Working from home was not a new concept when it started to become more and more prominent in our lives. Working moms and dads had already struggled with balancing work and home life. With the impact of COVID-19, apart from essential workers most of us started working from home. When the severity of the situation became more clear, people had to find creative ways to make their work and home, well, work. To overcome this obstacle, below you will find some tips for working from home moms with special needs children to establish a stronger balance.
Families of children with special needs have a more challenging time when establishing a balance between work and home life. However, we know that you got what it takes as you are resilient and already have the tools to make your child safe and happy.
Here are some tips for working from home moms of special needs children.
Schedule your day
This would probably be a redundant item to mention to parents or caregivers of children with special needs. But scheduling each day and familiarizing your kid about it would alleviate many issues throughout the day. The goal is to replicate a school day but not make it exactly the same. For instance, your child will get up and get ready for school but the time slots are different than usual.
The important thing here is to try to match the blocked periods of time for both your kid and you. If you have a conference call at 10 AM that morning, make sure that you also schedule an activity that your child can handle around that time. Creating a schedule will eliminate conflicts during the day where you absolutely need to take care of something at work and your kid at the same time.
Scheduling and planning the day together with your child will give everyone a sense of control over their time. This is especially important since the pandemic has left many of us feeling not in control of anything. If your child is small, you can make this schedule in pictures. You can use a book for reading time or a TV for entertainment time. Hang the schedule somewhere everyone can see at any time of the day.
Routines and structures are essential for children with special needs like autistic children. Knowing what will come next and what to expect will reduce the chances of meltdowns.
Take care of your mental health
This is like putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on your child. Unlike many people thought at first, working from home is not an easy thing to do, let alone with a toddler at home. Studies have shown that the pandemic and being at home increased anxiety and stress levels, both in parents and in children. Being stressed and having anxiety may eventually lead to frustration, depression, and lack of happiness. That is why it is essential that parents take care of their mental health. If you feel like you need a break, take one. Give yourself some space.
Having feelings that we normally deem negative is normal. We are going through times that no one is prepared for. But parents of children with special needs are resilient. They are the advocates of their children when it comes to getting them what they need, and they are well-informed about the educational needs of their children. So it is essential that parents and caregivers of special needs children remember that they have got what it takes. It is okay to be overwhelmed, and it is okay to ask for help, both from your village and from professionals. You’ll see these are common problems in the community so feel free to ask for tips for moms working from home or even any kinds of tips. People find different ways to cope with all types of situations!
Find what brings you motivation
Sometimes the way we think colors our actions. If you are having a bad day, you may find it challenging to notice nice things that would cheer you up. Remember that most of the time, action comes before motivation. Take stock of your feelings, try to figure out its root cause, and work on it. Most of the time you will see that you are capable of overcoming these negative feelings and you are more than enough to provide your child the best you can and also do an amazing job at work. It’s understandable how frustrated you might be when you are working from home mom who also takes care of a special needs child occasionally. But taking good care of them depends on how you are feeling, so make sure to check up on your mental health going forward.
Social support and a support system in place will help tremendously. Even if we can’t be with each other, technology has advanced enough that we can talk to our loved ones virtually, share our feelings and thoughts, and ask for help when we need it.
Talk to your kid about COVID-19
COVID-19 has baffled all of us. For special needs children who already may have a tough time making sense of the world around them, the pandemic has been especially difficult to understand. That is why talking to your kid about it may alleviate some of their anxieties and stress.
Here are some more tips for moms working from home:
When you are talking to your child about it, it is important that you stay calm and be reassuring. Your child will observe and follow all of your verbal and nonverbal reactions, so when you stay calm, they will also stay calm. Emphasize that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe and healthy, and staying home is a measure to do so. State that you still need to work and they still need to get educated and give them space to express their feelings in a way that they are comfortable. What you will try to do is help them put their feelings into perspective.
Give them space to express feelings
When the topic of rules and practices emerges, explain to your child how you will make a schedule to be on top of your work and their school work. Help them understand that this situation will pass and you will be there available to listen to their feelings and pay them attention. Also, discuss that being at home doesn’t mean that they are on holiday. A new structure will be implemented and you will both follow these structures based on your responsibilities. Reassure them that they will still be able to do their favorite activities as long as it is safe.
Be clear and factual
Try to be as clear and factual as you can be. Honesty and accuracy will go a long way with children with special needs because they will not imagine the worst of the worst when you have explained the situation. Explain this virus and disease in a simple way that they can understand and ways to protect themselves from it. Remember that children listen even when you are not talking to them. So don’t just say ”Everything will be alright” and listen to worrying news on the TV. Try not to use euphemisms, and ask them if they understood what you say along the way. You can then gauge your explanations based on their answers and questions.
Give them choices
Yes, the pandemic has made us all feel like we are not in control of anything now. But giving your child some say in basic things will give them this sense of control and security. As children get older, being independent becomes much more important. For children with special needs, it is especially significant as everything you do is toward equipping them with the tools they need to be independent. One way to give them more independence is by offering them choices.
This could be simple stuff like deciding on daily activities. When you are drawing out a daily schedule together, ask them what they would like to do in their spare time as an activity. When you are fixing up dinner, they can be in charge of an ingredient, or maybe put the dishes on the table. These small things will give your child confidence and a sense of control in such a challenging time. Planning ahead of time will also allow them to be entertained on their own terms during the day while you are working.
Use technology to your advantage
Planned and quality screen time will be your best friend. There are amazing technological tools out there that will keep your child busy while also learning. If your child has a friend that they miss and want to see, you can set up a virtual meeting with them and their parents. As long as screen time is not excessively overused, it will come in handy when you are working from home.
Gamification tips for moms working from home
Gamified educational content will practically take some load off of your shoulders. Gamification is the utilization of game mechanics in any area. It is especially beneficial when used within the frame of education. The gamified and educational content work on your smartphone or tablet so it’s accessible. These tools will repeat words or phrases as long as the child wants to interact with them. This way you can cut yourself a little slack and have these games take over some of the educational work and relax for a bit!
Repeat, Rewind, Reinforce
Repetition and consistency are the backbones when it comes to special education. They are also what make up the most amount of time and energy in a day. You can use educational apps and programs suitable for your child’s educational needs. This will alleviate some of your work and enable you to focus on your own. Schedule quality screen time activities for your child’s educational efforts and use positive reinforcement when they do the exercises.
Get help whenever you need it and can
Use your village. A support system is really important even when there is no pandemic around. You may feel burned out dealing with many things at once. So try and get help from your relatives or your partner when you can.
This also goes for professional help. Reach out to your child’s teacher or other professionals that your child interacts with. You can try talking with SLPs as well as school staff who may have helped you with your child’s IEP. Although you are resilient and used to multitasking, sometimes all of this takes a toll on a person.
Also, don’t forget to get professional help for your mental health. Remember to keep it as a priority in life to treat yourself nicely and don’t ever put self-care on the back burner.