Billions of Families are Struggling
Across the globe, schools are closing in record numbers, leaving 1.5 billion school-aged students across 185 countries stuck at home. And as teachers scramble to provide appropriate resources for distance learning, many parents are finding themselves in a challenging conundrum. With daycares and schools closed and grandparents and babysitters social distancing, how can they care for their kids while working from home?
The good news is that many of us are all in the same situation. This means that your team will be more understanding when your six-year-old crashes your morning meeting to ask you to open a snack. Again.
Even with that extra support, this is still exceptionally stressful for any parent. So we consulted many of AIIR’s top executive coaches and asked them how they would advise working parents. We’ve also assembled a drove of free activities and resources to get you through your days.
In this article, you will find:
Click on any topic above to jump to that section. All resources included in this article are available for free from their providers.
Tips From Top Executive Coaches
Reset Space Expectations
One’s own space is not always an option, so carve out time slots and desk-sharing with shorter uninterrupted focus times for each person. Sharing and alternating as appropriate childcare, household and family care. Try to create adjusted routines based on energy management, not necessarily time management. You can even design a framework based on shared responsibilities and different needs in confined spaces.
Maureen Rabotin, AIIR | Paris
Give Yourself Grace
First and foremost, parents need to give themselves and their children grace. Parenting, working, and teaching are three different jobs that cannot be done at the same time. It’s not hard because parents are doing it wrong. It’s hard because it’s impossible to do it all. Adjusting to this new normal is shocking and unsettling. When you have to pick what to do, chose connection. Kids need to know they are safe and that things are okay. Rather than focusing on the academic assignment they are rebelling against, teach them how to cook or practice yoga. Give them a model of how to be resilient and get through tough times. And let go of being perfect or doing this right.
Allie Wilkinson, AIIR | Boston
Lots of Grace
One of the most helpful perspectives I’ve seen on this topic is from Dr. Emily W. King. She notes that having a job, caring for children, and educating children are all full-time jobs, so doing all of them well, at the same time, is impossible. Instead, I would recommend setting realistic expectations and daily goals in each area. If these goals are not all achieved, give yourself grace. Also, it may be helpful to widen your vantage point and recognize that this is a temporary time, so if things don’t go as planned, it will not impact long-term outcomes.
Brittany Joslyn, Ph.D., AIIR | New Orleans
Try to Maintain Structure
In a time like this, it might seem logical even unavoidable to lower the expectations you have for your kids. However, when rules go out the window, kids know something big is up, which can be unsettling. Boundaries help kids feel safe. We can have empathy without changing our rules. In doing so, our kids learn an important lesson: that no matter what they or people around them are going through, the feeling of chaos does not have to prevail.
Ianna Raim, AIIR | Miami
Many parents have been creative in how they carve out time to get their work done while kids are home. Some examples are:
1) Setting up a specific space in your home to do office work, so that kids know that when you are sitting there, you are not to be disturbed (except for emergencies).
2) Creating signs that are green (for ok to enter/interrupt) or red (involved in a meeting or other critical activity – do not disturb).
3) Creating cards for the kids to slide under the door if they need to talk to you – one for an emergency, one for a simple question, etc.
4) Setting up specific times during the day that they can come in to talk or ask questions, etc. – similar to open “office hours.”
5) Setting up a basket for each child with the day’s allotted snacks – once they are gone, they must wait until the next day – helps them to pace themselves and interrupt parents less.
6) Schedule time for both parents and kids to have “recess” – time for physical activity together. It has the dual benefit of helping kids use up energy while giving parents an extra needed dose of it!
7) Create structured activities for kids to complete during the day – schoolwork, crafts, etc. to keep them occupied.
8) Schedule “personal” time for everyone in addition to family time – the duration of this will vary based on the age of the children.
Dawn Cone, Ph.D., AIIR | Michigan
Set New Standards
Don’t hold yourself to an unrealistic standard. There is no standard for being the perfect parent on a good day, let alone in a pandemic. Take it easy on yourself, so you have more love and energy for your children.
Jay Fehnel, AIIR | Chicago
Be Honest (and Fair)
Depending on age, try explaining to the kids as truthfully as possible the reason why everybody is home right now. Use simple, honest language without scaring them but making them aware. It might also help to create a shared sense of responsibility towards each other in this testing time. Allocating daily regular video remote call times with grandparents for helping to reduce the sense of isolation for the older family members and, where possible, organize remote homework support with relatives or ‘baby sitter.’
If both parents are at home, try creating a fair plan between spouses for sharing the week’s activities. Agree on which day or parts of the day each party will take over some home and kids responsibilities and when quiet time is needed for the relevant working party. Agree on ‘personal me time slots,’ time chunks between the two parents, which allows one to go outdoors (ie, roof, balcony, garden, or supermarket where applicable) and have a small portion of ‘me time’ by themselves.
