While the concept of teaching and entertaining your kids at home is usually reserved for homeschool platforms and craft blogs, parents across the nation have become teachers and entertainers overnight. The sudden shift in our roles has been met with a collective sigh of frustration and dread. Parents, who already feel burnt out from having to get their kids to and from every activity under the sun, are now overwhelmed by the idea of having to be everything for their children every moment of every day. Or we were overwhelmed, initially.
In our house, I went through all the stages – disbelief, anger, resistance, sadness. Like some sort of progression through the stages of grief over the last 12 days, I ultimately landed at acceptance. I settled in. We settled in. We’re now a household with two parents working from home (one feverishly doing his part to support a global supply chain, and the other self-employed and creating content for businesses that need to reassure their customers) and two littles (one of which will celebrate her second birthday during this time at home).
I still get a little choked up when I think about the things we’ve missed and will be missing in the coming weeks. We had tickets to local happenings, trips planned, annual events on the calendar, celebrating Easter at church, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to look forward to. But those have been replaced with crafts, playing in the yard, and trying to get work done with little people around that are constantly asking for attention. But most of all I’m thankful. I’m thankful to have the kind of jobs that are still needed and can be done remotely where our risk of exposure is much lower.
So, if you’re fortunate enough to be in the same position because you haven’t been laid off or furloughed, here are some tips to help you balance it all:
Use the Experts
When you’re being told to distance yourself from others it’s easy to forget how connected we are. Use social media and virtual resources to tap into the experts. There are tons of resources for children out there right now from educators, artists, authors, libraries, museums, zoos, schools, and every other for-profit and non-profit imaginable.
Lean on people who know what they’re doing! You don’t have to go it alone!
In the same way that you would utilize a professional to provide financial, legal, or some other specialized service for your business, let people used to teaching into your home virtually to teach your kids.
Here are some of my favorite resources right now:
- KiwiCo At Home
- PBS Crafts and Experiments
- Cassie Stephens – Zany Scientist Week
- Videos from The Cincinnati Zoo
- Kent District Library online events for kids
No one will think you’re any less creative or caring or interesting for using other people’s resources to keep your kids busy. As a bonus, these people are specially trained to teach your kids in ways that you probably would never think to use because, you know, that’s their jam.
If your children are in school (or you have friends with school-aged children) use the resources that their teacher provides. These activities will be age-appropriate, which is a huge bonus because it means that you won’t have to try to adapt something you found on Pinterest.
Make a Plan
You would never wing it when it comes to running your business, which is why you create budgets, make strategic growth plans, and conduct market research. Use this same calculated approach for managing your household during this strange time.
Winging it and just seeing where the day takes you is fun on a lazy Saturday, but when you have work to get done, planning is crucial. At night plan what you’ll do the following day or plan activities for your kids a week at a time. Decide which activities you’ll have them do or try so you start the day with a plan and then be open to modifying this agenda as their interest dictates. You can’t force fun, but in my experience, you’re more likely to find something they enjoy if you start with a plan. Once your kids are engaged with an activity, try to get work done. Remember, play is "work" that kids do, so when you help them play, you're allowing them to do their work too.
Depending on how old your kids are, you may be able to just work near them while they play independently. I find that my 4-year old likes having me around so he can show me things even if I’m not actively playing with him. Simply moving where I’m working is sometimes enough to keep him content.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Do prep work ahead of time to lay the foundation for whatever kind of activities you’ll be doing. Much like securing raw materials to create products, gather the things you’ll need to keep your kids entertained and learning while you work.
Earlier this week I made a scavenger hunt for my kids. I gathered odds and ends, took a picture of them, and printed it out for the kids to use a “guide” for finding them. Doing this ahead of time made the activity more fun for my kids because they were able to jump right into the activity and that enthusiasm carried through the entire day (and every day since). We have played scavenger hunt approximately 6 million times since then, and the kids are even learning to play without me now so I can get other things done while they excitedly hide and find items.
We can’t even get eggs and toilet paper at the grocery stores right now and Amazon has paused all non-essential deliveries, so the odds of you being able to get exactly what you need to make spectacular crafts is minimal. Instead, you’ll have to make do with what you have. As a business owner, this concept won’t be new to you. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and startup founders are uniquely skilled when it comes to making something great with minimal resources. You’ve got this!
Recycle the things that you already have laying around to create educational opportunities and endless creative fun for your kids. Think about what they already like and gravitate towards and use that as a springboard. If all else fails, ask your kids for ideas. Give them a pile of junk and ask them to create something. You may be surprised what they come up with even without any direction. Last week my kids made a long rope into a “big snake” and chased each other around the house with it while I replied to emails and cooked dinner.
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
In the same way that business owners rely on tried and true business advice to fuel their professional success, keep doing whatever is working for your family right now.
You don’t have come up with a unique idea every day. Get the most mileage out of what you’ve already planned by reusing it. Look for ideas that can be used over and over without getting boring. The scavenger hunt is a good idea because every time you play it’s a little different. Utilize board games to improve your kids’ critical thinking skills, especially luck-based ones. Those don’t get old because the outcome is never certain. This idea clearly depends on your kids being old enough to play with each other instead of needing you to participate every time, but even simple games can keep kids busy. The memory card game is a favorite in our household, and it’s totally easy to create if you don’t already have a set of memory cards.
If you find something that your kids really enjoy, consider making it a new “family tradition.” We’ve started doing dinner picnics on our kitchen floor every Wednesday to have something we can look forward to every week.
Just know that whatever you’re doing right now is enough, especially if you’re trying to weather this storm while still working. Don’t compare yourself to full-time stay-at-home parents.
Your children are having fun and thriving. And if they’re old enough to remember this later in life, they’ll only remember the good times. This is like a vacation to them, and they’re genuinely thankful to have you around (even if you don’t feel like you’re bringing the best version of yourself to the table).
Remember, this isn’t permanent. In a month or two life will start to inch back to normal, and eventually we’ll have this experience as a memory that taught us something about who we are. We will come out on the other side of this better people – people who don’t take things for granted, people who know what we really need to get by, people who appreciate our friends and family a little bit more, and people who truly understand how connected we are as a society.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and two children and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!