Whilst we’re locked down in our homes most working parents are reminded that balancing home schooling, childcare, and Zoom calls is a daily challenge. And yet, whilst our environments, family and work set up are all different, there is comfort in experiencing the same storm from different boats. Indeed, when we have been running our Wellbeing for Working Parents sessions, it’s encouraging to hear the comfort parents experience when exchanging their own tales, advice, and empathy.
And while our children’s ages, needs, our home set-ups and support all vary, we can share suggestions to help us cope, thrive even, whilst we work and parent from home.
Recharge your batteries
Remember, to help your family, ensure your own wellbeing is being maintained by considering ways to boost your wellbeing during your working day, like these suggestions:
- Keep moving throughout the day – walk and stretch
- Avoid video calls where possible (walk and talk) or turn off self view if you can’t avoid Zoom
- Take mindful, micro-breaks
Taking simple steps to thread moments of de-stressing activities, can help ward off distressing moments during our day and keep our energy topped-up.
Spotting the triggers
Anxiety and stress activates our ‘fight, flight – or freeze’ mechanism which is useful for real dangers – like walking out in front of cars – but can easily be triggered by other scenarios which our brains want to protect us from.
Separating fact from thoughts can be helpful as situations begin to unfold. Stop and identify what actually happened – for example negative email, kids arguing, urgent deadline – these are the facts. Once you can see these, you can then begin to label your subsequent thoughts, judgements and feelings – for example I feel bad, overwhelmed, that was unfair, unkind.
Recognising these can help us become aware and control unhelpful thoughts, feelings and ultimately the way we respond to stress and anxiety triggers.
Could the future of work be shifting to a more flexible and agile working format long-term? Possibly, but as we currently adjust to ‘living at work’ in the short-term, there’s one way you can better manage your time working at home with family around. Try this calculation to understand how you spend your time to be in a better position to manage it.
- Work out how much time you’ve gained in lockdown before home-schooling (possibly less commuting, socialising, children’s extra-curricular activities etc)
- Now factor in the time you now spend on home-schooling. Do you still have a net positive?
- Even if you have a deficit, this appreciation of how your time is spent can help you manage better. If applicable, ask your partner to do likewise. It can help the planning and communication process which is so important at this time.
Supporting your family’s wellbeing
Children can be sensitive to stress and tension – whether that’s impacted by a global pandemic, or work and life stresses filtering through the home, there is often a question we overlook: What can they do to help themselves and you?
What could they do to help during a stressful moment. They often have better answers! This gives them responsibility too and you’re setting a cycle in place for next time.
When little ones are clambering for your attention, causing disruptions or simply whining non-stop (as is often the case) take a moment to stop and ask them: what do they need?
Bring them in, connect and apply active listening. This doesn’t mean you can give them exactly what they want, but you have better insight and they feel heard. Even if your child cannot talk yet, we know they are communicating constantly, spending time actively listening and observing them can boost their wellbeing.
Plan, communicate and…control
Talking is possibly the most important thing you can do at this time, to share your experiences – good or bad – to connect, relate and strengthen your planning mechanisms allowing you to cope with unfolding events that you can have some control over.
Some questions you might want to consider
- What do you each need to be at your best?
- How do you want to communicate?
- What working patterns work for you?
- How can you stay flexible when last minute changes happen?
- Where/how do you want to share this?
Check out the family gap plan – from Dr. Brené Brown – and create your own.
What else could help?
- Being grateful for the brilliant technology that we have to keep us connected and excellent access to online support (imagine this was happening in the 90s, or further back!)
- Generating a list – or menu of self-care ideas that help you be at your best each day. Kids can even join in.
- Getting daily exercise and remembering to stay active as a family.
These are just a few of the many ways you can help boost your wellbeing as we juggle working and parenting during lockdown. For further support, take a look at our Wellbeing for Working Parents webinar and workshops options to support working parents during this time.