An Open Invitation to Piers Morgan

An Open Invitation to Piers Morgan

Piers,

In light of the position you find yourself in, we would like to invite you to attend an Anti Racism workshop we host every 2 months at Beyond School which is designed to highlight and educate attendees about many of the issues raised by Meghan Markle in her interview. 

Many (all?) of these are deeply and insidiously embedded into the royal family, into the heart of British society and our communities, and indeed in your own psyche, beliefs and behaviour. These are, perhaps, outside your own consciousness or knowing and they include:

  • The concepts of white privilege and colonialism, the origins of these and how these continue to impact society today.
  • The fact that being white means you are inherently racist, by default of living within a society and within systems which uphold white privilege and protect the white men who designed them.
  • The idea that you have the right to dismiss another human’s lived experience and exclaim you don’t believe a word they are saying – whether in relation to mental health, race or any other experience someone else has lived through, which you have not.

Failing to understand that you have the right and privilege to make claims like, “Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’m off to spend more time with my opinions.” when there are many around you who don’t have the same freedom of speech because of the colour of their skin is offensive and highlights your ignorance of society today. 

For a broadcaster of your experience and stature to be so willfully ignorant in such matters is hugely concerning for those of us raising children and the next generations in a world led by privileged white men, like you, who have no awareness of the impact of their words on what is, in fact, a majority of people when it comes to the global population.

While many seem to be focusing on the mental health aspect of your criticisms – a topic that a larger majority of (white) people can get behind, it is blindingly obvious that this focus hides the inherently and insidiously racist undertones of your criticisms which will be felt and seen by this supposed ‘minority’ of people. 

Let us assure you, we see this. We see you and we see and challenge your racism. 

And we invite you to educate yourself further so as to grow as a person and better serve the society you live in, and join the numerous white allies committed to doing this work. You can click here to register for the workshop on March 20th, 2021.

Sincerely,

  • Lea, COO of Beyond School and Anti-Racism workshop co-host.
  • Sharon, teacher of Anti-Racism at Beyond School.
  • Jenn, CEO of Beyond School.
  • Lucy, CPO of Beyond School.

The Why, What & How Of Beyond School…

The Impact (And Opportunity) Of The Global Pandemic On Your Child’s Education

The Impact (And Opportunity) Of The Global Pandemic On Your Child’s Education

When the global pandemic first hit in March 2020, we were inundated with people wanting to know how to cope with learning at home or what they needed to consider if they were going to start homeschooling their children. They – and we – were in crisis, reactive mode.

Fast forward 9 months and here we are again, facing the same global crisis and with the threat to our schools and our children ever present. Not a huge amount has changed on that front – schools are still scrabbling to make the best of a never-before-experienced situation, parents are still hoping things will start to improve at some point because surely this IS going to improve at some point, right?

Some families have already taken the plunge, fed up with the constant in/out/in/out of school, they’ve opted to home educate full time. Some families are still struggling big time with remote learning.

What is becoming obvious – from the stats – is that this is NOT a temporary blip. The impact of COVID on the education and learning of this generation’s children could be far reaching, well beyond the immediate crisis…

This UN report states that:

  • Learning losses also threaten to extend beyond this generation and erase decades of progress, not least in support of girls and young women’s educational access and retention.
  • Some 23.8 million additional children and youth (from pre-primary to tertiary) may drop out or not have access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone.
  • By mid April 2020, 94 per cent of learners worldwide were affected by the pandemic, representing 1.58 billion children and youth, from pre-primary to higher education, in 200 countries.
  • The disruptions caused by COVID-19 to everyday life meant that as many as 40 million children worldwide have missed out on early childhood education in their critical pre-school year.
  • Researchers in Canada estimate that the socio-economic skills gap could increase by more than 30 per cent due to the pandemic.
  • The economic loss might reach $16,000 of lost earnings over a student’s lifetime, translating over time into $10 trillion of lost earnings globally.

We COULD see this solely as the crisis it clearly is. We COULD also see this as an opportunity to ‘do’ education for our children entirely differently. 

The uncertainty of whether school is open or closed…

Not only does this have a practical impact (childcare, the impact on your work etc.), this has an emotional impact on your children; not knowing from one week to the next whether they’ll be in school or at home is tough. And the impact on their education and learning? We don’t yet know the long term impact of such disruption but are you willing to leave this to chance given the likelihood of this continuing for quite some time yet?

Providing some consistency for your children throughout this time can help; this could be in the form of an online course (we have some excellent ones taught by world class teachers!) or other activities that aren’t dependent upon their school.

