We all work hard and those of us with modern families parent just as hard on any given day. Enter the Coronavirus shelter in place orders and our lives have been turned upside down, with parents working from home, children schooling from home, all of us juggling too much screen time, too many worries about our strained productivity and learning, while trying to be the family we thought we were amidst anxiety, stress and uncertainty. If this isn’t a recipe for tension and meltdowns, I don’t know what is!
Now that we are all home juggling our self-care, responsibilities, jobs, assignments, to do lists, emotions, relationships and conflicts, how exactly are our days supposed to look? What does productivity even mean in times like this? Should we be stressing about our kids’ learning or lack thereof?
I own a modern parent coaching practice in Palo Alto, California and I have two girls aged 7 and 10 who are sheltered at home with me and my Google software engineer husband, who is also working from home. I have developed a body of work called Pressure-Proof Kids (join my free Facebook group by clicking here) and have developed a coaching method to help modern parents evolve their mindsets and behaviors from what I call Conventional CARE to True CARE, which leads to more trust in their relationship with their children and in themselves.
As the shelter in place was ordered about a week and a half ago, I observed many parents sharing strict homeschooling schedules on Facebook and have seen the last few days result in those schedules being loosened and, in many cases, tossed out due to waning motivation, resistance and unrealistic expectations. I hear there are a lot of power struggles happening between parents and kids, meltdowns, and confusion over what to focus on and how to interact to bring about the best situation for all involved.
Building your day with True CARE IS being productive, IS being efficient, and IS doing both your paid job and your job as parent the best way you can. I want to encourage parents to release the pressures to parent and school and work only for hard, stress-inducing productivity, performance and speed, to working, schooling and parenting from a more integrated place, with True CARE.
Here are the 4 Pillars of my True CARE method and a Work and School from Home with True CARE Schedule which you can print and use right away.
Pillar I: From Compliance to CONNECTION: When shelter in place orders came out, it was automatic for parents to think they had to parent and school from home in compliance with their kids’ regular school day schedules and activities in order to successfully school from home. It’s also automatic to expect yourself to work in compliance to your regular workday, even though now you are not only working but parenting and schooling from home, simultaneously, as is your partner, in many cases. I want to invite those working and schooling from home to let go of this compliance pressure to the old normal and instead to embrace CONNECTION. A few concrete ways you can do this include scheduling 40 minute work blocks with 20 minute connection, authenticity, responsiveness and empathy breaks where you get up from your computer, go chat with the kids, play with them, create with them, romp in the backyard, hug them, leave all distractions aside and listen to them share about their day, their feelings, their learning and just BE with them. See the schedule I am attaching here for more ideas.
Pillar II: From Anxiety to AUTHENTICITY: These uncertain, volatile and scary times are bound to create anxiety. Our school and work performance systems often specifically depend on anxiety in order to attempt to motivate performance – through competition, grades, pressure and fear of failure. I invite parents and families to release the anxiety and fear base and instead to embrace AUTHENTICITY by being authentic during work calls about how you are feeling, doing check ins with colleagues not just about work but also about life and how everyone is feeling, weaving into your child’s school at home schedule time for authentic sharing of learning, feelings, and how math or science or social studies relates to real life, and to what we are all experiencing, keeping journals during this time to help express, process and document the way that this extraordinary historical event is shaping our sense of ourselves, our lives and the future. These will be jewels to future generations.
Pillar III: From Reactivity to RESPONSIVENESS: With expectations, fear, grief, close quarters and disappointments mounting, reactivity is a natural by product. When kids go off track under these trying circumstances, they are signaling their unmet emotional needs. If instead of yelling commands from a place of control, fear and anger, we soften, and be more RESPONSIVE to say something like, “I know this staying at home all the time and going nowhere and seeing no one in person really stinks. I wish we could go see our friends, too. I wish our schedules were back to school and work, too. Hang in there. We are going to get through this together. I’ve noticed what a great job you’re doing taking care of the dogs, making smoothies, doing art, and learning from Khan academy and doing your best to keep up with your schoolwork. I’m really proud of how hard you are trying and making this work,” we can reset with acknowledging hard feelings, reassuring them and their need to be seen, heard and noticed for what they are doing correctly, provide praise and positivity to encourage in the midst of all this upheaval and uncertainty, and fill up our emotional cups. RESPONSIVENESS will get us much further than reactivity to soothe everyone’s stress, behavioral impulses and fear.
Pillar IV: From Entitlement to EMPATHY: Being a modern parent can feel like a race to entitlement, to doing everything in our power to ensure that somehow our kid rises to the top. And every parent is in the same race, to try to entitle their kid. This mindset leads to competition, a lack of warm community and broken trust. It also leaves our kids completely disconnected from the realities of those less fortunate and lacking the perspective to truly value and understand their own privilege with gratitude and humility. How bout we shift from an entitlement mindset to an EMPATHY mindset, where we educate, parent and instill awareness for others, caring towards others, and using our own gifts to support sharing with others in an altruistic fashion? We can practice gratitude for what we do have – a home, the ability to work from home, healthy food, safety. We can also discuss with our kids what people are suffering from in terms of losses during this time and brainstorm ways that we as a family and our community can help. We can work with our kids to create donations to local soup kitchens and shelters, we can go online together to donate, we can order from small businesses to help keep them afloat and educate our kids about what many small businesses are facing. Together, we can open our hearts and hold out our hands to make a difference. We can do history lessons related to the Great Depression. We can do math lessons related to unemployment statistics. We can do writing assignments related to ethical questions facing leaders of our time. We can do science lessons about how our brains are wired for altruistic action and mindfulness. Letting go of the entitlement rat race to let more empathy in is what our world sorely needs now, and beyond this crisis.
For the rest of this shelter in place, I offer to you this guide of 4 pillars to practice True CARE during these uncertain and unsettling times and four questions which accompany these pillars:
- How can I practice Connection rather than compliance so that myself and family can release pressure and be productive with presence?
- How can I be Authentic instead of anxious about work and parenting today?
- How can I Respond to my own and my child’s emotional needs to generate reassurance, calm, fulfillment and fullness today instead of reacting or controlling out of fear?
- How can I foster Empathy rather than focusing on entitlement or being the best at all costs today?
Put these questions up on your fridge or in your wallet or post them by your desk and use them as guideposts throughout your shelter in place. You can journal about these questions as you plan your week and use them to create a holistic schedule which includes connection breaks, authentic conversations, responsive feedback and empathy activities.
Here is an example of a schedule that is built using the pillars of True CARE:
For the afternoon, I highly suggest parents try to stop working by 3 or 4pm. Spend some time outdoors. Have your kids do their daily after school activities each afternoon, but from home. Try to make agreements with colleagues to cut meetings shorter to 40 or 45 minutes instead of an hour, cut the workday shorter so everyone can be realistic about parenting needs. Set kids up with activities and even if you’re sitting in the same room together (kids’ reading, crafting or practicing music and you drafting emails) it’s better to spend the afternoon being present than locking the door and barring them from entering. All will go more smoothly for everyone.