Parents Rock and Roll!

A study in distraction and encouragement as we roll with it

How are you? Have you been “rock and rolling” lately? Did a song begin to play in your mind? Maybe you didn’t think of music, but something else entirely. The term “rock and roll” is packed with meanings and it’s possible that you’ve experienced many of them in recent weeks.

The rambunctious, often loud music, called “rock and roll” actually spans, and spawns, many varieties of music. Chances are good that some of the music you enjoy listening to has some connection to rock and roll.

If you’re listening to more music these days, it’s a good thing, because music tends to be a universally enjoyable and uplifting phenomenon. And we could all use some uplifting lately.

The music benefit happens whether you’re listening to it, playing it, singing it or dancing to it or all of the above – the more you can do with music, the merrier. And just being creative about what you do and having fun doing it is rock and roll.

Back to the question, maybe you didn’t think about music, but about how often you’ve taken a “rock and roll” attitude to life these days. Recklessness isn’t the goal, rather, it is that you’ve seized-the-day in a full-bodied, vibrant, possibly bold, loud approach to life, like the music. Living full and keeping it family friendly go together like rock and roll. 

You might be the kind of person to say “let’s rock and roll” with a twinkle in your eye, meaning that there’s some fun to be had even if you’re doing something hard. If you’re the type to give a focused or serious look instead, you might mean that whatever you’re about to do is something you’ll give your full attention and energy. You’ll go all-out. You’ll get it done; and well. 

In any case, your mental image might be that of a superstar giving an oversold stadium performance with great talent, flair and zest. Giving it your best and exchanging encouragement along the way (applause) is totally rock and roll.

The term itself seems to wink and hint that “rocking” can lead to “rolling,” maybe even that “rolling” is a corrective balancing or recovery response to the “rocking.” Or maybe it’s just natural that rock and roll accompany each other everywhere. It’s not hard to believe that our stone age ancestors rolled rocks. We might say that the Stone-agers were the original rock and rollers. 

Incidentally, wind can make water, including condensed water (clouds), “roll.” Waves even have a rhythm, which is said to “rock” objects like boats.  

Boating gives us the phrase “don’t rock the boat” probably because rocking the boat could cause it to roll, empty its contents and even sink. So rocking may be fine for boats if it’s gentle, but rolling generally isn’t desirable.

Rolling is a critical tactic for kayaks, however. Kayakers roll in order to resurface if they get flipped underwater. Flipping is always a possibility for kayakers in whitewater rapids. Volumes of water gush wildly through channels going over and around…wait for it….rocks. Being able to “roll with it” in a kayak is definitely rock and roll. 

Are you seeing a pattern here? All of the action so seems to originate in the rocking with the roll serving as a counterbalance, or response. It’s that physics law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. 

In childhood, though, it seems like the rock and roll relationship is reversed. 

The rocking motion in childhood is the universally quintessential calming activity. Parents innately understand the benefit of rocking to the point that you’ve probably caught yourself swaying even when you’re not holding your child. 

It’s probably no coincidence that rocking and swaying are both calming at the same time their motion works to establish and develop a child’s vestibular and proprioceptive motor skills.it makes sense that a still, calm and relaxed body can more easily absorb and build templates of – “learn” from- stable, mature motions. Rocking our children is both calming and growth enhancing. It’s a two-fer, like rock and roll. 

Literally rolling our bodies is also great for motor development – and great fun. In childhood, rolling is a thrilling physical activity that’s usually more exciting than rocking. Rocking can be a great way to wind down from active play that includes rolling.

It probably isn’t covered in developmental psychology textbooks, but somewhere around the teen years, there’s a rock and roll switch-up. Around this time in life, rocking becomes the action verb, maybe even a music choice, and rolling become s passive. Flip it like a kayaker and rock and roll. 

Chances are good that you’re feeling some kind of rock and/or roll in your life these days. We hope that you found this a pleasant distraction, a virtual splash of humor, exhilaration, song, rhythm, light and air. May you embrace challenges like a superstar at an oversold stadium full of adoring fans and a champion kayaker at the start of your favorite rapid. May rocking and rolling always bring calm and or joy. Here’s to rolling with it: Parents Rock and Roll. 

What are your favorite “rock and roll” parenting moments?

