For many parents and caregivers, working from home during COVID-19 (while your children are out of school or day care) can present unique challenges, especially if you are caring for a child with emotional, behavioral or cognitive differences.
As a mother of three children, one with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities who requires intensive 24/7 supports and yearlong special education, I admit I am feeling the pinch of juggling home-schooling and daily routines, while trying to work full-time.
While this is no easy feat, there are steps parents and caregivers can take while trying to adapt to these new changes and find some relief along the way.
Create a schedule for everyone: Set expectations for the day so your family knows what to expect. Try to model the day according to your children’s pre-COVID-19 schedule/school day. Schedule meals and breaks for the same time every day.
Divide and conquer: Work with your spouse/partner, or other family members living in your house, to take shifts to split up home-schooling time and work time. This may provide needed flexibility to get your work done and keep the kids on track.
Create a home workspace: Get creative – your home workspace doesn’t necessarily have to be a separate room but, perhaps, a corner of a room with a divider and noise cancelling headphones.
Consider hiring a caregiver: Companies like Care.com will match your family with a highly-trained caregiver who is qualified to meet your child’s unique needs. (Note: You may be able to hire a caregiver who is designated strictly to your home to ensure safety during COVID-19.) In addition, consider hiring a family member to help out while you work for a couple of hours if he or she is able.
Look into your state’s public assistance programs: Learn about eligibility requirements and how to apply for medical assistance programs and/or social security income. Your child may be eligible for assistance because of his or her disability. Look for supports such as respite, home healthcare and waivers.
If possible, take time off from work: The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take time off from work if they are ill or caring for an ill family member. (Note: Not all companies offer this opportunity. Please check with your human resources department.)
Most importantly, take things in stride: Be forgiving and kind to yourself – and your children. We are all trying to adjust to this new normal. For a good laugh, watch this BBC News reporter give a live broadcast while trying to juggle working from home alongside his kids – it happens to us all!
These are challenging times, but with planning and patience, you and your family will be able to successfully navigate the maze of working, home-schooling and scheduling – together.
Amy Kelly, MBA, MNM, is the mother to Danny, Annie and Ryan. Annie is diagnosed with moderate to severe autism, verbal apraxia, intellectual and developmental disabilities and general anxiety disorder. Amy is the National Director of Family Engagement for Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit providers of behavioral healthcare, and serves as a family representative on several special needs boards in the community, locally and nationally. In addition, she participates with other patients and families in efforts supported by the American Board of Pediatrics Foundation and the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network to address children with special needs and the importance of quality care.