As Singapore enters the first week of stricter measures or what we term as “Circuit Breakers”, families enter an unprecedented time of having to care for their children for the majority of the time, with little to no respite. On top of that, many must still manage work at the same time. It is during times like these that parent-child relationships are tested.
TOUCH Family Life (Parenting) conducted a poll survey to understand the concerns and needs of parents who find themselves in such a situation. These are some key concerns highlighted by parents:
- How to give enough attention to our children while working at the same time
- Use of digital devices to keep children occupied to manage work at home
- Managing timetable of home-based learning with children
- Ability to supervise children during home-based learning while managing work
We would like to share some simple and effective strategies to help mitigate such challenges and enable parents and children to manage during this circuit breaker.
Strategy 1: Timetable for the whole family
Come up with a workable timetable for the family, especially when it comes to accessing limited technology resources such as laptops, video conferencing equipment, or even space to do work. Plan for play, work and rest periods for each member of the family. Rest periods will allow for much needed alone time to recover and recalibrate, mentally and emotionally. It can range from 20-30 minutes depending on each individual and what works for the family. Parents who are both working can consider taking turns to attend to work matters (whenever possible) while managing child’s home-based learning. However, the timetable is just a guide. Parents, don’t let it dictate every moment of the day. Even if you can’t keep to it, relax and enjoy some impromptu moments. Surprises can be refreshing too!
Strategy 2: Zoning
This is particularly difficult for families who stay in a smaller sized flats or apartments. Sometimes, it will be helpful to just have an indicator or a sign that says, “Dad/Mom is working now, be with you in XX minutes”. If you have a designated room for work or study, manage expectations by telling your child that a closed door would mean no disturbance. Set time limits for closed-door session to about 45 minutes. Take another 30 minutes period before the next closed-door session. Zoning can include a space to cool off, calm down or have a timeout during a conflict.
Strategy 3: Play as a family and on your own
Set aside time to in a day or every two days to have family fun time. Board games, computer games and role-playing fun can break the monotony and introduce some fun and laughter. It is also a good break from screen time for both parents and children. However, parents can also help support your children to play on their own by providing relevant resources for them to be occupied. This goes beyond the home-based learning assignments that your child is already on. Some digital resources available can be found here:
Strategy 4: Expect conflict, fights, lots of hugs and “I’m sorry”
Being in close proximity for extended periods of time will definitely bring about more conflicts than usual. Parents, you may lose your temper, shout and reprimand your children at some point. Do not beat yourself up over it. We are all human. Expect your children to be restless, argue and fight more often than usual. When situations like these take place, get the affected members of the family to go to their respective safe zones to calm down. Speak to them when all affected members are ready to talk. Encourage one another to apologise, hug and get on with the activity of the day. As Thanos said, “It is inevitable.” We might as well prepare for it.
Strategy 5: Self-care is crucial
Do take time to relax, recalibrate your emotions and mental health. Take time to go for a quick jog or walk (mind the social distance). Parents, take turns to have “me-time” and set aside the almost impossible couple time to talk, and reflect on the day’s happening.
We hope these strategies will give you a good starting point on managing the situation at home better. Parents, as much as you try your very best to fulfil your responsibilities to your work and family, do not stress over every bit of detail and attention. Focus on capturing the “now” moments. Catch that cheeky smile that your child gave when he tries to sneak up on daddy, call out to your children and spouse randomly, and just mouth or whisper an “I love you”. Praise and affirm your children for doing their part at home, big or small. A circuit breaker need not stop the flow of love in the family.
It is going to be challenging but you are not without support. If you need help or someone to talk to about your parenting challenges, feel free to call TOUCH Family Life at 6709 8400 or write to us at [email protected].
TOUCH Integrated Family Group (TIFG) is TOUCH’s newest service group, set up in January 2020. TIFG focuses on Family Resources to help families cope with different stressors along their life course, transition of roles in Family Transitions, Relationships & Growth, and building Family Resilience. The group is made up of services such as ‘TOUCH Children & Youth’, ‘TOUCH Family Life’ and ‘TOUCH Family Enablement’.
With TOUCH’s multi-service experience in meeting the needs of disadvantaged children, youth-at-risk and vulnerable families since 1992, TIFG aims to equip families with resources and enable them to build resilience. This is done through an integrated suite of services to support the family as a unit, with emphasis on education, intervention and advocacy.