By Jennifer Openshaw
The painful juggle for parents across the country may not be letting up any time soon, with the Center for Disease Control’s latest announcement recommending school closures of eight weeks or more
Just this week, one working mom shared her pain.
“They’re about to close my kid’s school and on top of that, my mom is elderly in another state,” said the single mother of a five-year-old boy, who works at a global consumer products company in one of the states facing the virus.
“I don’t know how I’m going to manage it all.”
For many working parents, this is a daunting time – personally, professionally, financially.
Here are five key moves to help working parents cope:
- Create structure– Strive to run your daytime as you would any other normal time. Keep meals and school learning time as they were before. Lay out the schedule for each of your children if your school hasn’t already provided that. Follow your children’s normal school day schedule – for example, math from 9-10 am, followed by reading and that 20-minute recess.
Be sure to make it a visual schedule. Yes, find that dry erase board and markers. School-age children know their schedule (math, social studies, etc.). Alternatively, reference your school website. Smart scheduling will surely help you be productive too.
Let the kids know school work is still their number-one priority and that they’re expected to keep up with their daily good habits and studies. Help them by creating a distraction-free workspace, setting up their devices and/or notebooks, and getting any supplies. No TV or video games until work is finished. Enforce their chores and reading time. Let them know you’ll be working too and everyone needs quiet time to work and concentrate.
- Partner with neighbors & other class parents – Do you have a fellow parent in the area? Reach out directly or create a group class ‘text chat’ to communicate and work together to address the new challenges together. Empower your child to reach out to classmates by phone or Face time…surely, they’re struggling to manage it all too.
- Call in the Calvary – Aunts, uncles, teens, college students now at home and willing to come to your house are considered appropriate when using social distance guidelines. Family and friends can support you at this time, even if, it is a video chat with your 6th grader on their math homework. And don’t forget, older or college students/siblings who are forced to return from school might welcome the opportunity to earn some extra cash and have a purpose.
- Leverage digital learning beyond school – Many programs – from piano to tutoring – are now shifting to live, online to avoid canceling altogether. Few programs, such as Girls With Impact, has always been delivered live, online, providing girls 11-18 a structured mini-MBA with a professional coach from the comfort of home. Such programs can give you a solid hour of time while keeping your child engaged, learning, and gaining a college advantage.
- Mind your own self-care – With all the uncertainty, minimize your own stress by managing your health and financial wellness. Don’t skip key annual medical check-ups that might be on the calendar. Also, remember that, good or bad, a crisis is a time to revisit your asset allocation. Many retirees are learning they allocated too much of their assets into stocks, creating huge swings and putting their financial security at risk.
Above all, stay calm and organized. Creating structure and organization will reduce the stress so you can focus on what matters most. Perhaps you can even use this moment in time to deepen your connections with family and friends.
Jennifer Openshaw is a nationally known financial expert and CEO of the non-profit Girls With Impact, a modern business and innovation academy for NextGen women leaders, 11-18. She’s appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America and is a LinkedIn Influencer.