Schools across the United States are opening their doors – virtually and many physically, too – to students this fall. The logistics of teaching and school openings, like many businesses, vary. This has left many working parents to try and figure out how to juggle work and their children’s school.
Whether you’re sending your children back into the classroom or enrolling them in virtual learning from home, schedules may still be far from normal. Regardless, the key to success for working parents during this time is to stay safe and organized.
Read on the learn tips to transition your kids back to school smoothly and reduce worry.
1. Coordinate with your Employer
One of the most difficult parts of navigating the coronavirus pandemic as a working parent is the variance in business operations across the United States. Some businesses are operating in-office, others are entirely remote, while others have chosen staggered shift schedules for workers or a hybrid model.
In addition to varied schedules among businesses, school systems are equally diverse. Each school or district has taken matters into their own hands – some offering virtual school, some are back to brick-and-mortar, some provide choice, and some have delayed opening entirely.
If you find yourself in a position of scheduling conflicts, reach out to your employer for assistance. Many employers are extending grace and offering flexible options for working parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few options that may be available to you:
- Remote Work
- Leave of Absence
- Flexible Hours/Shifts
- Reduction in Hours
- Paid Time Off (PTO)
Working with your employer to create a schedule that works best for you will allow you to be home with your children for virtual learning, or to pick them up from schools with early release schedules. Read more about how employers can help working parents during the new school year here.
2. Educate Your Children on COVID-19
Many parents are concerned about sending their children back to school and increasing their risk of exposure to the virus. To reduce the worries associated with the transition back-to-school, educate your children on COVID-19 and the importance of staying safe by social distancing and handwashing. Knowing your children are prepared to enter the classroom safely may help ease your worries.
Here are a few ways to prepare your children to head back-to-school.
- Depending on the age of your children, wash your hands with them, and make sure they are washing with proper technique.
- Monitor the cleanliness habits of your children around the house and be sure to bring attention to behavior that would increase their risk of exposure, like face-touching, failing to cover mouth and nose when sneezing, or lack of handwashing.
What your children learn in the home will extend to how they act at school. Educate them so they can contribute to a safer environment while sharing a classroom with others.
3. Prepare and Stay Organized
Transitioning children back to school after summer vacation is always difficult. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and you’re sure to feel disorganized. The best way to handle changing schedules and uncertainty is to be organized and prepared.
- Stick to a schedule. The coronavirus pandemic may have messed up your normal routine, but the best way to build structure is to keep a consistent schedule. Keep meals to normal hours and ensure an adequate amount of sleep each night. Improving your sleep schedule is the first step to managing your mental health and preventing burnout or fatigue, especially at work.
- Prepare lunches. Whether your children are heading back to the classroom or remaining home for virtual school, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is key to boosting immune function. With the uncertainty that may come your way throughout the week, try to prepare lunches ahead of time, like over the weekend. Doing so will allow you to spend more time resting and regrouping during the week.
- Equip your children with the essentials. If your children are learning in person, you’ll want to make sure they’re equipped with the necessary PPE and disinfecting products to keep them safe. While you prepare their lunches, make sure to pack hand sanitizer in their lunchboxes. Some days can get stressful, so stashing a mask in their backpack is an excellent backup plan.
The key to remaining resilient as a working parent during COVID-19 is to be as prepared as possible and create structure – often with the help of your employer – to best support your unique position. Educating your children on how they can prevent the spread of the virus will help protect your family, other students, and the community.
During these trying times, strive for progress, not perfection. Each day is a new opportunity to begin again. Be gentle with yourself and your children as you navigate school this fall.