Just for Fun:

Rock and Roll Tunes

  • I Love Rock and Roll (RIP Alan Merrill) 
  • Roll with It
  • Only Rock and Roll
  • Rock This Town
  • Rock Around the Clock

Rocking Baby Tunes

  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • My Paddle’s Clean and Bright
  • Rock a Bye Baby

The Little Gnome Who Had to Stay Home – A Story Medicine Tale To Share with Our Children

This story was written by Susan Perrow for use with young children (suggested ages 3-5 years) who are required to stay home during the current COVID-19 pandemic, or who have had their freedom severely modified (e.g. perhaps they can attend school but can’t attend special assemblies, festivals, parties or events).

The song at the end has been left open for teachers and parents to create more verses with ideas from the children. The story can be changed/edited to suit different situations – e.g. mother tree could be father tree or grandmother or grandfather tree, or you may want to omit the part about ‘gnome school’. The main character could also be changed (e.g. instead of using a gnome the story could be about a mouse stuck in his little house, or a bird that must stay and rest in the nest).

The Little Gnome Who Had to Stay Home

Little gnome was confused.
Why did he have to stay home?
Didn’t everyone know how little gnomes love to roam!
He couldn’t go to gnome school, he couldn’t play with his friends in the forest, and his friends couldn’t visit him.
Little gnome was stuck in his tree-root home.
At least he could look out his window through the rocks and the tree roots. He was surprised that there was so much to see. Little ants were scurrying by, brightly coloured beetles were climbing up and down the fallen leaves and floppy eared rabbits were hopping in and out their burrows.
But even with all these things to watch, little gnome was growing impatient. Why did he have to keep on staying home? It didn’t make sense to him why he could not roam.
Then Mother Tree whispered to him:
‘Things are not as they used to be – but trust me – soon you will be free – trust me, trust me.’
Little gnome knew in his heart that he could always trust Mother Tree.
Mother Tree carried the wisdom of the whole forest!
Mother Tree knew all about everything. The birds and the wind were her friends and messengers.
They visited her every day sharing the news of the big wide world.
Little gnome could hear when the birds came by. He could hear them singing high up in the branches of Mother Tree.
Little gnome could see when the wind was visiting. He could see the branches swaying this way and that. He sometimes had to close his window to keep out the leaves and dust stirred up by this busy friend!
Everyday Mother Tree continued to whisper to him:
‘Things are not as they used to be – but trust me – soon you will be free – trust me, trust me.’
So little gnome had to trust, and little gnome had to wait. Soon he knew he would be free again to leave his home amongst the rocks and tree roots. Soon he knew he would be free to roam once again in the beautiful forest.
And while he waited, he was surprised how many things he could find to do in his cosy little tree root home.
Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can paint and draw
And do somersaults across the floor.
Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can clean and cook
And curl up with a picture book.
Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can ………………………….
And ………………………………………………..
Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can ………………………….
And ………………………………………………..
Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can ………………………….
And ………………………………………………..

From the author:

I have chosen to write this story with a ‘mirroring’ structure – the story simply reflects the situation and expands upon it with images that help share a message that is too strong to state directly with little children. I haven’t promised any timeline because that would be irresponsible as no one knows it at this stage. The story’s aim is to encourage acceptance of the current ‘social distancing’ situation, and to help motivate the children to find and enjoy activities that they can do within the home.

For anyone new to ‘story medicine’, stories can help navigate the emotions that come with different kinds of loss and challenging situations. By allowing rather than resisting the truth, and by dressing it with the fabric of the imagination, stories can help the process of weaving the truth into everyday life, especially with young children.

This story will be included in the ‘loss of health and well-being’ section in my next book, entitled, ‘Stories to Light the Night: A Grief and Loss Collection for Children, Families and Communities’ (due to be published late 2020 by Hawthorn Press, UK) – the book will have more than 80 stories in different sections ….. stories for the loss of a loved one, loss of place, loss of family connection, loss of a pet, loss of health and well-being, loss of trust, and environmental grief and loss.

Printed with permission.

Thank you to Susan Perrow.

www.susanperrow.com

Parenting During Times of Stress: What to Watch for with Your Children and How to Help

Whether it’s a natural disaster, individual family trauma, or as now a pandemic, families can struggle when daily life is thrown upside down due to these events and the stress evades our every action and all our thoughts. Children are not immune to this and even infants and toddlers know that something worrying is happening. They will respond to the stress we are exhibiting which in turn raises our own struggles as parenting a stressed child is all the harder. It becomes a negative cycle and impacts all family members. So, what should we watch for in our littles to know how they are experiencing this and what we can do to limit the negative impact on them? By now we know how to wash our hands in order to keep our family physically healthy but how do we keep our young children (and thus ourselves) psychologically healthy?

