Managing the Stress of Homeschooling
Homeschooling can pave the way for spill over and cross over of stress
With school closures once again, the reality on our daily life is that it has added another layer of stress on the family dynamic with many of us grappling with managing constant change. This isn’t a criticism, this is the reality right now.
Stress experienced within a family unit during these times can be understood as spillover or crossover. Spillover is when stress is localised in one area such as parenting or care giving which in turn creates difficulty in the ability to perform in another areas such as work.
Crossover is when stress that is experienced by one family member leads to increased stress felt by other family members which can in turn effect everyone in that unit. Right now there are multiple stressors which are palpable within the home and during these times, spillover and crossover stress is very real and the last thing many people need are more plates to spin.
Let’s look at some of these stressors:
Firefighting constant changes, supporting the family through broken routines, negotiating emotions and from that making more adaptions. Managing uncertainty and endless negativity and anxiety inducing information whilst holding relationships together, dealing with current financial implications, managing working from home and managing risks around exposure to covid-19.
There’s also managing health needs when access to health care is limited and working out how to manage withdrawal of services. Managing own anxieties and emotional and mental health needs as well as digging in for creative ideas to pass the time. Not forgetting the soothing of activated emotional responses, answering the constant questions about the current state and finding the right way to give the answers you don’t know. Then another straw for the donkey’s back…
I don’t mind owning out loud that I am no school teacher. I am a parent, home organiser, financial banker, shopper, meal planner, everyone’s personal strategist, first aider, solution focused problem solver, counsellor, emotional management lead, life skill mentor and life coach, keeper of patience, homework supervisor, finder of all lost things, home rules and boundary setter, chief waste manager and recycler and holder down of a job to maintain the home I have.
….but core subject teacher? I make no apologies to own that I am not that. Nor do I have the time to plan timetables, negotiate moods influenced by studying at home, deal with lack of motivation and constant procrastination. Manage meltdowns, run the house, be the soother of the emotions, the monitor of all work done when I don’t even know how my son got to the answer he did in the first place? All whilst trying to work from home myself. Head space for all of this? Honestly, no and for me hearing another 2 months of homeschooling made me feel that little bit sadder right now.
Emotionally surviving the next round of homeschooling.
I don’t mind sharing with you that my anxiety is through the roof and rather than ignore it like I did last time, this time I am going to work with my anxiety to make this a healthier time for us as a unit. I am still including structure and routine but there’s a strong focus on emotional well-being this time round.
Routine gives us edges but last time I was driven by; “I have too” “I must” and my boys got caught up with that. I was strict over screen time and study time as I was trying to recreate school because I was worried that they would fall behind, more my youngest son.
The stress came from not recognising the absolute difference between homeschooling and going to school and then the whole lock down, isolating and shielding and working from home stuff in between. My routine and edges we’re too immovable and it created a difficult time. Lesson’s were learned and i’m not repeating the same patterns this time round. Routines and structure is present but it is much more relaxed with space in between for us all to breath.
Simplify and relax the expectations.
There is a world wide pandemic going on and yet last time I seemed to be so focused on maintaining that high level of productivity I was used to giving and not recognising the global crisis.
My mantra this time; “It’s okay to know I am not a school teacher.” I say that over and over again and it’s the permission slip I needed to release the burden of trying to be one. Teachers are amazing at what they do, I am amazing at what I do and I don’t have to be everything to everyone all of the time.
What I am is a parent doing her best to deliver some home learning which can include watching a Blue Planet together and discussing whilst eating a box of maltesers and eating a grab bag of prawn cocktail crisps.
Yesterday we talked about how we can reduce waste and recycle at home more than we do. We worked together to organise home focused activities such as team-work house-work, budgeting and meal planning was also achieved. Many things I would normally do on my own because it’s more efficient if I do them, I used them as activities and actually those jobs got done in a way that allowed me the platform to teach some life skills. Bottom line; Life skills, learning independence and team work with the outcome of simplifying has become less stressful.
