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Six Steps That Saved Me From Homeschooling Burnout

A pep talk to my Pre-Pandemic Self to remain sane and cope with the challenge of working from home with home-schooled kids.

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My Pre-Pandemic Self set us up to fail with the exaggerated expectations she placed on herself. So, when home-schooling was added to the stress container of life pressures and working full time, something had to give. Her sanity.  Actually, reaching a low point was a godsend, as this is where the shift happened.  Either she made a plan, or curling up on the bathroom floor would become her new daily hangout.

This been the story of almost every parent I know.  I have worked on many kidnap live operational responses and I can honestly say that I have never found anything more stressful than home-schooling my kids. This low created the compelling need for an antidote to keep me sane and face the challenge. Here’s what I did and it changed my life and what would be the pep talk to my pre-pandemic self:

1. Accept it

Getting into the right mindset makes all the difference. There is no use in denying it, it is happening. And from this, make a plan. Wasting head space wishing things to be different is only stopping you from moving forward. So, if that is how you feel right now, get out of your head. All that you can control is how you respond to the situation, how you handle it. Concentrate on what is within your power to control; this doesn’t include other people or outside environments.

2. Compartmentalise

Compartmentalisation sets the framework to multitask effectively. Make a ‘to do’ list: to work, to support home-schooling, to cook, eat, rest etc; establish how long each one takes and set time slots for all your tasks. Work out how much time you can spare to support your children’s learning. It doesn’t matter whether it is five hours or five minutes. Once you have allocated some time, go with it, take the emotion out of it. This has now become an item on your agenda.

There are 24 hours in a day. Time can be made by getting up a little earlier or sacrificing Netflix for some work time. The key to success is to commit 100% to each task during its allocated time. When you are working, work. When you are helping your kids, be with your kids. No distractions. It is that simple.

3. Review your expectations

So, what, next door is Mary Poppins…!. Yes, some parents have more time, more money, more patience, less kids, less work, less pressure. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Resist it. Let it go. We are living in unprecedented times. Special measures are all around us, at work, in travel, at the shops and in pretty much every single area of our lives. Just extend that at home, without the pressure to maintain unsustainable standards. Now look at the even bigger picture. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), about 258 million children and youth were out of school in 2018[1]. These are figures unrelated to Covid19, and due in large part to the situation in conflict zones. How is your perspective now?

Your children are benefiting from an incredible multi-tasking role model, they watch and learn from you, adjusting to the new circumstances and being pragmatic with it. You are teaching them adaptability and emotional resilience, skills that one cannot learn through academic efforts.

4. Pick your battles

Continuing to enforce household rules is great to maintain behaviour and continuity, but you can review or relax some of them. How important is the rule in the great scheme of things? Is it worth the battle, the stress, the confrontation? This really isn’t about showing weakness or giving in (my two parenting phobias). It is about showing flexibility in times of adversity. It is about reviewing the constitution to adapt to an exceptional regime. You could use it as a negotiating strategy towards getting your children to help with chores or putting in some extra effort with learning. Now, let’s talk about screens… the bloodiest of all battles. No matter what your friends admit to, I guarantee that every kid is gaming far, far, more than usual at the moment. It’s ok. It is another negotiating tool, an opportunity to entertain, or facilitate a quiet house when you are on a call. Hold back your horses and raise the white flag.

5. Stay connected

Lockdown is very isolating, tough on mental health. Make sure you stay connected, pick up the phone whenever possible, reach out to friends and family, organise a zoom soirée, or any form of engagement you can look forward to. The idea is to make some time to feel like yourself, to chat, to vent, to interact with others. Also, you will discover -if you didn’t know it already- that your friends can’t solve middle school algebra either!

6. Exercise

I bet you hear this all the time. But it’s true, exercise improves cognitive function, mood and self-esteem. It triggers the release of ‘feel good’ chemicals such as endorphin, that act as pain relief and boost a sense of wellbeing. Dr Wendy Suzuki is amongst many neuroscientists to promote how a single workout immediately affects the brain and improves focus, memory and reaction time as well as mood[2]. To produce this impact, exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous; a brisk walk will do. Many yoga, gym and fitness classes are also available online for free.  Walk while you’re on the phone, jump up and down every now and again, turn on the music and dance.

The woman on the bathroom floor is no more. Once the mindset changes and you take charge of how you handle what you can’t control, everything else becomes easier. The 5 points after that just provide the structure to follow through. So, my dear pre-pandemic self, if your kids have been fed and are still alive every night, you are doing well, give yourself a pat in the back.

Chantal Dempsey is an Award-Winning Life Coach who specialises in improving confidence and reducing stress. Get her free weekly coaching via her website www.forwardlifecoaching.co.uk


[1] http://uis.unesco.org/en/topic/out-school-children-and-youth

[2] Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better – Wendy Suzuki PhD.

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