Making the mindset shift that learning happens everywhere – not just within the 4 walls of a classroom – can also help; this takes the pressure off their entire education being something that happens solely at school and empowers you to create learning experiences everywhere. (Need some help with this? We have workshops, bootcamps and email courses for exactly this!)

The frustrations of remote learning…

Many schools have simply moved their lessons online, requiring kids to sit on Zoom for 6-8 hours a day. As remote workers for almost two decades, the very thought of having to spend 6-8 hours a day on Zoom, 5 days a week is appalling. This is why zoom calls are so exhausting – and we’re asking our kids to do this for an entire school day?!?

From what we’re hearing from parents everywhere, moving classes online is proving a frustrating, disengaging and disempowering experience for students. It does NOT have to be like this!

At Beyond School, we are pioneering a progressive approach to online learning…

One that incorporates ALL the hallmarks of an exceptional online AND learning experience (incorporating asynchronous learning, gamification AND community!). If your remote learning experience has been poor so far, it’s possible to show your kids that learning online CAN be fun, engaging and something they look forward to.

ASYNCHRONOUS COMMUNICATION: One of the benefits of remote work is the opportunity to communicate asynchronously; that is, communication doesn’t happen real time in the form of a typical conversation…there are sometimes longer gaps in between one person saying something and the response received (think email, online messaging – it doesn’t always have to happen at the same time and people are free to respond at a time that they choose). This allows greater pause for thought; it allows for more conscious and intentional communication.

This can be a huge benefit when it comes to online learning – the ability to create more time to learn, to reflect, to question in a way that suits the individual child versus a bombardment of lessons and teaching, non stop, for 6 hours a day. It allows and encourages clarity in communication and requires the development of solid written communication skills – not just grammatically, well-spelled and well-punctuated paragraphs but words that effectively communicate what isn’t being communicated verbally.

GAMIFICATION: One important feature that is also being shown to be increasingly important in engaging learners, online and off, is gamification; creating a sense of healthy competition (either with others or with oneself) and adding elements of play into the learning experience. We are building elements of gamification into many of our learning experiences at Beyond School, especially for children.

COMMUNITY: As remote workers ourselves, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of building community; as a leadership team we are spread across the UK and Canada and have wide, diverse, global networks built from years of living and working online as our typical MO. 

When kids learn online, within the same school group, they miss out on a phenomenal opportunity to broaden their horizons and learn with other students, globally (or even in the same town/city/country). At a time when their worlds are more limited and more restricted than ever before, they’re missing out on an amazingly rich and simple way to expand their worlds beyond their local school and classroom.  

At Beyond School, we also have a VERY different approach to measuring progress and success in our learning experiences…

How are you measuring the efficacy of the 6-8 hours your kid spends on Zoom every day? We measure it by the amount of passion for learning our kids come away with, we measure it by the love of learning we’re cultivating in the children we teach, and we measure it by some of the other skills children learn at Beyond School – the skills we know will stand them in good stead for the world of (likely remote) work THEY will also be going into.

At Beyond School, we are no longer in reactive, crisis mode…

We have had 9 months to watch what’s going on, jump in and support people in the trenches, meet families’ needs with strategically-designed bootcamps, workshops, courses and classes AND we too have been learning, at warp speed, as we go.

If Your School Isn’t Getting It Right, There Are Plenty of Options…

As we say frequently, Beyond School is a third path. We do not believe that the choice is ONLY between homeschooling or school. We believe in helping you find an approach to your children’s education that works for you, for your children and for your whole family. So, for you, this might mean:

  • Providing consistency during the in/out of isolating from school by enrolling kids in a world class course for the term. Then, whatever happens with school, there’s learning built into their schedule which is NOT dependent upon attending school and is taught by a world class teacher, online.
  • Beefing up your own skills as a facilitator to your kids with a parenting or education learning experience for YOU!
  • Deciding to better model the things you want your kids to learn – such as you taking control of your own career in the face of uncertainty, deepening your anti-racism journey, learning something new such as Spanish or body percussion rhythm & groove.
  • Taking full control of your children’s education and learning by committing to a different path from the conventional, pulling them out of school and going ‘all in’ with an alternative approach to education.

Whatever path you choose, we can help. And if you’re not sure of the path that’s right for you, we can help with that too!

Why Juggling No Longer Works (Did It Ever?). And What To Aim For Instead.

Why Juggling No Longer Works (Did It Ever?). And What To Aim For Instead.

The coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality, new global data from UN Women suggests…

Even before the pandemic, it was estimated women were doing about three quarters of the 16 billion hours of unpaid work that are done each day around the world. In other words, before coronavirus, for every one hour of unpaid work done by men, three hours was done by women. Now that figure is higher. 

