Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Managing the Distance - Learning, Work, Family

What's worse than every media and social media moment being spent on COVID-19? The reality of working from home, supporting education from home, and finding your new norm as a family.

It is not easy redefining roles, space, and schedules. We are having to let go of just a little bit of what we knew, to create space for what we now know. And you know what? Letting go is a process. A grieving process. So, if you're struggling, that's normal and absolutely okay. 

I'm held hostage, I'm struggling, now what? 
Good question.

Take a step back. You might be two weeks in to distance learning, or a month into working from home. It's never too late to take a step back and assess. Ask your tribe - what's working and what isn't working? Sans tribe, reflect on what is stressful in your life right now, what you have control over, and what little changes you could make to increase the tolerability of our situations.

Do what Elsa does - let it go, let it go! 
If you're like us, your schedule runs pretty tight. It's been difficult to leave that routine behind. Letting go is our place to start.

Let go of what used to be, at least for a little while. The path, pace, time and place for learning, work and family time has changed. Trying to hang on to the way you used to do things will make you crazy. Allow a different schedule unfold, one that is do-able. 

Schedules are not permanent. If something isn't working, change it. There is no harm in taking care of yourself mentally, spiritually and physically. Trying to do it all and be as great as the next person takes its toll. Grieve, reflect, renew a little every day, until you find yourself in a place that works.

Set up your space
One of the hardest parts of staying at home during this time is finding space. Space for new routines. Space for school at home. Space to work. Space to breathe

Work together to carve out a work space for each person based on what they need to do. A blanket fort is a great way to have a reading nook that each child gets some time in. A standing work station will help to keep your busy child engaged. A brain break station will provide for some non-academic time...a list of high impact exercises (jumping jacks, push ups) or a yoga YouTube video will help your wiggly one refocus. Keep it simple. Keep it scheduled. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. 

Put your people to work 
You are not the only person who knows how to do the things. You might like to do the things a certain way at a certain time, but to survive the new norm, engage your tribe. If nothing else, they will come away with some incredible new life skills! I promise you, if our teenager can do the laundry, refill prescriptions, and make dinner, your teenager can add some value to your routine as well. It's not about comparison, do what works for your family. 

Create a jobs list. Each person chooses one that they want to do. You assign one that you need them to do. Continue the process until the jobs are divided. Then conquer! This might even include homework. 

If your tribe isn't in your house, collaborate with friends, family, co-workers, to support each other with the tasks we have. It's amazing the talents we possess collectively and how much we can get done when we bring those talents to the table to share. (P.S. This includes distance learning - find a pal who can support your people in a particular subject and support theirs back in another...relief for everyone!) 

The "master" schedule
Start over. Scaffold the schedule to support only when needed. Assign meals. Keep it simple. 

Divvy out jobs that children can do independently. Assign buddies for jobs that are more difficult so they can support each other to get it done.  Embrace the lack of perfection that's going to happen as they start to blaze their own trails - it's coming. You know it is! 

Assign activities in chunks of time. Empowering the littles to be independent gives you time for your own thing. It's hard to let some of what we have always done go, but I promise you, you'll thank yourself. When the struggle is real, know that you are not alone. Lean on a friend or family member to support your people virtually - help with homework, read a bedtime story, just connect for belly laughs. 

Include tech free down time. One of the most incredible opportunities we have right now is to revisit our creativity. You know, that thing you had when you were young that kept you busy outside, in the neighborhood until dark. It's okay not to be the entertainment for your people all day long. Let them struggle a bit to find their creative space. Encourage discovery and exploration in a book, with crayons, dressing up, building legos, putting together a puzzle, writing a play, singing a song, doing the things that make our hearts happy. 

Some of us need a to do list. This is a great way to support our children with a self guided list of expectations for the day. It removes the struggle and creates space for independence. Include times only for those things that are time bound, such as a school attendance check in. Remember that you may need to operate outside the norm in order for each person to contribute and get their jobs done for the day. Use pictures for those who are emerging readers. Above all - do what works for your family. 

Celebrate the Wins
In all of this chaos, celebrate the wins. If you're struggling to see these, set small goals that you know are attainable. Acknowledge when you're there - you survived the day! Talk about the highs and lows for the day over dinner or at bed time. Share what was fabulous and what you're going to work on the next day. EAT THE CHOCOLATE if you need to! This is hard, we all deserve a little extra love. 

Acknowledge this new adventure, one you've never taken before, and give imperfection permission to exist. We aren't going to get this right the first time...maybe not even the second time. Stop the train when it's not working and change the path. (Are you feeling like this is a crazy train? I'm feeling like this is a crazy train!) If you don't get it all in today, let it go and move on to tomorrow anew. Be gracious to yourself. To others. You will get there. We will get there. Together.