Natalie Schürmann, AIIR | Brussels
Talk To Your Boss
Those parents who are newly working from home need to recalibrate their expectations as employees, parent educators, and managers of their households. The convergence of worrying about the virus and familial proximity means that things are new. As a result, attention, focus and output will be different. Conversations with one’s boss about this shift is critical.
David M. Ehrmann, AIIR | Boston
Have a Little Fun
I’ve been asking leaders to think of the opportunities for fun and connection with their families that are present in this crisis. Your kids are never going to forget this time, whether you give them time and attention or not. Another suggestion would be to create new norms around zoom/conference call formality. Make it normal for interruptions and distractions to be OK. It’s important that leaders take inventory of what THEY need emotionally and in terms of time alone and mental recovery. I’m encouraging my leaders to ‘put their mask on first.’
Bob Kinnison, AIIR | Texas
Strive for Balance
The number one suggestion is to be kind to yourself in the process of working from home with your kids. No one (no one in a healthy place) can expect you to be perfect and flawless in this new space of working from home. Give yourself some grace to allow the mishaps that may be part of remote meetings, etc. Also, give yourself the room to be a human and keep your priorities straight to give focus to family and to work, both.
David Andrews, AIIR | Washington DC
The loss of structure can be devastating to some. There is a certain rhythm and efficiency in the process of wakening, preparing, commuting, working, and then reversing. It is the same for the children. If there’s no commute, how can parents and students alike create a replicating sequence of events that “feels like” the process of work/school? Reflecting on that and experimenting with different concepts can shed light. Involve the students in ideation too…they can be the most creative ones.
J. Todd Ross, AIIR | Pennsylvania
Handle Video Calls Differently
Almost all of my clients are working with 2-3 kids + spouse and sometimes with parents at home. It is challenging, and above all, it seems like companies want to “make the best out of their employees time.” This means that they are quite overwhelmed, with WebEx and Zoom meetings from dawn “till dusk. First of all, I think employees and leaders need to adjust to this new reality, show empathy in moments of “full house.” So if the kid comes into the room, it is important to show them that they are the priority, sometimes even interrupt the conversation to be with their kids. Especially if they are infants or young kids.
There are already many examples on the internet of do’s and don’ts on how to behave during conferences if the family interrupts. There’s an amazing video of a mom who, instead of rushing her kid out of the room, she even invites her to sit on her lap and cuddle her in the middle of the conference, while she keeps on talking.
Try not to panic. I am recommending that my coachees only schedule 45-minute meetings so that they can take 15 minutes to decompress.
Alvaro Burgos, AIIR | New York
Leverage Neuroscience Research for Joy
Create a routine for getting outside and exercising on your own or with the family — neuroscience research highlights these activities are good for your brain and body. In addition, find joy in experiences that didn’t exist before – like a weekday morning bike ride/run with your child, having time to catch up with old friends via Zoom or on text chains, and sharing gratitude daily for big or small things. It’s all much easier said than done, but remember – we’re all in this together.
Deb Becker, AIIR | Boston
Stress Management Information
Daily Tips and Extensive Resources
Child Mind Institute
Help Your Family De-Stress During Coronavirus Uncertainty
Common Sense Media
Managing Anxiety and Stress
Tools for Connecting with Friends and Family
Easy, Instant Video Chatting for Groups
Video Chatting for Up to 8 People
Sign Up for a Free Zoom Account
Tutorials and Resources from Zoom
Academic Lessons and Projects
All Subjects, Grades K-8
Science, All Grades
Social Studies all grades
Library of Congress
Free Lessons for Pre-K to Grade 9
Project-based Learning Ideas
Information and Tutoring for Families During COVID-19 School Closures
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
The Kennedy Center
Fun Lessons About Famous Artists for Kids
Art and Mati with Dada
Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere
Daily Arts and Crafts Tutorials (with supply lists)
Art Tutorials for Kids Ages 2-10
Art for Kids Hub
Movement and Mindfulness Videos for Kids
Dance Along Videos
Virtual Gym Class
P.E. with Joe
Quick, Fun Fitness Sessions
PE Fitness Frenzy
Cosmic Kids Yoga
Music and Entertainment
Frozen Live at the Hyperion
Live Concerts and Performances
iHeart Living Room Concert
Remote-friendly STEM Lessons
Rozzy Learning Company
Computer Science Tutorials
Hour of Code
Astronauts Read Stories from Space
Story Time from Space
Virtual Field Trips
We Are Teachers
Google Arts and Culture
12 Virtual Tours of Museums
Travel and Leisure
Live Aquarium Streaming
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Live Zoo Streaming
San Diego Zoo
We're Here to Help
As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, uncertainty hangs over the working world. Now, more than ever, people are looking to their leaders as beacons to light the path forward.
AIIR Consulting is offering two focused programs to help leaders as they guide their organizations through the challenges ahead.