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JOHNSTON: Tips for working, schooling at home in a difficult time

Everyone should be finally settling down into their new routines of homeschooling, working remotely and not worrying about pandemics, right?

If you are one of those people, please come help me because I am on the struggle bus.

If your last week looked like my last week, you were inundated with emails and social media posts from school, work, community members, the governor and more.

Some of you may have been told your job was being put on hold, and you then started worrying about finances.

Not to mention the ongoing concern of when the stores will be able to restock their toilet paper shelves.

Last week was rough to say the least.

By Sunday, I knew it was time to regroup. I sat down and tried to figure out how I was going to make this work.

I realized one of the answers was routines. Our routines were largely disrupted last week and that often leads to feelings of anxiety, even in the most even-keeled, totally-got-it-together folks.

It was time to create a new routine based on our new norm. Here are some places to start.


Communicating expectations/schedules

Communication is often the main culprit for disagreements and unneeded stress.

My husband and I are blessed with the encouragement from our employers to work remotely. This has presented a unique set of challenges.

The first day home together, we tried to work at the same times and we quickly realized we needed to be clear about who was handling what (kids’ schedule, dogs barking, making meals and so on). This would help us know what we expected the other to be doing so everyone’s needs were being met.

Communicating expectations is also important for children.

I have started going over the schedule with ours each morning so they know what the day will look like, which eases anxiety and helps with transitions.

I also sat down with my children at different times and explained that things are going to look different and discussed what I needed from each of them to make this new norm less chaotic and more fun (and I also told them I knew I wasn’t their teacher, and I didn’t need to hear that anymore).


Keep previous routines (if possible)

I know keeping bedtime routines may seem like a small blip on the radar, but the more like normal we can keep things for children right now, the better.

Now, you may not be as strict (bedtime is 8 p.m. at our house, but this past week we have definitely not been ‘in bed’ until at least 9 p.m.) but keeping as much of the routine as possible will be helpful to them and you.

It may also make you feel more productive at home if you do your normal morning routines (shower, dress, coffee, breakfast, etc.) before starting work and school from home.

We have shifted the start of the day, being up and out by 6:45 a.m. is no longer necessary, so do what works for your family.

Just know the closer to normal we can make it, the less stressed out we may feel.


Set boundaries

We used to have designated spaces. We went to work and school. We participated in extra-curricular activities. We had the ability to go to a restaurant and eat dinner. We sat in the living room and watched movies.

Now, all those things are happening in one spot, and it is easy for those lines and roles to get blurred.

Here’s to the homeschool parents or parents who did not work outside the home, y’all have been rocking this out for years.

But for those of us who have entered this new place, setting boundaries is going to be imperative for sanity and productivity.

Try to structure your day with “office” and “school” hours. They can be fluid, like a portion in the morning and afternoon, but try to stick to those hours so you know when it is time to take off that hat and put on the others.

Sometimes. designating certain places in your house for work and school, if possible, can also help with those boundaries, as you can go there to work and then leave the area when it’s time to do something else.


Be flexible and show compassion

We are all in this together, muddling through and doing our best.

I hear the governor telling us all to be good neighbors and take care of each other. As much as I want to make sure my children aren’t missing out on academics, flexibility and compassion are also important skills to learn.

So, we donated toilet paper to Clark County Community Services.

We delivered groceries to my parents, who much to their chagrin, fall into the vulnerable category.

We talked about why we needed to do those things, and my son is now well-versed in flattening the curve.

We have also had several fun things canceled, and learning to be flexible has been a daily lesson. Even my grown-up self struggles with these things so the lessons are great for me, too.

Make sure as we show compassion to others, we are compassionate to ourselves, too. Don’t be too hard on yourself during this unprecedented time. We got this.

Reach out to the Cooperative Extension with any questions throughout this time. We have all sorts of great resources on time management, financial literacy, stress management and more.

Take a moment to like our Facebook page, Clark County Cooperative Extension. As our office is closed to the public, we will be moving to online programming and we are hoping to use social platforms like Facebook to get that programming to you.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at shonda.johnston@uky.edu.