Strategies for Working From Home and Parenting During COVID-19

Guest Authored By Leah R, MSW, LCSW

Blue Bird Day and working from home

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are sending their employees home to work, while schools and daycares are also closing nationwide. For all parents working from home, these times are incredibly challenging. We are essentially working two full-time jobs 24/7, all while managing the stress and fear of COVID-19.

Many parents are struggling with finding a balance. We are trying to continue to excel at our jobs, show up for our co-workers, and meet productivity standards. We are also attempting to create a new at-home routine that includes structured learning, balanced meals, time spent outside, and family togetherness.  That right there could make you feel pretty overwhelmed!  Try not to panic. You can do this! The first step: take a deep breath. Know that we are all in this together. And together we will get through it.

Here are some tips to help you cope with this “new normal” until the virus is under control.

  1. Slow the Spread: First and foremost follow the Governor’s Shelter in Place policy and continually practice social distancing when you need to. The quickest way to get back to our normal lives is to flatten the curve. Wash your hands and stay home!
  2. Keep a Routine: As best you can, keep a routine. This could simply mean showering and getting ready for your day each morning. Try to keep your kids on the same sleep and meal routines that they were on previously. We recommend planning out your day. Even if you’re not able to follow this routine exactly, it will bring some structure and order to this chaotic time. Additionally, kids, especially kids with autism spectrum disorders THRIVE and CRAVE routine. Routines will lead to smoother days and less frequent meltdowns.
  3. Be Creative About New Activities and Exercise: Try peppering in some novel activities that will make your child excited and keep them engaged! Have popsicles during bath time or build a fort! Additionally, incorporating exercise into your day will be key! Not only will taking a walk, going on a scooter ride, or simply running around the backyard help your kiddo burn some energy (hello nap time!) but exercise and time outdoors will help with mood regulation for children and adults alike. David Anderson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, also recommended brainstorming ways to go “back to the ‘80s,” before the time of screen prevalence. “I’ve been asking parents to think about their favorite activities at summer camp or at home before screens,” he says. “They often then generate lists of arts and crafts activities, science projects, imaginary games, musical activities, board games, household projects, etc.” It is also important to note that if a new activity feels overwhelming at this time—that’s okay too! Each family needs to do what will work best for them. You know what your family needs!
  4. Practice Grace: Remember to be reasonable and kind to yourself. As parents, we are constantly striving for perfection. It is important to remember that right now, the path of least resistance is an okay path to take. Yes, we want our kiddos to continue to thrive but it is okay if they get an extra episode of Sesame Street during this time. We can re-institute expectations and boundaries when life gets back to normal.
  5. Parenting Shifts: If you have a partner who is also working from home and you are able, consider taking parenting shifts. For example, one watches the kids in the morning while the other works and vice versa. This ensures you both get uninterrupted time to work but can also be as present as possible while parenting. Flexibility will also be key. Work outside of “work hours” on some tasks if you can, plan to work some hours on Saturday and Sunday to make up for times during the week you were not able to, and remember that your co-workers will be understanding! This is a crazy time for everyone so don’t fret if your toddler interrupts a Zoom meeting or you have to push a call back because your baby woke up from their nap an hour early–because of course that will happen while we’re trying to WFH 😉

Silver Lining? Working from home has some advantages—no need to commute, having access to your own kitchen, being able to dress comfortably, and having more flexibility in your schedule.

Hang in there parents! You are doing a wonderful job and you will get through this!