12 Practical Tips to Help Support Working Parents in 2020

parenting work-life synergy Nov 02, 2020

As we enter into a new school year with many families facing the feat of balancing virtual work and school, it is necessary to address the unavoidable issues that will arise for working caregivers. Below are some practical steps that can be taken to help ease the burden a bit.

In addition to the below tips, continue to prioritize sleep, eating well and hydration to be sure your body and mind are up for the challenge. “Self-care” is an overused term but do be sure to take care of yourself — no one else will do it for you but everyone will benefit! Play outside, connect to your inner child, and find the humanity in the difficult moments.

WORK-RELATED:

Know your legal rights and options available to you under newly passed legislation (FFCRAFMLA, local statutes).

Maintain open communication with your employer, being as honest as possible about what you are or are not able to do (ex. taking on a new role, project, etc.).You may be hesitant to refuse new or different opportunities for fear of being viewed as incapable or unwilling. Taking on the responsibility without the emotional or practical ability to do so will not work in anyone’s favor.

Brainstorm creative solutions to your newly formed problems. Some examples include flexible scheduling, work share options, new methods of tracking and sharing data, or offering to complete tasks more aligned with your new environment (ex. recording promotional content instead of presenting live seminars so that it can be done when you have the quiet space). The key here is to have the proposed solutions — employers are also managing this new normal and cannot be expected to predict and offer accommodations for every employee’s unique needs.

Search out ways to connect with your coworkers. This could be for social support but also to brainstorm and offer solutions for other families in similar situations to yours. Older kids could babysit or tutor younger children, “pods” could be created (discussed below), shifts could be swapped with approval, etc.

Seek out and take advantage of employee wellness programs. Many companies offer support groups, coaching, counseling, training, resources, and more to their employees. Having a third party person to brainstorm with or just lend a listening ear can be invaluable during stressful times. Even if you are not feeling especially stressed (and definitely if you are!), being proactive with your mental, emotional, and social health is always a great idea.

HOME AND FAMILY RELATED:

Be honest with yourself — recognize when things become “too much” and seek the appropriate support, whether that be with safe outside help or scaling back on your responsibilities. Perhaps most important here is the pressure you put on yourself. It’s ok if the dishes are not done after lunch or if the kids aren’t on a perfect schedule each day. Give yourself grace and continue to give yourself grace throughout this trying and ever-changing time (FYI this “unprecedented time” did not end when the stay-at-home orders were lifted — we are still in strange times that demand reprioritization!).

Be honest with your family and other supports — do not be afraid to speak up when help is needed. Remember that relationships are NOT 50/50 and your supports may be doing more or less than you for the household and kids on any given day. That is OK! The key here is communication so that both parties feel they are being heard and everyone’s needs are being met as much as possible.

Be honest with your kids — even younger children know that this situation is “not normal” and difficult. Speak with them age-appropriately about what you are struggling with and what you need from them. Also, discuss what you are looking forward to about being more involved in their education and their lives! Make sure the environment is open and nonjudgmental so that they too can share what they are struggling with, need help with, or are enjoying. Brainstorm creative solutions to their presented problems and offer recognition for what they are doing well.

Explore the option of “pods,” either self-formed or created by others. Some areas have formal learning pods available to join where a qualified adult is overseeing the children's’ education. You could also offer the opportunity to other families that hold similar cautionary behaviors as your family. The pod could meet for educational or social purposes — either way, it would be a break for everyone and provide much-needed peer interactions for your children.

GENERAL:

Maintain some semblance of a routine and utilize technology as much as necessary to help automate processes. We are living in a “tech-dependent” world which can add to stress but can also be a HUGE help. Alexa, Google, and scheduling systems such as a Meetingbird can be priceless in allowing you to follow a routine without too much effort.

Avoid feeling overwhelmed by knowing and keeping to your processes. How do you work best? Do you research for days before making a decision or are you quick to take action? Do you prefer involving others? Keep in mind that not everything that works for others will work for you. Stay true to yourself and how you function best.

Keep a growth mindset. This is one season of your life and although difficult, you can still choose to grow from the experience. What new skills are you learning? How can you reframe challenges as opportunities? What are you discovering about yourself and the life you have built? What may need to change?

As you can see, flexibility, creativity, and open communication are three key components needed to successfully make it through the balancing act of working while overseeing your children’s education. Add in some gratitude for the extra time and connection with your children (not always easy!) and you’ll be in an even better position to tackle what are sure to be some long days.