Tips for parents studying at home

The pandemic has thrown parents and children together and made studying for a degree challenging for many in the University community. Check out some ideas for how you can make this new situation work for you.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you; little people make a BIG impact on your life! And this is never more obvious than when you’re trying to work or study from home. However, there are some techniques you can try to help you and your children navigate this new territory as peacefully as possible.

A perfect time for imperfection

First up, let’s look at you. You’re already a master juggler, balancing your study needs with childcare, a part-time job and who knows what else! But here’s the thing, the arrival of COVID-19 means that perfectly arranged calendar has to go out the window. Now is not a time for perfection, it’s a time for doing what needs to be done, in whatever way possible.

What might this look like? Well, the kids might get a little more time in front of the TV than usual, and you may find yourself listening to a lecture recording at funny times of the day. This is ok- just find a way that works for you to get things done. No one is judging you, and you’re doing a great job!

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we (all) go

Now may not be the time for perfection, but that doesn’t mean a schedule of sorts isn’t a great idea! Try blocking out some time in the day for everyone to work together. Take some time to identify the time of day where your at your most productive and then make that time work for you!

A lot of schools and daycares have worked out ways to connect with children remotely, and once the holidays are over, older children will be expected to attend virtual classes and work on projects.  Sit down together in your office/classroom and work on your respective projects together. Set a timer, and then reward yourself with regular breaks and morning tea, elevensies, lunch, afternoon snacks, happy hour…..

Obviously this approach is not as effective with the smaller specimens of the species, but you can still try to treat a chunk of the day as ‘work time’. Set them up beside you with some crafts and crayons and ask them to work on their own project. If you trust them, equipping them with exciting items like a pair of  scissors and a glue stick is sure to buy you a little bit of extra time.

Oh and if that fails, did we mention the TV? Don’t beat yourself up about this life-saving tool – there are plenty of educational options you can steer them towards (David Attenborough marathon anybody?) and Go noodle and Cosmic Yoga are great ways to get kids of all ages up and moving.

Another good option is talking storybooks. There are many great websites that let you
access audiobooks for free! Try:

Go all natural

Taking time to get yourself and your offspring out into the natural world benefits everyone. Make time to head outside and burn off some energy. When you think about what children get up to during a typical day at school or kindy, a large chunk involves active play. Think of games you can do outside and make playtime fun.

Some ideas include:

  • Going on a bearhunt
  • Backyard obstacle courses
  • Hula hooping or skipping in a group
  • Neighbourhood eye spy

Be kind to everyone (yourself included)

Everyone loves their family, but suddenly living on top of each other all the time can be stressful. As trying (and let’s be honest, annoying) as your children can be, it is important to remember that their little worlds have been turned upside down too. They have suddenly stopped seeing their friends and for children in shared custody situations, they may also have stopped seeing a parent for a period of time. Be gentle, and make an effort to hang out and do things together. Scheduling in playtime is as important as scheduling in worktime. Walk away from your notes and your laptop and just be present for an hour or so, it will mean heaps to your little people.

Oh, and if you feel yourself losing your temper, or you catch yourself saying something mean or uncalled for, give yourself a break too! No one is perfect, and expressing frustration is a part of parenting. Just acknowledge the behaviour, apologise and move on. Perhaps you could send yourself to the naughty corner, and read a course book or two (just kidding!).

Ask for help

If you are living with a partner, older children, extended family members, or friends- make sure you ask for help! Your study and learning is important, and its ok for you to make it a priority from time to time. Ask another person to step in and take over main care duties for an hour or two so you can get a decent chunk of work done. Line up your fire time (the part of the day where you're at your most productive) with agreed upon childcare arrangements. You will get more work done, and you'll feel so much better for it.

If you and your child or children don’t have other adults in your bubble, get creative! Can you video chat a grandparent for story time, or a Netflix party, while you slip away to do some study?

If you feel like you have no-one who can fulfill this role for you, reach out to the University for support.