Schools have been closed for more than three weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, and as you figure out how to work from home and parent at the same time, you’re also now helping manage your children’s distance learning. Some parents have expressed that they’re feeling overwhelmed, but don’t worry—you’re definitely not alone in your feelings of being flooded.

According to Unesco, 91% of students (1.57 billion learners) are out of school worldwide. That’s a lot of families adjusting to an at-home learning model pretty much overnight…and it isn’t easy! We’ve done some research and gathered some pointers along with tactics ESD 112 parents are using to make the process a little bit smoother for your learners (and you) at home.

Designate a learning (and working) space

If you’ve recently had to start working from home and don’t have a home office set up, you’ve probably already felt the frustration of having to find a proper place to work every day. Perhaps you’ve commandeered the kitchen table or are taking conference calls in your bedroom just to have some peace and quiet. Believe it or not, your children can also benefit from having a designated space to work. Whether it’s a separate room, a desk in their bedroom or a table in a common area like the living room, confining more rigorous activities like learning to a specific area can help everyone stay more organized and focused. If you don’t have enough space to dedicate to your in-home “classroom,” you can still prioritize a special learning environment by making sure that homework and other school supplies get put away at the end of the day as you transition to family time.

ESD 112 Parent Tip:

“We have a 4th grader and a 1st grader. I wrote up a contract which I had my kids read out loud and sign. This contract is taped to my office door and helps remind the kids the rules and expectations when mom and dad are working.”  —Jenna

Set a schedule for work AND play

Don’t expect to be able to replicate a traditional school day at home. Take some pressure off of the situation by remembering that a typical school day is comprised of more than just learning periods; it also includes things like recess and lunch time. Aim for a more realistic schedule that includes one to three solid hours of learning per day, and structure in playtime, rest and meal breaks.

ESD 112 Parent Tip:

“I wrote and posted a schedule for the kids to follow every day, and it really helped reduce frustrations by setting up expectations for them. My second-grader needs routine to function, so this was critical for him. He was also reassured seeing the planned breaks for video games or outside time that broke up his day.” —Melissa

Let off some steam and be creative

If the kids are having a hard time focusing, getting frustrated easily, or acting out, it may be time for a short break. Spend 15 minutes playing a game, pulling a few weeds in the garden or taking a quick walk around the block. When it’s time for lunch, get the kids involved in making their own simple meals and participating in cleanup afterward. It’s a great way for them to learn basic cooking skills and will keep them busy for up to an hour.

ESD 112 Parent Tip:

“What’s working well for us is to be mindful that we all need to be flexible when it comes to our own expectations for learning. Our kids are beginning to understand that learning can look different from one day to the next and that’s okay.” —Jenna

Practice social distancing—but don’t isolate

It’s important for everyone, including children, to be able to maintain social relationships while having to stay home. If you are able, try to schedule video playtime for your kids to talk to and engage with their friends from school or the neighborhood. Take advantage of virtual classrooms being offered by your kids’ teachers if you can. And don’t forget about yourself! Stay in touch with friends and other parents who are also trying to figure out distance learning. It can be helpful to share ideas about what’s working for others and find ways to help each other through this strange time.

ESD 112 Parent Tip:

“My son is having a really hard time focusing at home since he thinks that classwork should just be done at school. I asked one of his teachers for a one-on-one Zoom session and she was able to listen to him and give him some tips on the assignment just as if he was in the classroom.”  —Laura

Take some time to talk through what’s happening

While it can be easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated with having to manage your professional workload, typical housework and your kids’ schooling, try to remember that this is a stressful time for children, too. Be sure to check in with your kids throughout the day. Ask open-ended questions about what they’re feeling and thinking, and try to make space for any big emotions they might be experiencing. Let them know it’s okay to feel a little uneasy right now, and reassure them that they are loved and this is a temporary situation that we will all get through together.

More broadly, remember that what we’re going through is truly unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and it’s okay to not know all the answers. Don’t be too hard on your kids—or yourself—and know that getting by a day at a time is enough.

ESD 112 Parent Tip:

“We have been practicing patience, flexibility and being kind to each other and ourselves. Things aren’t always going to go as planned, and that’s okay! We take things one day at a time and try to find moments to learn and explore while performing everyday tasks with each other.”  —Mandi

And finally, give yourself a break. Parents aren’t expected to replace their teachers right now but just help make sure students are set up for success…just as we do each day we send them to school.

If you have any other tips you’d like to share with us, please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter! We’d love to hear what you’re doing at home too.