Research shows that one of the best protections for children is having a parent (or caregiver such as grandparent) who is reliable, consistent, and caring and who protects them from the disaster/trauma. The parent has to become the shield against this outside force. And that shield needs to be a loving and caring relationship from which the child learns to feel secure and to know that no matter what is going on, they are loved and protected. A child who lacks this knowledge over time starts to distrust the world. They are angry and sad because the world is a worry to them. This eats away at their emotions and over time comes out in both short-term and long-term (depending on how long their security is insecure) negative behaviors and emotions.

This is not to add to our stress or scare anyone at all but simply to remind us that as parents we must be aware of our behaviors and psychological responses in front of our children. They are watching us and absorbing our emotions as well as our actions. How we engage with social media or television, how we speak with others by phone, how we yell at drivers in other cars, grab toilet paper off shelves, or how we snap and shout as we are worried about the impact of this virus, are all infused into our child’s learning about the world.

If they are learning that the world is a scary, virus-infected place that is unsafe and makes adults angry and confused and less able to engage with them in warm and responsive ways then they are going to act out in both the short-term through visible negative behaviors and long-term in more maladaptive physiologic and psychologic responses to life. We need to remember that we cannot change the virus, the stock market, or political responses to all of this but we CAN make sure we equip our families with the loving relationships and positive parenting strategies needed to weather the world right now.

Let’s break this down by ages of what to watch for and how to start helping offset what is happening in the world:

Parenting During Times of Stress: Infants and Toddlers (Ages 0-2)

Pandemics, natural disasters, trauma…these can all turn family life upside-down. Learn more on how to parent during times of stress with this whole series from Dr. Kate Green: Introduction, Infants and ToddlersAges 3-5Ages 6-12, and Ages 13+.

As parents we often believe that infants and toddlers are immune to what is going on in the wider world. We watch news on television that makes our body tense with worry and fear while our baby is in our lap or our toddler playing beside us. We nurse the baby while phone scrolling through health warnings and country-wide shut downs. Our cortisol (stress hormone) levels soar as we worry about our family’s safety from the virus or how to financially provide and support everyone while staying home or from crashing stock markets. With all of this very real stress we may overlook seeing our little ones intensely watching us and absorbing that stress which exudes from our bodies. We may not notice how they also hear the scary tones and language from our media and the adults around us or mimic our anger or sadness. When we shout at our phone in frustration, we may soon see our toddler kick over their block tower a few minutes later or six-month-old arch their back away from nursing. They are learning from our physical actions and from the messages our body and emotional output are exuding.

Behaviors we may see–

  • May be clingier than usual and especially when you are on the phone or speaking to others.
  • May cry at bedtime or not want to be put down (this is normal but you may see more intensity in it).
  • Regression back to physical behaviors already learnt such as having toileting accidents, wanting to nurse more, not wanting to walk alone…
  • Fearful of strangers, noises, or anything new (above normal).
  • Changes in diet such as not wanting to try new foods or only wanting to nurse (toddlers).
  • Waking more in the night.
  • Fear of bath or sitting in a known high chair (fears of known experiences).

What we can do–

  • Practice patience and tolerance (for them and ourselves).
  • Limit their (and our) exposure to social media and news/television. Come up with an action plan for when and how long we will engage with media and make that during their sleep times.
  • Keep regular bedtime routines as usual but be sensitive to their need for increased proximity to you. This may be a time to cosleep if not doing so already and never use cry it out methods as this is linked to long-term trauma and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Cosleeping is a wonderful way to promote skin to skin contact and provide reassurance and support.
  • Keep or develop soothing bath time routines. Use lavender oils in the bath (diluted per age of child), and play and sing during bathing.
  • Use massage to help sooth fractious infants and integrate this into the regular routine of the week as it will help promote sleep and even growth.
  • Try to maintain feeding routines for you if breastfeeding babies and for toddlers it helps to organize their day and allow for predictability which they thrive on. Infants should nurse on demand of course and toddlers fed when hungry but a general routine for older twos helps provide a sense of security and flow.
  • Engage in play with your infant and toddler. A rousing game of peek-a-boo and silly faces to induce belly laughing will get the endorphins (happy hormones) rising in both you and your child.
  • Essential oils that are calming can be used in a diffuser around the home.
  • Allow for clinginess – carry little ones when they want to be held and stay close to them if they are wanting this. Providing this support will NOT spoil your little one or make them clingier later on. It will give them the security they are asking for and in fact will make them more independent as they grow older. A sling is a great accessory to helping with this.
  • If you have to leave your infant or toddler then let them know you are going and reassure you will be back soon.
  • If more than a short separation, then leave a blanket or shirt that smells of you with them and for toddlers a photograph is nice (laminate).

