No School, Kids Home, and I Still Need to Run a Business! What do I do?
Our phones can connect us or disconnect us from making and keeping valuable relationships. This is a time we've not seen before but causes us to reflect on how we are using our phones. We will need to be mindful of our phone usage so we can preserve those relationships most important to us.
This current situation is an opportunity for parents learn to deal with juggling business, while not neglecting their children. Unfortunately, children see our need to work differently than we do. They don't have the brain development to be rational about how their parents' phone usage makes them feel. To them, seeing their parents with a phone to their ear means they are not important.
This challenging time requires one to do business differently. It can't be business as usual, and will require some flexibility and creativity with scheduling to make this a meaningful experience for parents and children.
My daughters taught me a valuable lesson that I hope will help.
35 years ago, I was supplementing my income by selling Princess House Crystal. There were times when I had to confirm appointments and connect with potential bookings. The minute I would pick up the phone, is the time my children suddenly got into fights. They could have been playing with their playhouse, and few seconds into the call, they would be tugging at my shirt. That phone made them feel disconnected to me. The minute I picked up the phone was a sign I was not going to be there for them.
My youngest daughter told me, "You don't care about us when you are on the phone." Her comment may seem irrational, but the truth is children don't always think rationally. They respond emotionally.
After this comment, I made sure my children understood that though it may feel like I don't care about them, there are times when I have to be able to connect with others. I told them, "It doesn't mean I don't love you or I'm not here for you. It simply means I need to take care of business. If you act up while I am making a five minute call, it will make the call take longer." From then on, I made sure they had their needs met, prepared them that I was going to make a call that would last a specific amount of time, and I that needed their cooperation by keeping quiet or playing outside until I was done.
Because remote work requires phone or internet connections, it is going to be difficult doing business as usual with children home. I would love for all of us to have open an honest discussions with our children to get their opinion about our phone use. It might be interesting to hear their perspective. Please share what they say with me in the response section below this blog. Having an open dialogue with young children will clear up their feelings and help gain their help so calls can be made.
There might be a tendency to keep your children quiet with the use of video games and youtube videos. This could backfire on parents in ways one can't imagine.
Friendly reminder: Video and computer game creators have one purpose. It is to engage and retain children's attention. The dopamine releases resulting from playing games decreases attention and increases irritability when taken off of the device. The game may pacify children temporarily but may cause more problems later on.
The following are things to think about and ways to work through this crazy time.
1. Consider a modified work schedule. Before the internet, a tradition work day was from 9-5pm. The days began to get longer because of changes that insisted employees offer employees breaks. This extended the day to 8-5pm. With technology, there are not specified hours because people can be contacted 24 hours 7 days a week. Consider the mental and emotional benefits of scheduling regular office hours to accommodate your children's needs for the next few weeks.
2. Discuss your need to continue working and explain how your children can help. Discuss the need to continue working so you can meet their basic needs of food and shelter. Make them a part of the solution. Family life will improve and productivity will as well. Every parent needs mental rest from work and quality time with their children. I am grateful I had that quality time, because once the children leave the house, its hard to get that lost time back.
3. Stock your home with non-screen type engaging materials. This is a wonderful time to help them see how they can stimulate their own creativity by engaging in an activities that are not computer related. Unless I am wrong, there may not be any toilet paper to be found in stores, but I am sure there are puzzles, crafts, and activity books the children use to learn independently. Get out the Legos. My children would build for hours. They created cities, radio stations, and theaters, and then did some creative play without me participating.
When left to their own devices and computer and television viewing is forbidden. They will not stare mindlessly at a screen, but will tap into their creativity and entertain themselves for hours. This is an important skill that has been crushed by the reliance on screen entertainment. For me, this is a wonderful learning opportunity since parents won't be able to run business as usual and will have time to train their children in a new form of entertainment. The question is, are parents up for the challenge?
4. Create a Work-Learn-Play Schedule for both you and your children. Depending on the age of the children, independent work periods can range from 20 minutes to 45 minutes. Third graders can manage to focus on planned learning from 30-45 minutes.
Help them see how important their cooperation is and plan something fun you can do every 30 minutes so they have something to look forward to after cooperating:
a. Snack together
b. Read a quick story together or have them draw a picture during independent work periods and then tell you the story behind the picture.
c. Take a walk around the block. It will rejuvenate everyone.
d. Have your children share what they learned during their independent work period. Taking a few minutes to give undivided attention to your children will benefit them more than one can imagine and gain even more cooperation.
Everyone is in the same boat and will understand the need to keep the calls short. The length of phone calls can increase as children extend their attention for longer periods of time.
Something more to think about:
In the last five years or so, I have started hearing disturbing comments from my students that indicate a feeling of deep neglect. All of the negative feelings they are expressing are related to their parents' excessive phone use when they are around.
My third graders are very perceptive and know when a parent says they are listening to them and when they really aren't. Many times this neglect comes out in the form of frustration connected to class work. One student broke down because she was challenged by a math question. "I don't care if I do well or not. It doesn't matter anyway." When I asked if we needed to bring her mother in to discuss her feelings, she replied, "They wouldn't come to a meeting anyway, they are never home, and they don't care about me." Her parents were open to hearing this, and they have taken steps to curb their phone use when she is around. They have made a deliberate attempt to spend quality uninterrupted time with her. Her classroom performance has improved dramatically and her outbursts have ceased.
The following are comments other children have. Your children may be feeling the same way.:
"Her phone is more important than me."
"She says she is listening to me, but I can tell she isn't because she is looking at her phone and saying,'Ah ha, yes,' to stuff I am upset about."
"it's like I am not there and her/his work is more important."
"I wish my parents weren't on their phones all the time." (five year old)
Knowing how your children feel, discussing solutions, and being mindful of phone use will build meaningful relationships and help parents get through this stressful time. Good things can come from this situation!
Please remember to share what your children say. We are all in this together. We are facing situations created by 24-7 business, and we can find a mindful middle ground by sharing what is working.