“If it was more than three times as much as men before the pandemic, I assure you that number has at least doubled,” says Ms Bhatia, UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia.” – Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-55016842

This is just one among numerous reports about the impact of the pandemic on women in particular.

No wonder the juggle feels even more stressful, even more imperative and even more is at stake. We are under more pressure than ever before.

We are being paid less than ever and doing even more of the work. Careers are in jeopardy. The role models we’d worked so hard to become to our daughters AND sons, gone in one fell swoop. Gender equality is just one pretty serious casualty of this pandemic.

On top of the usual juggle of work/life/kids, parents – and mothers in particular – are now juggling:

  • School disruption and chaos, with frequent bouts of learning at home or periods off school, in isolation.
  • Their own work and careers hanging in the balance, or working from home with the kids and no separation of the two.
  • The additional emotional toll of financial stress, the constant threat to ill health of family, friends and loved ones from the virus and the impact of social isolation and a world that looks very different from last year.

Reports like the one above – about the macro, bigger picture impact of the pandemic – are being felt at the micro, day to day level by families everywhere. And it is unsustainable.

Why Juggling Is Entirely The Wrong Approach…

Juggling implies keeping separate, distinct entities under control all at the same time…

  • You’ve still gotta make sure your kids are thriving at school, despite the chaos.
  • You’ve still gotta make sure you’re earning enough to pay your bills.
  • You’ve still gotta make sure your relationship is solid despite the additional stress.
  • You’ve still gotta make sure you’re keeping on top of the usual household and life admin duties.

In the pre-COVID way of doing things, we had boundaries enforced upon us to help keep these things separate, so we could move between them a little more easily…

  • The kids went to school, leaving you several hours in the day to focus on work/life/household/social stuff.
  • You went to work, to a place with space dedicated to you doing that job with no distractions or disturbances from the rest of your life (kids, partners, houses to clean).
  • You went to the shops or to the bar/pub/restaurant to get your social and fun fix.

These were clear and distinct physical boundaries to help you shift your focus from one part of your life to another, without them ever really having to mix. And now? 

Now, we don’t need to put on our work clothes, step into that work ‘persona’ and head to the office. We don’t get to book the babysitter, dress up and head out, dropping the ‘mum’ vibe and swapping it for the ‘adult gagging to have some fun’ vibe. 

These days we are working from home trying to stop the kids from bombing our zoom calls…

…The kids are either learning at home trying to get to grips with lessons online or not seeing their friends socially outside of the classroom and subjected to staggered start times, staggered lunch times, staggered play times and more…

…We are socialising at home through screens and on Zoom, we are eating at home, exercising at home, and shopping from home.

There’s no need to get dressed up or become someone else to fit in. There are fewer physical separations and boundaries. Everything is blending into one…

But what if that’s how it should have been all along?

What if the physical separation of different parts of our lives has been doing us a disservice? Encouraging us to separate parts of ourselves and not integrate? What if we’ve been living within these artificially created, imposed-from-outside boundaries without questioning whether they actually work best for us?

Let’s imagine a different way…

Imagine if you could show up to a work call knowing it’s ok if your kids wander into shot. And not just ok, but welcomed and encouraged.

Imagine if you could chill out about your kid’s education knowing that you’ve set things up in a way to trust they’re learning anywhere and everywhere not just when they’re at school/in an online classroom.

Imagine if you could feel connected to some of your closest friends who don’t even live in the same town as you but live halfway round the world, and yet it feels like you’re as close as you can be and that an in-person meeting, whenever it happens, will deepen and strengthen that bond but isn’t fundamental to the relationship thriving.

Imagine if you were surrounded by people – relatives, friends and colleagues – who celebrated downtime, relaxation and self care, NOT just achievement, full to do lists, productivity and getting all the things done. Who wanted deep connection and communication, not just the superficial, surface stuff.

Would that feel easier? Would the stress and impact of COVID feel more manageable and comfortable if that was all a reality?

(How) Is this possible?

At Beyond School, we talk about ending the juggle by making some key mindset shifts and then building your habits, actions and lives driven by, based upon, around and to support these shifts and new beliefs.

This may require you to do some of the deeper work. To change your mind, to change some deeply embedded beliefs…it doesn’t always happen overnight (though it can!).

