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Coronavirus: How to work and manage kids at home at same time

27 Apr, 2020

Coping with the stay-home blues

The school holidays will be brought forward to coincide with the extension of the circuit breaker until June 1.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

About two weeks into home-based learning, families have been adapting to new routines brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, managing their children and finding ways to work from home at the same time. Now, parents will have to continue multitasking for a while more, with the school holidays being brought forward to coincide with the extension of the circuit breaker until June 1. Parents who homeschool their children provide tips on how to cope during these times.

PRIORITISE FAMILY WELL-BEING

Ms Dawn Fung, 40, founder of Homeschool Singapore, a com-munity of homeschoolers here which has a website, encouraged parents to view this period of being at home as an opportunity, rather than a burden. "The circuit breaker has forced you to have time with your kids, whether or not you like it, or can handle it," said the mother of three homeschooled children.

Try to "reframe" your perspective of life with your children so that you can cope from a position of strength, she added. "You must prioritise your family because their behaviour and demands will affect you, which will affect your mental and emotional health." Mrs Angela Lim-Er, 44, who homeschools her four children aged six to 12, said family members' mental well-being must be taken care of.

"There is a laundry list of things to be done, so parents must come up with a routine they are comfortable with, and be flexible. We must do what we can to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty that come along with all the changes."

She added: "Children may fight with each other a lot at home, but that is part of growing up. Now that we don't have to rush off for activities outside, it gives us time to work out disputes, communicate with each other and facilitate the learning process."

ST ILLUSTRATION: MANNY FRANCISCO

BE REALISTIC

Set family goals that are achievable, said Ms Fung. "For example, it is not practical to have all people in the home work for eight hours peacefully in their own zones if you have a few pre-schoolers in the house," she said. "If your expectations are unrealistic, you will stress yourself and your family out."

It may also not be possible to have as much personal time like in the past, she said. "Recognise that this change is because of external factors that are out of everyone's control. If not, you will be resentful of your children for taking away that 'me time'."

MANAGE WORK EXPECTATIONS

Ms Fung said: "There is no 'magic formula' to juggling working and being a parent at the same time.

"The whole world has slowed down because of Covid-19. Every parent who is an employer, employee, partner and vendor will be mindful that each of them has caregiving commitments to attend to at home."

Negotiate for more reasonable deadlines and quotas, she said, and talk to bosses about your needs and limitations, if possible.

FIND PERSONAL TIME

Mrs Lim-Er said parents can still try to carve out time for them-selves to do activities they enjoy, such as reading, exercising or a craft project.

For instance, she has an hour of "quiet time" on her own every day, a practice she started three years ago and which her children respect.

"The children can read books and play by themselves, but they are not allowed to talk to each other. They also need that quiet time, otherwise the constant noise and activity affect them," she said.

TALK TO YOUR SPOUSE

Mr Mark Lim, 43, who runs his own educational training consultancy and homeschools his two sons with his wife, said spouses must communicate.

"This can be a period of high tension between husband and wife, especially when everyone is at home. Both need to be on the same page and not have differing views of parenting," he said.

"We are sharing housework, doing regular work and homeschooling the children. It can be stressful if the spouses don't understand each other's stress points."

Find some shared time as a couple, after the children have gone to bed, for instance, to watch Netflix together and enjoy each other's company, he added.

Adapted From The Straits Times, Apr 27 2020