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How to Work from Home and Supervise Home-Based Learning (Part 1)

Balancing working and schooling from home is challenging. Here are some tips for doing both well.

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The pandemic brought and continues to bring about uncertainty, stress, and hardship. Many parents find themselves in a position where they are expected to work from home while supervising their children’s education. Some children flourish while many struggle, missing their friends and normal routines.

Over the years I learned a few things about how to make home education successful, and these lessons may be helpful for those who find themselves trying to juggle working from home and home-based learning.

Work as a Team

To get even some of your own work done while supervising your children’s home-based learning, it is essential  that you and your partner work as a team. Look for ways to share responsibilities at home and with the children in a way that feels fair for both of you. That fair division will look different in each family.

For example, my husband and I divide our responsibilities by having days when I get to fully focus on work while he makes sure life at home runs relatively smoothly and that the children’s education is supervised. On days when my husband works, I am fully responsible for what happens at home. This gives us both important uninterrupted time to work. While this works for us, you may need to look for a different way to ensure that both of you get time to focus on work while life at home keeps rolling. If the initial solution does not work, renegotiate. Your goal is a “good enough” solution, not perfection.

Create Structure

It is important to create structure to your day. Get up in the morning, brush your teeth and hair, and have breakfast. Ask your children to do the same. Most children and most adults need structure and routine to be able to focus on work.

If you and your children struggle to stick to routines, do not be hard on yourself.  During times of high stress and volatility, our mental bandwidth is stretched and we must deal with unprecedented challenges. Try to gradually re-implement the routines that worked well in the past. It will create structure to your day but also bring a sense of safety and control into your home.

To achieve this, make sure everyone has a place to work from. The place should be relatively organized, and all the supplies needed are readily at hand. Nothing is more frustrating for a child who is ready to start their work to spend time looking for a pencil, sharpener, or a laptop charger. Some people thrive in a cluttered environment and find that it feeds their creativity. The majority of us, however, need an environment that creates a sense of order and calm. The environment you work from should not increase your stress levels.

Another way to create a sense of order and calm is to keep every family member informed about the plan for the day. You may need to sit down in the evening and plan the next day or sit down once a week and create a plan. I do not recommend creating a plan more than two weeks ahead as life is full of surprises. You will have to re-do the plan more than once. Having a plan and keeping everyone informed increases your chances of getting something done that day.

Bucketloads of Patience!

You have probably noticed that supervising your children’s education requires a lot of patience from you. Now is the time to make use of destressing techniques. If you do not know of any ways to destress, it is time to start Googling and looking for ones that work for you and practicing them.

In times of stress we often turn to habits that may create momentarily comfort but bring more problems over time. Had the pandemic been short-lived, that comfort food and hours in front of the TV would have been pretty harmless. However, as the pandemic continues to spread, it is time for us to implement stress-reducing habits that are good for us in the long run. Remember, self-care is not always fun and easy; it is also making your bed in the morning,  cooking a healthy meal, and doing jumping jacks.

You and your partner may find that your relationship is stressed and negativity is creeping in. Remind yourselves that this is an inherently difficult time for you and is, most likely, not an indication that there is anything wrong. One solution is to find ways to destress together.

Equally important is for you to teach your children ways to destress. They will need those relaxation tools for years to come. Create a list of 10 relaxation tools that work for you and 10 that work for each child. They do not have to be the same. Put your lists in plain view (we place ours on the fridge) and practice them daily. Practicing self-soothing techniques when we’re calm helps us remember to use them when tension is high.

Learn more tips in Part 2.

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Matleena Vanhanen is a Counseling Psychologist, Certified Gottman Therapist and Certified Discernment Counselor  working in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She has over 20 years experience in working with individuals, couples and families in Europe and Middle East. You can view her website here.

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