Parenting During Times of Stress: Ages 3-5

Pandemics, natural disasters, trauma…these can all turn family life upside-down. Learn more on how to parent during times of stress with this whole series from Dr. Kate Green: Introduction, Infants and ToddlersAges 3-5Ages 6-12, and Ages 13+.

Children during this age may feel helpless and uncertain about what the danger is or if they are going to personally experience it. They may not have the language skills to know what to ask or describe how they are feeling. Helplessness and anxiety can lead to a shutting down in development and often a regression back to earlier stages of development. Children at this age are learning so much and usually embrace it with exuberance and joy but when seeing parents anxious and stressed, they may bottle learning up and then exhibit negative behaviors which fuels adult stress and the ability to parent calmly. It becomes a negative cycle in which we are stressed, our child feels this and acts out, we are confused and upset by the negative behavior and so parent poorly, and our child feels this and continues or increases the negative behaviors! We are the adult and so must be the one to break this cycle and change the pattern of negativity. This requires we take a hard look at our behaviors and practices such as social media, television, engagement in play, schedule, and our own stress level. Healing ourselves is a huge first step in helping to keep our children on track emotionally and physically.

Behaviors we may see–

  • Difficulties with focus on play or learning activities.
  • Regression back to physical behaviors already learnt such as having toileting accidents, wanting help with feeding (or to nurse more if breastfeeding) or getting dressed. Stepping back to being “a baby.”
  • Loss of speech or regression back to lower level of speech.
  • Bed wetting.
  • Acting out with more drama, aggression, or whining.
  • Fighting with siblings or friends or withdrawing from engaging with them.
  • Exhibiting more stomach or headaches.
  • Bad dreams or nightmares and not wanting to be alone during the night when previously OK with this.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Competing to get parental attention.

What we can do—

  • Avoid media when they are around as news or videos on our phone can be disturbing and confusing for littles. Have a plan for when you will watch without them. You may find this helps lower your stress significantly too.
  • Play WITH them. Research shows that play for people of all ages lowers stress. We often call it Flow as adults but losing an hour of our day when engaged in playing dolls or building block cities is a great way to lower our stress and take the place of social media.
  • Routines are important for young children. Not so restrictive that you won’t change to meet the family needs but enough that children know breakfast is shortly after they wake and usually includes X or Y. Dinner is in the evening and usually at X place in the house. Then comes bath and books etc. Having a flow to the day helps children self-regulate and feel secure and calmer. We all appreciate this!
  • Bedtime calming routines such as a lavender essential oil in the bath and/or massage can help. Reading is always calming.
  • Cosleeping or a mattress/pad on parent’s bedroom floor still helps children feel secure if they want that. For the bulk of families in cultures around the world this is the norm.
  • Let littles help with household chores and start to gain a sense of responsibility. They can’t cook the entire dinner but they can help you bake a cake or make pancakes. They can also help fold laundry. Asking them to work with you is also a time to chat about any fears or concerns they are having. Or it’s a time to just have fun.
  • Art and creative expression are great ways to see what is going on with your child. Sit and draw or roll clay WITH them. You do yours and let them do theirs but you can prompt by perhaps drawing the family and talking about everyone. Have them do likewise and listen to what they are saying.
  • Physical activity is obviously hugely important at this age. Pull up videos of silly dancing or fun activities. Use masking tape on the floor and mark out obstacle courses. Get hula hoops and use them or put them on the floor to jump in and out with. Small bean bags to juggle with and make games out of are wonderful. Even just announcing “brain break” and starting to do jumping jacks will make your littles laugh and join in plus give YOU the activity too!
  • Gentle boundaries are not to be afraid of. Talk to your child about what is acceptable and what isn’t in your family. Do this when everyone is calm and maybe even find ways to draw it and then put this up on the wall to remind everyone.
  • Use video conferencing for engagement with extended family and friends. Let them chat with grandparents or their friends and use the silly faces and hats available in some programs. You can even snap photos of this at the time for them to print out and remember later.

