Updated: Jul 6, 2020
If you're like many in the world, we are facing at least a month and a half if not much longer new work from home with kids reality. And I have heard from many how much pressure you have been feeling to accomplish work tasks, deadlines, and attend meetings while also creating a homeschooling type of environment. There are also the thousands who have lost their jobs and are scrambling for security, peace, and calm while also supporting their children. These realities can easily lead towards a pressure cooker of stress, anxiety, and difficult days. While we cannot erase or change these realities, we CAN lean into them and choose a different approach or mindset.
So let me say this very clearly, from an expert educator and parent coach: Parents, you are already AMAZING and doing everything you are meant to at this moment to support your children. AND you are NOT expected to replace your children's teachers. Or be super-heroes. You are simply expected to just be you. And be you in the most nourishing way possible for yourselves and your families.
Which leads me to a life saving elixer for our days: the schedule.
Now, there is a lot of information out there about schedules and setting a routine for your children and how important that is. And I agree that yes, consistency is very freeing and creates a feeling of safety for children. It will also help you as the grown up to know what to expect and how to manage each day.
But here is my big caveat that I want to emphasize: a schedule should not be rigid nor set in stone. Much as a birthing plan never truly turns out exactly as we'd wanted, a schedule should be seen as a suggested flow that can be adjusted and tweaked as needed.
As you can see in the picture to the left, our schedule has times (which represent my hopes for the perfect day) but what is most important is the order. Also notice that not every detail is in our schedule. Rather, I have generic blocks of time that can be creatively adjusted. One day storytime is cuddling up in bed with a pile of books. Another day it's an online live stream video.
See what I mean about making it work for us and flow as needed?
Here are some activities from recent flows:
Each day, we have at least one independent work time and one shared activity. Above, you can see a few different ways we set it up. There are many routines and systems already in place that support independence. There are also open ended games and supplies that have specific expectations around them. Play is also always in three parts: plan, play, clean. This helps us stay organized, happy, peaceful, and all feel supported.
Setting up a flow is pretty easy. The most important thing is to include your child(ren) in the discussion. Don't just make a schedule and say, here is what we're doing. Instead, sit down with your child(ren) and ask them what they think should happen each day. Then share what you believe should happen each day. Make a list together. Then decide on an order.
You can set up your flow in different ways. It can be like ours, simply a schedule with a paper clip on the side to mark where we are in the day. You can also get fancy and make a velcroed board so that you can move each chunk of time around as needed each day. If you feel like you'll need a lot flexibility, then start each day with writing today's flow on a chalkboard together. The most important part is to keep consistent to non-negotiables that you have agreed upon (like maybe rest time and snack time).
Finally, here are some suggestions that I encourage you to consider. They have really helped me and the parents that I coach:
Each day has its own rhythm. It is ok not to keep to a strict schedule. Don’t try to be a school. Be at home. I encourage you to have an order but to let it flow.
Mix it up. Try to mix some dedicated together time (check out my family fun breaks on facebook live @thejoyousparent!) with time for each of you to have ME time. For instance, today's work time involves E setting up her own snack from her snack box and then an independent puzzle game (that we discussed and previewed together) while I write this post! Yesterday, one of our activities was some special shared Mommy & Me sewing and the day before involved a fun painting project.
Create freedom within boundaries. E knows that during work time, I have an invisible bubble around me and that she only comes up to me if she really needs help with something. We discussed what might be a reason to come to me. Our work time is always in the same room so that I can be present and support if needed. But for the most part, E sets up her snack and enjoys an independent activity very happily.
Provide Open Ended Play Opportunities. All of the independent activities that I have set up are with loose parts and have no defined rules or endings. In this way, E can decide exactly how she wants to play and the play opportunities are endless! For example, with magnatiles she has already built a castle, created a stage, used them as dishes for a picnic, and another time added in her finger puppets to create a small world. The play goes on and on - without adult support!
Be forgiving - with yourself and with your children. These days aren’t normal so don't treath them as such. If it's hard one day for your child to be without you, lean into it and cuddle, cuddle, cuddle! After all, when else in the hustle have you had this precious opportunity? And if you weren't able to get done everything you wanted? That's ok too. Create small, bite size goals for yourself. Allow your family the space and time to nurture and support as needed. And also set yourself up for success by stating your needs and expectations clearly and kindly. Let's treat this time as the magical opportunity it is to slow down, check in, and connect with what is most important.
Don’t take things too seriously! Yes, you might have work obligations (if you are still lucky to have work) but ALL of us, including those serious coworkers who want to have this intense meeting are in this together aren’t we? So take shared breathers, name what’s real and allow yourselves to change the pace. I mean it! Tell your coworkers when you need a short break. Name the reality of inevitable noise in the background when we are working with kids playing in the same room. Set up working in this new normal norms ahead of time that include things like "we will care for one another" and "let's really see and hear our needs." Invite all of your coworkers to my Family Fun Breaks! See what happens. The world will not crumble. I promise!
So take this collective pause as an opportunity. To change your approach. Look at things from a different perspective. Lean in and be vulnerable. And celebrate this precious time together at home with your beautiful family.
I celebrate you and your amazing parenting each day! Remember that nothing is set in stone and the only definite thing in life is change. So let's commit to going with the flow and enjoying the ride!
If you would like to know more about how I help parents create a nourishing flow to their day or want more information about my coaching services and Four Phase Methodology towards a Joyous Parenthood, visit here!
Sivanne Lieber is a parenthood coach and consultant for parents and caregivers of the soft years, ages 0-5 and beyond. She works with families to find the confident, calm, connected parenthood they deserve.