Top Tips for Parents as you Work and Live up to your Back-to-School Expectations

“There is no greater leadership challenge than parenting” – Jim Rohn

In the midst of a pandemic, we are shifting again and often. As parents, we are still working full time, but we have added a new responsibility – care for and co-teaching our children at home. To say it’s challenging is an understatement. It’s BRUTAL. 

Growing up, I loved the show Little House on the Prairie. Maybe it was because I could relate to the simple farm life, with the rythmn and energy of seasons. With very old-school gender roles, and little possession or technology, these beautiful, wholesome characters each went about their days with joy, navigating their challenges. Now when I think of that show, I am reminded of how hard they all worked. They had a whole lot less “things,” but they had just as many responsibilities. Ma did it all – she washed all the clothes by hand, gardened, made all the meals, taught the children, cleaned the house, did all the shopping – all without technology or a car! Pa managed the fields with cattle and basic tools, and always found time to be with his family, teach valuable life lessons, and make connection a priority.

Over time, we’ve changed. Our systems, tools, and habits have all evolved. Now, because of the new technologies we have, the tasks of those years are now much less labor-intensive, freeing both parents to often work outside the home as well as take care of the children. Gender roles have been largely redefined as well.

As we head back into this school season, with no end of Coronavirus in sight, we are all looking for ways to make things a little easier. Like Little House on the Prairie, Ma and Pa didn’t have a magic solution to make life easier, only intentional hard work and personal connections. Last week we offered 5 tips for employers to work with parents during the back-to-school season. This week, we are offering 5 tips for parents as you navigate this time in your own way.

Tip #1 – Be Prepared

As parents, experts have told us that babies need consistency. It’s true for us too. Consistent patterns are comforting. As you work to balance the responsibilities of your jobs and making sure your children have what they need to thrive, planning can make a huge difference. Work with your employer and your family to create a daily schedule and routine. Of course, you will all need to be flexible and have a super-human amount of patience, but a plan and consistency will help.

In addition to your ideal plan, it can also be helpful to plan for disruptions. What happens if the current hybrid school situation goes fully virtual? What happens if someone in your family gets sick? I’m not suggesting you have fully developed plans for these circumstances, just an idea of where you would start and what you would need to move forward? According to USA Today and common sense, we know that Coronavirus will see spikes with children in school. It’s important to think through how your family will adjust to these evolving circumstances.

Tip #2 – Ask for help!

I hope and pray you have a support system like I do. I know that I am so very blessed, and I certainly don’t take that for granted.

Questions to answer BEFORE you are in a crisis:

  1. At work, who can ask for help, and in what circumstances? What might I offer to help other coworkers who might be struggling?
  2. At home, who can ask for help? What can I offer to help those that help me?

When we all do our part and act as a community of support for one another, we build friendships and networks that last and we are all better off!

Tip #3 – Be Creative

With any challenge you have, start by naming it as clearly as possible. This simple act can help you put into perspective what might have seemed to be overwhelming and insurmountable. 

Then, get creative. Here are a few tips and tricks I found online that I have helped our family!

• Find area teens that can provide school support for your kids. Whether virtual or in-person, having someone other than a parent sit with your child and support them is an awesome way to keep their interest and give you time to focus on your work! 

• Most of you know I love colorful sharpies and post it notes. For our family, I write a master plan on an 8×8 post it each week. It includes activity schedule, driver assignments, business meetings, and a weekly menu. It eliminates uncertainty and last minute stress of who is doing each task. Some weeks we win at this and some weeks are more of a struggle, but this tool is always an improvement over the times we aren’t intentional about planning.

• Our family has a group text chat. It allows quick communication when someone has a need or reminder!

• Split the work. Perhaps you have a partner that you can share the responsibilities with. You may also have neighbors with children that you can share time with. Even 1-2 hour chunks of focus a couple of times a week can make a difference!

• Keep a notebook for the kids and yourself. We call this the “ask me later” notebook. When we have questions or thoughts that we don’t want to forget but understand now isn’t the time, we write them in the notebook. For us, we review them a couple of times a day. Or, if I see one of the kids write in it, I will check it when I have a free minute. 

• Get up earlier than the kids and spend a couple of hours in deep work. This highly focused time gives me a jump start on my day so that I’m not so overwhelmed when they get up and need my attention.

References: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/working-at-home-with-kids-during-covid-19-crisis-with-kids-underfoot.html

https://www.oakmeadow.com/14-tips-for-working-from-home-and-homeschooling/

Tip # 4 – Be Trustworthy

Being trustworthy doesn’t mean you won’t need to adjust your plans, timelines, or expectations. It means that you do what you say you’ll do.  Harvard Business Review says this, “Relentlessly seek to comprehend your boss’s expectations, with follow-up questions about specifics. Remember that the goal is to find ways to make things work for everyone, not just you.”

Building trust is long, hard work. It requires consistency, authenticity, adaptability and forgiveness. 

Questions for employees to answer:

  1. How do I build trust with my employer?
  2. What would help to improve my trust in my employer? How will I communicate this?
  3. Have I been a trustworthy employee?
  4. What can I do to build my supervisor’s trust in me? How will I communicate this?

Tip # 5 – Be a Strong Communicator

Go back. Review tips 1-4. Now, communicate this all to your employer and your family. It is always better to over-communicate than not share enough.

For your family and your work:

• Schedule daily check-ins
• Communicate changes
• Sunday family meetings to plan for the week
• Use whatever means available to you – flip charts, email, text, zoom, reminder boards, charts

Questions for you to answer:

  1. Is my supervisor, co-workers or family members confused about or unaware of anything at this time that is creating conflict? How can I fix this?
  2. What tools do I have for communicating? Am I using them effectively?
  3. Have I named my expectation for availability and responsiveness to communication with my employer and family members? Am I holding myself to this same standard?
  4. How can I be better at communicating with clarity?

As you consider these tips and work hard to plan for a successful transition for your company and family, we want to help! We have created an incredible set of development tools and workshops called “Work from Anywhere.” We’d love to share them with you or customize a program that meets your needs.

Top Tips for Parents as you Work and Live up to your Back-to-School Expectations