Parenting During Times of Stress: Ages 6-12

Pandemics, natural disasters, trauma…these can all turn family life upside-down. Learn more on how to parent during times of stress with this whole series from Dr. Kate Green: Introduction, Infants and ToddlersAges 3-5Ages 6-12, and Ages 13+.

Children at this age are even more perceptive to absorbing what is being said on the news, on social media (either their own or reading over our shoulder), and hearing ALL conversations we have. They are becoming less egocentric than preschoolers (focused on the self) and now may start to worry not only about their own health but also that of parents and grandparents etc. It still wraps back around to their worries about what would happen to them if we were in hospital or worse and they pick up on this similar anxiety that we may have as a parent. This is the age where we can really start to discuss Plan A and Plan B and engage them in contingency planning so as to reassure them that we have thought this through and they will be just fine (of course we need to actually have done this planning!). Children at this age really do model parental behaviors and so we need to be very cognizant of our responses to the current situation. While the virus is of course impacting our short-term plans and way we live life, we need to also know that our everyday behaviors are teaching children the skills of life. Let’s step back and think about what we want them to learn from this in the bigger picture and then let’s figure out how to model that to them within our family system.

Behaviors we may see–

  • Increased difficulty with focus during play or learning.
  • Anger or frustration during normally enjoyed activities (throwing Legos down out of anger or ripping up artwork).
  • Arguing more than normal.
  • Competing for attention from parent or jealousy among siblings.
  • Nightmares and clinging at bedtime.
  • Bed wetting that wasn’t happening previously.
  • Changes in appetite or food choices.
  • Regression to early behaviors that have already been learned (suddenly cannot zip up a coat or tie shoes).
  • Forgetfulness (having to be asked repeatedly to do things they normally do).
  • Withdrawal from friends or siblings.
  • Stomach or headaches.

What we can do–

  • Tolerance and patience! This can be difficult when you are stressed and worried but following many of these limitations will also help you lower your stress.
  • Set gentle limits and boundaries as even during trauma we need to know what is acceptable or not.
  • Speak with your child when not in the middle of an argument to set up boundaries. Agree during calm family discussions what the “rules” of the family are.
  • Limit exposure to media. Take an active role in what you think is acceptable for your child and what is not. Think about your own exposure as well. Remember that having the news running in the background brings in a constant level of stress that is impacting everyone’s cortisol levels.
  • Try to set up boundaries of when you will watch and then what your child will watch.
  • Regular exercise and activity (indoor if necessary) can help let off steam. Make it silly and fun. Dancing, animal yoga, obstacle courses, and fun competitions can all let off tension and stress.
  • Routines of healthy eating and sleeping are important for everyone. These do not have to be rigid but everyone thrives knowing approximately what the day will entail.
  • Provide a range of learning materials that can engage your child. From books to puzzles or clay, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to strew your home with items to keep children active and engaged. Cook and bake with them. Set out various ingredients to make potions (flour/food coloring/baking soda/cornstarch/vinegar….) after you listen to Harry Potter on audio book and then let them be creative.
  • Provide a range of art and creative materials as above but then engage WITH your child. Use those fancy coloring books and pencils. Paint a picture or make a clay pot. Don’t worry about how they look but model that the experience is what makes this fun. Show them it’s simply about being with them and creating rather than the output.
  • Use play to prompt them to share and express worries. This is a great time to informally chat about what is happening in the world. Use prompts to help get them started and then just listen.
  • Clarify any misconceptions they have by showing them appropriate sites (such as good online sources for how to wash hands) or by finding books about germs/viruses (Magic School Bus is one example).
  • Have them participate in household chores with you as again this another opportunity for discussion.
  • Promote engagement with family and friends via video.
  • Read aloud and listen to audio books.
  • Watch shows/movies they would like with them and even engage extended family by video. Is there a series or comedy that you can all start on the TV at the same time with Skype going on via computer? This way grandparents or extended family time can be part of the fun. You can even arrange to make the same snacks to eat or all be in pajamas etc. Use video streaming to your advantage.

