than others, but that is why school districts are putting in the work now to help prepare. If you are concerned that your child may regress, continue working on math and reading skills throughout the summer. Kids are resilient, so give yourself a break from worry.

Working from home with added responsibilities is difficult. Give yourself a break. Remember that even the best-made plans will have some bumps.  Reach out to your support system including your supervisor, teachers, family and friends, and make the best of a difficult, yet temporary, situation. Together, we’ll make it through.