The fluidity of the coronavirus news, which seems to be changing hourly, makes for an uncertain and stressful time for everyone. This is heightened further for parents as they manage their own wellness in addition to their family’s physical and mental health.
While the most obvious, and serious, challenge for parents throughout the coronavirus pandemic is keeping their families healthy, there are also three additional issues that have arisen over the last few weeks that have added stress and anxiety to parents.
Kids know, but don’t understand
One of the biggest challenges is to help children understand the complexity of the situation without creating anxiety and fear. With coronavirus coverage dominating news and social media, as well as many conversations around them, it can be challenging to find a healthy balance. My own children, both under 6, don’t really understand what is happening, although they are diligently singing “happy birthday” while washing their hands in order to “get rid of the germs”.
Unfortunately, with the cancellation of school and daycare, they feel the disruption in their routine and, perhaps less obviously, the tension in the house as their parents compare work calendars, project delivery dates, and remaining vacation days while sorting out babysitters and weekday coverage.
While the level of understanding, and the information you provide to them, will vary by age, most experts agree that being open to (age appropriate) discussion, is the best approach. This great visual from the Washington Post was helpful as we explained why we couldn’t go to school or daycare and, more importantly, why we needed to stay inside as part of our community’s social distancing plan. While still too advanced for our littlest one, our 5-year-old was clearly able to see which approach was best in keeping the most “blue dots” or healthy people.
No school, but still work
As school boards, states, provinces, and countries begin to shut down schools in the hope that the spread of the virus can be slowed, parents are struggling with the added pressure of trying to figure out how to care for their kids, while still effectively managing their own jobs.
The good news is that many organizations are making the decision to implement new or expand existing work from home policies, alleviating the pressure for many families. However, for those workers unable to work from home, or for those with young children who make working from home challenging, the cancellation of schools is a significant obstacle to address.
While several government coronavirus support bills, including the one in draft by the US government, include paid leave related to coronavirus, the benefits apply to employees who get sick or need to care for a family member who is sick, leaving healthy parents with healthy kids trying to cover a school closure with little answers.
Time off, but not vacation
For the lucky ones who manage to find the balance between work and care, there is still the added complication of a potentially significant disruption to learning. While older kids don’t generate the same level of stress to find coverage, parents may be worried about how to ensure how their children don’t lose any learning time, particularly with the uncertainty around ‘back to school’ dates.
So, what exactly do you do with your kids for weeks on end when you are confined, either voluntarily or through a mandated quarantine, to your house? While most parents are hesitant to let Netflix and video games cover all the hours, when parents have their own jobs to do, it can be challenging to ensure your kids continue with their studies in a practical and effective way.
Here are some great tips from Bennett International on how you can help your kids navigate through their self-learning time, with minimal disruption to their long-term learning.
How to help assignees
For relocated employees on assignment, the challenges facing every parent in this situation are intensified. Families likely have limited extended family or local social networks to turn to for support during this time, they may be worried about ill or elderly relatives back at home, and they may be unsure of their new location, culture, or language.
Regular communication with relocated families is vital during this time, particularly in the face of social distancing/isolation. Mobility managers should pay particular attention to recently relocated families, families with existing health conditions, and families who are/were getting ready to repatriate. Also, additional communication should be given if your organization has implemented any changes to policy or process in response to the coronavirus situation.
For my family, we are working hard to ensure that our family’s physical and mental health is a priority. Mid-morning on day two of our social distancing, voluntary isolation, we took a break from the planning and prepping to host a tea party. While my husband and son played some mood music (if you can call it that!) my daughter delicately set the table with her play tea set. Moist slivers of lemon-blueberry loaf – an impulse grab during our last, somewhat frantic, shopping trip – lined the mini-platter beside the little teapot filled with water, and thin, bright yellow slices of lemons sat in the serving dish. Hand-made name cards, each carefully spelled by a 5-year-old still learning to write adorned each place setting, and fake play flowers, taken from the dress up bin, sat in the center in one of my glass vases. As we sat together, with our napkins in our laps and our pinkies in the air, discussing which animal is our favorite, I saw for a brief moment, the value of taking a deep breath amidst the craziness.