Taking control of your wellbeing as a working parent

Whether it’s your children or the printer refusing to cooperate, working from home and homeschooling can be a challenge to juggle at the same time. An overwhelming 84% of you said in our Instagram poll that you thought your wellbeing had taken a negative turn this lockdown.

Here are some tips that will hopefully help, and give you a much-needed boost of encouragement.

Firstly: what is parent ‘wellbeing’?

Wellbeing is all about feeling good, whether that’s physically, emotionally or mentally.

Scientists have proven time and time again that physical, mental and emotional health all work together to make a person feel good, which means that if you don’t take care of one, the others may suffer too. This is why it’s so important to give your mental and emotional wellbeing the same attention as your physical health. When all three are in great shape, you will find yourself being more productive, recovering faster and living a healthy, happy life.

There is no doubt about the fact that parenting is hard. There are worries and problems that can overwhelm you in a way that no job or career can. But looking after your own wellbeing as a parent can help you become more resilient and deal with these situations more effectively. It can also help you become the best role model for your children and inspire them to be conscious and responsible for their own emotional and mental health too.

Wellbeing is now taught as part of the national curriculum, and with everyone currently facing the strange times that we are, it has never been more important to look after your wellbeing – especially as a working parent.

Quick Tips for Parents, from Parents

If you only have a few minutes to spare, here are some great tips to start with. These are just small changes that you can make that can have a big impact on your emotional and mental wellbeing. They are all suggested and approved by real parents too: 

  1. Ignore the phrases ‘homeschooling’ and ‘working from home’. If these terms are adding pressure on yourself and your child then don’t use them. Some parents even said that they use daily mantras to remember the situation they are in. For example, ‘I am not homeschooling, I am helping my children to keep learning every day in a global pandemic’ or ‘I am not working from home, I am trying to carry on working in a global pandemic.’ Your priorities at the moment should be making sure your child feels safe and that they’re doing their best to continue their learning from home. Your job is not to replicate an eight-hour school day. This leads us onto the next tip –
  2. Be realistic. The bottom line is: everything happening at the moment is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and you should make sure that the pressure you put on yourself reflects that. No one would ever expect someone to work three full-time jobs at once – so don’t expect it from yourself either.
  3. Find your own routine. It really isn’t the right time to be strict with your children and clamp down on a set schedule at home if this isn’t working for them. It might be that some days you stick to a plan and others it’s a free-for-all. Every day you will find new things that work for your children and new things that don’t (at all!). Some children will work effectively when they choose what topics they want to learn next, whereas some will really benefit from a daily timetable that mimics the school day. For help, take a look at some of Twinkl’s free home timetable and scheduling resources.
  4. Set boundaries for yourself. Make sure your children know that you need to have some alone time every so often! It can be something as simple as taking a long bath one evening a week, watching your favourite TV show or doing an online exercise class. It is really easy to believe that you are too busy for this, but being at home with the kids 24/7 can be overwhelming, so when the kids are iPadding, make sure you at least go off and make yourself a cup of tea.
  5. Notice your triggers. If you are checking social media everyday and it’s making you feel uneasy, then stop checking! If you have that one friend who tells you about all the horrible things they hear in the news, speak to them about how this makes you feel.
  6. Let the children teach you. Teaching someone about a subject is a great way of testing your ability and harnessing what you already know. If you introduce your children to this concept it can really help to boost their confidence while many will also probably take pride in teaching you something that they already know.
  7. Try to do something creative. Whether it’s writing, painting, singing or dancing around in your living room, creative activities are proven to boost your mood and self-esteem. If your children are colouring or journaling for school, why not join in too? There are a huge number of benefits for adults doing mindfulness activities like these too.
  8. Drink water and eat well. Keeping hydrated helps you to stay alert, while planning meals in advance saves time, money and energy. For recipes, healthy eating plans and fun baking ideas to try with children, take a look at Twinkl Parents’ Healthy Eating Homepage.

What can I ask from my employer?

