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Your Pandemic Parenting Toolkit

Child underneath a chair using iPhone
Working from home presents new challenges

We’re all living under the same rules and restrictions and have equal power to make a difference – by staying home, keeping our distance of 1.5 metres, wearing a mask and sticking to curfew. Remember, ‘We’re all in this together’.

But every household is having a different experience and parents who are working and/or studying from home are facing extra challenges – fitting everything into a day, being pulled in a million different directions and most importantly making sure everyone, especially the youngsters, is OK.

There is no one size fits all advice for everyone. We’ve been in this situation for months, and it’s not entirely clear when we may be out of it, so here are some suggestions that might make it a little easier to just keep going.

Take care of you

First up, be kind to yourself. You didn’t choose this, and you can’t do any more than your best, so if some things slide and some days are a little loose and there’s too much screen time or dinner is a little random, it’s OK. It’s like the example of the oxygen mask on the plane (remember them?) put yours on first so then you are able to help others.

‘Me-time’ is a twee phrase that makes parents of young children laugh hysterically but it does have a grain of truth and can work in the smallest ways. Parents of toddlers might manage five minutes in the bathroom with the door locked and headphones on. A slump on the sofa after their bedtime. A really really slow solo walk to check the letterbox. Sorting Lego with deep concentration on the piles of colours. A strong and satisfying back stretch. They’re all a tiny bit of time for yourself right there.

Time-shifting might help too. If you are a natural earlybird, you might be able to carve out a few hours of solid work or study before the rest of your household wakes up. Or night owls may be able to power on after lights out for everyone else.

You can relax a little about video connections too - family members Zoom-bombing your meetings are quite acceptable now. Remember how we laughed at the BBC expert’s live TV interview invaded by his toddlers? We are all him now. Pre-warning classmates and colleagues that you have young people and pets in the house is perfectly fine and can even help the situation, lightening the mood or reminding others what it’s like. The Dean of Canterbury’s cat knew it was fine.

Reach out

Talk to friends, family, neighbours, folks on forums, internet buddies. Someone has probably experienced the same thing are you are going through right now and may be able to help. Or you may feel better purely for having said it out loud.

If you are having any issues with your coursework, contact your teachers. They want you to succeed in your studies and can help directly, or point you in the right direction. You can find these resources on your student portal or reach out to Student Life @ Melbourne Polytechnic. 

There is a heap of help online. Victoria’s Department of Education and Training website has a dedicated parents’ section with comprehensive articles on managing health and wellbeing in children and young people of all ages.

Independent Schools Victoria has a Parents Website which features a super list of great ideas for kids at home, featuring fun and engaging activities for all ages.

Leading mental health organisation ReachOut has a dedicated section for parents with a huge range of content including common concerns and skills to build.

Qualified counsellors are on the other end of the line at Parentline, ready to listen to your concerns about anything to do with parenting children from birth to the age of 18. It’s at 13 22 89 from 8am to midnight seven days a week.

Keep calm and, well...keep calm.

Smiling Mind, well known for its mental health and mindfulness programs and app, now has Thrive Inside, specifically for supporting children through this time. It’s a special initiative to help you stay calm and healthy at home, while remaining calm and healthy in your mind. There’s an app, podcast, Instagram inspo and ‘digital care packs’ with tips, guidance and activities.


Image: Charles Deluvio