Parenting During Times of Stress: Ages 13+

Pandemics, natural disasters, trauma…these can all turn family life upside-down. Learn more on how to parent during times of stress with this whole series from Dr. Kate Green: Introduction, Infants and ToddlersAges 3-5Ages 6-12, and Ages 13+.

Adolescents are fully able to comprehend the trauma and what is happening with the virus but that does not mean they are as equipped as adults to understand how to cope with it and to organize their emotions. As parents we need to openly discuss what is happening but still limit exposure to media (obviously easier at age 13 than 18) or help guide them to information that is helpful and clarifying rather than hype and fear mongering. It can be a good chance to increase critical thinking skills and how to search for appropriate information. This is a great time to really pull together as a team and to enlist their help in the entire family’s learning about the situation and what actions to take. They can help teach younger children how to more intensely wash hands, model not touching their face (and remind you about this), be the keeper of hand sanitizer when you go out, and generally be part of the family safety team. Younger children of course should do this as well but by giving more responsibility to your adolescents you let them know you trust them in both their knowledge and competence. This helps grow their self-confidence during traumatic times and allows them to take on a leadership role which can help draw them out of any negative internalizing behaviors that can be manifesting. Sometimes we also have to prompt them to engage such as asking them privately to help you with family game night. Explaining why this is good for their younger siblings and that you need them to help you gives them another chance to take on a leadership role and that responsibility. Of course, we need to model this and be part of the experiences and not hand them off to our teen!

But while we are helping our adolescents take on more adult, leadership roles, we also need to give them time to still be children. Making their favorite early childhood foods for them, giving them back or foot rubs, reading aloud together, coloring together, painting their room, clearing out a closet and having a silly fashion show, watching shows or cartoons enjoyed in childhood, are all ways to let them still be a child and let off stress. Follow their lead on this though as some may want it more than others and again the differences in ages 13 to 18 can change their response.

Behaviors we may see –

  • Physical symptoms such as stomach or headaches or even rashes.
  • Sleep disturbances (increased or decreased).
  • Changes in diet (increased or decreased).
  • Lethargic.
  • Inability to concentrate or focus on a task.
  • Agitation and short fuse/anger.
  • Withdrawal from friends or siblings.
  • Forgetfulness.

What we can do—

  • Encourage them to speak about their worries but don’t force (natural times to chat are during an activity such as baking, chores, or doing art together).
  • Art activities together.
  • Board games or family game night.
  • Prompt them to play video games online with friends or video chat.
  • Household chores with you.
  • Routines are helpful and will differ for each family but having some semblance of schedule helps everyone expectations; even if it’s just a general time for family dinner.
  • Ask for their help with younger siblings (such as reading or playing with them).
  • Giving responsibility and purposefully seeking them out to help you.
  • Monitor social media and television viewing not in a punitive way but by discussing how it can increase our stress or have incorrect information. Then MODEL this; lead by your actions and engage them in a plan of how to be a thoughtful consumer of media.
  • Share clarifying media and discuss it with them. Show them how to find sensible sources.
  • Read aloud together as a family.
  • Listen to audio books together.
  • Watch shows/movies they would like (be brave and know it’s a short stage) with them and even engage extended family by video. Is there a comedy that you can all start on the TV at the same time with skype going on via computer? This way grandparents or extended family time can be part of the fun. You can even arrange to make the same snacks to eat or all be in pajamas etc. Use video streaming to your advantage.

Remote Work Tips for Parents:  Get work done from home. Even with young children.

Not home alone? Many workplaces are responding to the recent COVID-19 virus by cancelling events and requiring employees to work remotely. This usually means working from home and, for many parents, this coincides with daycares and schools sending children home for distance learning, or breaks lasting days or weeks. 

Parents accustomed to a much higher degree of separation of childcare and work may be suddenly faced with multiple challenges at once. Even the most tech-enabled parents may have to learn to work productively and full time in the home environment. Pop-up home offices might require scaling- up to include partners in similar situations and the care and distance learning needs of any young children who are also suddenly telecommuting. Those who are not well must also navigate an evolving healthcare situation.

API has always been a remote workplace predominantly staffed by parents with young children at home. Though every family will have different needs and resources, we can share some of the tips we’ve used over the years. What are some of your best tips? What have you learned? Share your tips and stories!