All employees need extra support at the moment – especially if they are a parent juggling homeschooling tasks too. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your employers for some extra support.

If you are unsure of what they can do to help, here are a couple of things that you can discuss with them:

  • Flexible hours – do you children wake up super early? Or do they have a nap in the afternoon? Explain your situation to your line manager and they may be able to help by allowing you to work flexible hours. If you can do a couple of hours in the morning, a couple in the afternoon and some more in the evening then you might find that your productivity increases. It’s likely that your employer will favour this and appreciate your honesty.
  • Parental leave – this can be taken to look after your child’s welfare. According to government guidelines, unpaid parental leave can be taken for a number of reasons such as to spend more time with your children, and your employment rights such as holidays and returning to a job are all still protected.
  • Furlough for childcare purposes – government guidelines state that an employee can be furloughed if they are unable to work due to coronavirus. This includes those who need to look after their children.
  • Flexible targets – if you feel like you just need a little extra slack with your work, then you can always ask for your targets, KPIs or other duties of your role to be relaxed. Employers should understand that most people are far less productive currently compared to normal circumstances.

It is always worth having a conversation with your line manager about extra support during this time. These are only a couple of suggestions, and you might find that they have other solutions available to you as well. You’ll also probably find that you’re not the only one in this situation and they are supporting many other working parents too!

Family Activities for Some Much-Needed Downtime

There’s no doubt that physical exercise is a great way to improve your overall health – mentally and physically – but there are only so many ‘family walks’ that you can stomach. So here are a few more creative ideas that you can try at home with children:

Meditation and Mindfulness

Learn about mindfulness and meditation and how to practise them at home. Discover fun mindfulness techniques and improve the way you and your child deal with potentially difficult situations and stress.

There are huge benefits to this for both your children and yourself, so join in with the activities such as mindfulness colouring, writing gratitudes and drawing. These activities will set a positive tone for the day and are a great way to break up home lessons.

Take a look at these parent wellbeing resources – perfect for adults and little ones.

Exercise

If you have walked the same route every day since March, you can still harness the power of fresh air and exercise in a different way. Why not try an at-home workout instead? There are plenty of great examples online that are designed for families to do together.

Exercise can be seamlessly integrated into your routine in a number of other ways too. For example, create your own scavenger hunt around the house or go into the garden or a nearby park to try and spot minibeasts.

Screen Time

Before you gasp in horror, there is plenty of great educational content online for children and adults to enjoy together. Watch a documentary on Netflix or follow a painting tutorial on YouTube. There are also virtual lessons that can make it easy to educate your children at home, and even free virtual reality websites where you can tour Ancient Rome or explore the British Museum and the Tate – all from the comfort of your own sofa.

Take a look at some of these educational songs that children can learn and sing along to. Whether it’s the Ancient Egyptians or Chinese New Year, there is something to enjoy for all topics.

A Word from Other Parents

Lastly, we know that it’s probably been a while since you’ve had a hug or pat on the back for what you’re doing, so we asked other working parents what they would say to people in the same situation as them. Here is what they said:

“Remember: we can catch up on education, we cannot catch up on happiness.”

 “Be patient.”

 “We are facing something unprecedented – doing the best you can is more than enough.”

 “Take it one day at a time.”

 “Stay present.”

 “If it’s not working, take a break and come back to it later.”

 “Get out for a child-free walk, once a week. It gives you something to look forward to and clears the head.”

 “This too shall pass. It won’t be forever.”

 “We’ve got this!”

It’s important to remember that while there will be bad days at the moment, we also have a real opportunity. We all have a chance to focus on our relationships and our connections with family and friends and our children will remember a time where they played games, watched films and spent lots of time with their siblings and parents. When it’s all over, they will go back to school and continue their education, hopefully with new social skills and emotional connection to the world outside too.

Our thanks to Twinkl Educational Publishing for this article.

Twinkl Educational Publishing is an online collection of activities, games and teaching resources that help you save time and plan more effectively. Holly is a writer for the Twinkl Parents team who use the knowledge and resources from teachers to help parents at home too!


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