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How Parents and Their Children Can Avoid Virtual Burnout

As if the coronavirus wasn’t stressful enough, parents and children are also dealing with virtual burnout. Even if you’ve gone back to work a couple of days per week and your children are in hybrids of virtual and in-person class education, your family is spending more time behind screens then ever before.

While burnout doesn’t affect everyone, many people are becoming exhausted and overwhelmed. If not addressed, this can lead to procrastination, anxiety, stress, apathy, irritability, and negativity. Eventually, you may even just shut down.

Before that happens though, try out these 7 techniques to help you and your child avoid getting burned out.

1. Keep a structured, but flexible, routine.

Routines are important for both adults and children. Research shows that having a regular routine can:

  • Help form healthy habits

  • Lower stress

  • Encourages you to take better care of your health

  • Makes you feel more focused and productive

  • Helps you find time to enjoy hobbies and fun activities

A consistent daily routine is also equally important during uncertain and stressful times, like navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you haven’t created a routine yet, or your previous one has broken, here are some basic activities where you should schedule designated times:

  • Waking up and going to bed

  • Meals

  • Getting ready for the day

  • Logging on

  • Breaks

  • Offline work

  • Rest or playtime

  • Homework

When your family gets into a rhythm, having a structured routine creates stability and a sense of normalcy. You should develop a routine together as a family so that everyone is on the same page and can adjust their own schedule to meet their needs.

At the same time, but flexible. If your child is exhausted after a morning of remote learning, don’t force them to do their homework. Give them a chance to rest and recharge -- even if that means switching their schedule around a bit.

2. Create a dedicated place to learn.

Whether you’re working from home or your child is attending classes virtually, everyone needs a dedicated space to work. Preferably, it would be someone that is quiet and free of distractions, like the TV or toys. You could also spruce the space with decorations like artwork, photos, plants, or inspirational post-its.

Additionally, make sure that everyone has the supplies they need and know how to log in. You should also make sure that the WiFi is reliable and can handle the extra bandwidth.

3. Spend quality time together.

Whenever you have a chance, spend time with your children. You don’t have to wait until dinner or the weekend. When they go on a break, join them and ask how they’re doing. Go outside and play when you’re both feeling stressed out.

These are simple ways for you and them to blow off some steam. More importantly, it helps you identify any problems that your child is experiencing. For example, if they’re having difficulty paying attention, brainstorm ideas with them on how they can fix this problem.

However, be respectful of their boundaries. If they want a little alone time to read or play, let them while you go do something that you enjoy.

4. Consider alternatives.

If your child is struggling with remote learning, explore possible alternatives, such as learning pods.

“Learning pods — also called ‘pandemic pods,’ micro-schools or nano-schools — are small groups of students (typically three to 10 children) who learn together outside the classroom but still in person,” explains Dani Blum and Farah Miller in The New York Times. “Some pods are hiring tutors to teach a child’s school curriculum; some pods are sharing teaching duties among parents. Other families are opting out of their kids’ schools entirely and treating a pod like a home-schooling co-op with an agreed-upon curriculum.”

5. Ask for help.

While it’s not easy, there’s no shame in asking for help. For example, maybe you can help your child in the morning and then have your partner take over in the afternoon. This way you both can get your work done while being available as a parent. If that’s not an option, ask a family member or a neighbor if they can lend a hand.

Also, don’t be afraid to be upfront with your manager by asking if you can have a more flexible schedule. And, contact your child’s teacher to discuss potential solutions, like maybe heaving your child watch a recorded lesson instead of attending a live virtual session.

Above anything else, if you or your child are really struggling, please contact a mental health professional as soon as you can.

6. Practice self-care.

Right now, self-care needs to be a priority for everyone in your household. For example, reduce everyone's screen time by going outside to play a game or hike. You could also encourage them to draw, journal, dance, or take a cat nap.

Also, make sure that everyone is getting enough sleep and eating healthy.

7. Don’t push yourselves.

Finally, if you or your children feel like you’re on the brink of burnout, slow down and take a break. Maybe you could take a mental health day or plan a staycation. There’s no need to push yourselves all of the time. Just make sure that your supervisors and child’s teacher are aware of this in advance.

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