First Order Tactics

  • Childcare. Form a cooperative with neighbors, family, friends and organize care and work. These arrangements can provide the most chunks of focused time. 
  • Engage a mother’s helper or other sitter to come for a few hours and help with childcare or chores. 
  • Personal productivity tools can be helpful. Productivity has been a booming industry in recent years so you probably have your own tools in place. Import and adapt these to the home office, but recognize that you’ll most likely need to try new things too. The Eisenhower matrix and 7 Habits for Highly Effective People are time-tested and broad enough to help you focus on what’s most important and in the right order. We’ve definitely given up notions of perfecting either. 
  • Think of time in chunks. Ninety minute chunks are optimal according to the basic rest-activity cycle (BRAC) that runs in 90 minute cycles.

Daily Tactics: doubling up as employee, office manager + CEO of Homefront Inc. (take that Elon Musk)

  • Get up earlier than others. Stretch, exercise, make and drink your coffee, get a bite to eat and have some quiet planning time before the kids are up and things start popping. 
  • Get to sleep earlier. First, it’s healthy, second, it sets a good example for the children. Third, if getting up earlier helps you get a good start to the day, you’ll need to go to bed earlier to get enough rest to get up early. And sleep is healthy. 
  • Plan some daily outdoor play time with the kids. And join them. These are great work breaks for everyone, especially since much of your time will be online and in possibly stationary. You might find that outdoor time inspires new bursts of creative and energetic work. Consider “walking meetings” if possible. Exercise is brain food and vitamin D is a recommended daily vitamin. 
  • Plan your lunches. If your children are old enough, get them to help with menu planning and even making lunch and snacks. This is helpful work they can be proud of. 
  • That to do list? Pick three items, maybe. Focus on the most urgent and important. See also the Eisenhower matrix. Recognizing that your standards will need to flex a bit is critical. Limiting office distractions is one thing, learning to focus at home with responsibility for young children is another. Attention shifting decreases productivity, but identifying the challenges gives you the ability to tap into your creativity to navigate new situations on terms that actually work for you. 
  • Parallel map your activities with the kids. Teachers and caregivers would ordinarily do this for the kids, but now you’re the one who has to mind their daily structure as well as your own. Finding a way to synchronize your time isn’t always possible, but it’s a good place to start. Schedule your most urgent things and match that with the activities that are likely to keep kids happily occupied during these most intensive work chunks. 
  • Plan breaks in your day as natural check-in points or activity transitions. Work in breaks to go outside, go for walks, let them feed you lunch as if in a restaurant, let them treat you to a spa that they’ve created after work. “Pay them back” with storytime or other favorite activities. 
  • Have supplies on hand and in accessible places. Don’t have supplies? Improvise with what you DO have. Let your children guide you to things that might be interesting that you never thought of. You still have to set the parameters and make sure it’s safe, but don’t be afraid to rely on or take inspiration from their natural creativity. (You can even reverse engineer creative projects by making up fun things to do with the items you already have on hand.) There are tons of inspiring and easy resources and ideas online. 
  • Accept that mess will happen and relax your standards. Make it a goal that the kids (slowly) learn and make progress to incorporate putting things away as a part of their work and play – “done” is when it’s put away and the space returned to original use (except for longer-term projects). Use imaginative and humorous (silly) ways to notice and appreciate every small thing they do in this regard to encourage more of it. “The Queen of the Realm of Playdoh grants a wand tap in appreciation for Max collecting every tiny bit back into its proper rainbow house leaving not a drop for the gobbler to gobble. Ann  receives a wand wave for collecting all of the Realm’s tea cups so the gobber will move on without a tea cup to steal.” 
  • Set up activities that are age-appropriate and the kids can manage and help each other with. Can activities be no-cook food? What if they spend the morning making lunch and snacks and helping with dinner prep? (helpfulness and pride of project). Cleaning can be fun with swiffers, brooms, dusting cloths. 
  • Set up for imaginative play. Sheets, cushions, forts can be imaginative play and can be sets for grand theaters and performances of song, dance and drama. New stories and tales. Homemade books. Ask them to create, rehearse and perform a show for the family on Friday night.  Record it and send it to friends and family. Encourage friends to do and share too.

Other resources

How Working Parents Can Prepare for Coronavirus Closures

How to Talk to Your Kids about Coronavirus

What are the Rules for Playdates During the Cornoavirus

How to work from home with kids around

Pregnant and Worried about Coronavirus? Experts Weigh In

Thank you, Art Yuen, for putting this together for families! What tips do you have for families? Please share in the comments.