When i’m homeschooling I can’t work my job as effectively. Trying to force it to happen as I did last time will not work so I have to prioritise the work I can do during that time and build in focused time where I can effectively do just that; focus. I have become more efficient in a shorter space of time. I may not do as much as before but the quality of what I can do is better than I was producing in homeschooling 1.0.
Let’s face it, we are in a crisis and when we are in a crisis we are having to deal with multiple challenges and pains with far less resources. The scales are not tipped in our favour and easing our high level expectations is essential.
My family is different from everyone else’s family. My needs and my children’s needs are different from everyone else’s so I will not take criticism or feel criticised or try to be the perfect mum as measurable by other people’s standards. I will be the best I can be, I will still find things in the day I am grateful for, even if that’s finding the time to have a shower before midday. I will ease up on us all and recognise that everyday the most important thing is to check in with how we are all feeling and start there before the Maths book opens.
Get talking. Avoid the overwhelm as much as possible and keep talking. We all have something to share and chances are you’re friends that you don’t want to bother could be feeling something similar, even if they aren’t right now, they could in the near future so when we make those emotional connections and dare to be real with each other we can create strong reliable resources that can be emotional and mental health life lines.
Also talk to each other at home, share feelings. It’s okay to feel however you feel, it’s okay for your partner or children to feel however they feel. We don’t have the answers but what we can do is give them a forum to share, we can listen and validate their feelings and soothe the best we can, when emotions spill remember that your child or your partner isn’t trying to intentionally give you a hard time, they are experiencing a hard time themselves and this is the same for you. With open communication about how you feel you can remain understanding with each others perspectives and stresses.
So what is our role as homeschooling parents?
For me my focus isn’t solely on the academic side of things, I am responsible firstly for creating a safe, warm and accepting environment where we can bring in some creativity, well-being, relaxedness and manage stress at a pace that is variable and requires attention. From this place we can build in maths, english and other topics that will become more enjoyable.
As parents and carers of children with learning disabilities or autism, we are pivotal in their life as much as ours and we must acknowledge our own needs and emotional health in this in order to keep navigating such uncertain times whilst maintaining positive connection within the family unit.
It is important to start from the place of you. This can be a deeply uncomfortable place to start if you being a little more at your centre isn’t something you normally engage with but see it as the strongest strategy right now.
The more you resource yourself the stronger you will be within this crisis, now whilst this blog isn’t going to provide you with the golden goose of answers as a parent I want to share this permission slip with you.
Our well-being, our partners and children’s well-being is the top priority and everything else needs to fit in around that. You are amazing and you are doing the most amazing job in this global crisis and there will be many boxes not ticked through this new lockdown, that’s okay just keep ticking those emotional health support boxes and you will always find the resources to overcome each hurdle as they roll towards you.
Keep ticking the family connection boxes, keeping ticking the not getting out of your PJ’s all day if that’s what it takes boxes. Have a 4 day home learning week or a 3 day or whatever it is that you want or need to do. Work this out in the way that works for you.
Most importantly please do talk to someone if you feel that you are really struggling, the stress of these burdens can increase insomnia, anxiety, low moods and depression. Please keep talking.
Bottom line? Our A game changes everyday, some days we can be all fresh home cooking, 5 veg on a plate, dancing through the kitchen, not a care int he world about splashed paint, pens and crayons all over the floor and laughter filling the house like each day is a summer month filled with sparkles and sunshine. Other days it’s pasta pesto, the walls are too close, patience is low and the feeling we have about ourselves and everything else is pretty pants. Remember you are a bloody awesome parent and you are a bloody awesome carer and that A game is different everyday so look after yourself, recognise where your line is and what you need to do to help you not get to close to it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post on homeschooling challenges and I hope there’s a little gem or two in there for you.
We’d love to hear from you, your experiences, guidance and resources.