Q: “I Feel Guilty That I Can’t Homeschool My Kids Effectively While Also Working!”
Homeschool guilt is a real phenomenon among parents who are working full-time while also managing their kids’ education from home. Here, get expert strategies for balancing both while prioritizing everyone’s mental and emotional health.
Q: “How do I deal with guilt because I’m working from home and can’t always give my 7-year-old and 13-year-old my full attention while they do schoolwork from home?”
I have been inundated with questions like this as we all try to navigate working from home while also overseeing our kids’ homeschooling. Before I dive into tips and tools, please give yourself some grace. In these crazy times, we are not striving for perfection — just connection!
In all my years of parenting my son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) while working full time, I’ve come to realize that he feels I’ve given him the attention he needs when he needs it. So I’m thinking you are doing the same. That said, routines and boundaries are more helpful than ever to create clear expectations and communication for all. Here are a few strategies to try:
1. Take time to prepare the night before. We might not be gathering backpacks by the front door anymore, but we can still use that evening time to get organized and ready for the next day. So review and create individual schedules, make lunches and leave them in the refrigerator, print out materials your children may need, set up workstations, make sure supplies are plentiful and laid out. This will give you some extra padding in the morning to connect with your children before the “work day” begins.
2. Make working in the same space work for YOU. I know a lot of people might disagree with this, but I have been advising parents to close off the upstairs of their homes or their children’s individual bedrooms and have everyone work on the same floor as in the morning. It doesn’t have to be in the same room; close proximity will do. Trust me, your kids will feel your presence. My 22-year-old is finishing the second semester of his senior year at home and, in the mornings, he likes to take his “classes” in the room next to my office. He knows I’m there, so he feels connected and it helps him stay on task.
My clients really like this strategy as it signals that mornings are reserved for “deep productive work” for all. In the afternoons, after lunch, give your kids a bit more flexibility about where they work. This way you can take conference calls, finish emails, and wrap up your workday.
3. Institute nightly check-ins. Take the time after dinner to review anything that was missed during the day or needs your immediate attention, to finish up assignments, to email teachers, etc. The more structure and routine that mimics life pre-pandemic, the calmer, more comforted and more connected your children will feel.
4. Schedule the interruptions! I’ve been working at home for years and when my children were younger this was my go-to tip. I created a visual schedule that indicated when and for what they were allowed to interrupt me. For example, you may dictate that from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. you are off limits since you have your virtual company team meeting, but from 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. your door is open. Or, if you are wearing your phone headset, this signals to your kids that you are on a call and cannot be disturbed. If you work from a home office, a closed door with a simple note saying Do Not Disturb can do the trick. If something is urgent, you can instruct your kids to text you or call your office line as if you were working remotely.
5. Create family time with your extra time. Interestingly, the one silver lining my clients report is having more time in their day. No one is spending hours commuting to work or traveling to school. No more early morning hockey practices or late-night soccer games. Use this newfound time to schedule some fun family activities. Take a family virtual yoga class, watch classic movies, cook dinner together, or do a 1,000-piece puzzle. Get outside to organize the garage, play ball, or plant your spring flowers. More than ever before, we need to prioritize our relationships over routines.
ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.
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