These shifts include consciously choosing to believe and know…

  1. That you are the priority. No guilt, no shame. Put yourself first. Always. You can’t give from an empty well, you must put your own life jacket and oxygen mask on first if you’re going to support others.
  2. You can choose to be the model you want to be for your kids. Consciously. No repeating the patterns from generations past without questioning whether they still serve you and your family, or not. You can choose to model the beliefs YOU choose, not the ones handed down to you as ‘this is just the way things are’. BE the change you want to see in the world, MODEL this to your kids and those around you. They will do what you do, not what you say.
  3. Integrate, don’t separate. Consciously create a life that allows you to – or even better, encourages and empowers you to – show up WHOLE, everywhere. No more hiding one part of your life from the other. No more juggling separate areas of your life. No more trying to keep things separate.

When you act from a place of deeply believing these three things, other things begin to shift for you. You will find tools and resources to:

  • Identify and hold boundaries you never could before (and didn’t even know were needed), even with the most challenging relationships in your life.
  • Identify, acknowledge and get YOUR needs met, at no-one else’s expense.
  • Identify, acknowledge and meet other peoples’ needs, but NOT at your expense.

These three things in themselves can lead to:

  1. Better health and wellbeing; a body which serves you well rather than lets you down when you need it most.
  2. Better relationships; nurturing, nourishing and mutually respectful and beneficial connections which enhance and lift you up rather than drag you down or keep you small.
  3. Better sex; let’s delve into that one another time because it’s SO worth it!
  4. Better parenting; being the kind of parent you always thought and hoped you’d be without having to compromise elsewhere.
  5. Better finances; a healthy relationship with earning, having and spending money.
  6. Better career options; unlimited opportunities and potential that you create yourself rather than relying on others to ‘give’ these to you.

And when you begin to surround yourself with other people doing the same, you will see another way…

You’ll start to see examples of people – of other women – who have done it/are doing it differently. They are nothing special, they have no special skills that you can’t gain, they are not doing anything that you couldn’t do, except…they have the particular mindset and a different set of beliefs that perhaps you don’t yet have. And they act from these beliefs and from this mindset, ignoring the doubts and fear and guilt and shame.

They consciously craft a life – a daily routine – that works for them and their family. There is no mad rush to get to school. There’s no skipping meals because there’s just no time. There’s no rushing from home to work to the shops, to the pub then back home again, with barely a beat in between.

This consciously chosen approach to life will…

Shake up the way you think about work and your career. You won’t be satisfied with working just to make money, but sure that’s a start.

Shake up the way you think about money and finances. You won’t be satisfied with making ‘just enough’. You want more and there is NO guilt or shame in claiming that.

Shake up the way you think about your kids, about parenting them, about educating them and about the way you are shaping their lives and what life you’re setting them up for.

Shake up the way you think about yourself, your own wellbeing and your own needs and wants.

If you want more of the same, this approach IS not for you. If you have a suspicion there’s a different way, this IS for you.

If your life isn’t panning out the way you thought it would or if you’re just marking time, treading water and you’re NOT living every single day intentionally and consciously and doing the things you want, when you want, this is for you.

Watch Jenn, Lea & Lucy Talk More About How To End The Juggle…

Mindset Shift #1

Mindset Shift #2

Mindset Shift #3

Are You Teaching Your Kids This One Vital Skill They Need To Thrive Through the Covid-19 Pandemic & Beyond?

Are You Teaching Your Kids This One Vital Skill They Need To Thrive Through the Covid-19 Pandemic & Beyond?

How are you coping with the endless squabbles, frequent fisticuffs and constant bickering in your household during the lockdown – or is that just our family?!

Dealing with emotions can be hard at the best of times, especially in a blended family of six –add the stress of this pandemic when we’re all under the same roof with little opportunity for respite – and it’s a melting pot of high emotions and ongoing drama.

Pandemic or not, one of the most important themes we focus on when it comes to ‘educating’ our children is emotional management and regulation. Why?

Because EVERY single thing we experience in life creates a response in us – often a physical response and always an emotional response.

Sadly, so very many of us are conditioned, from early childhood, to ignore or deny these responses (feelings) and so we grow into adulthood spectacularly unaware of our own emotions and unable to express, discuss and sometimes even feel them.  

The result?

We move through the world not understanding our own reactions, responses and behaviour, unable to understand others’ behaviours either, and end up repeating dysfunctional patterns, and creating or staying in dysfunctional relationships over and over again…

It doesn’t have to be like this. To us, understanding, feeling, processing and being able to manage our emotions is as fundamental as the three Rs! 

So how do you help children learn about their emotions – how to feel them, how to make sense of them, and how to manage and regulate them?

1. Create Emotional Space

The beauty of emotions is that there is no right or wrong way to feel. One of the things that sets humans apart from other living things is our ability to feel with a wide range of emotions and yet our emotional literacy is at an all-time low.

Many of us find it hard to identify and name the emotion we’re feeling which makes understanding and exploration of it challenging (and change almost impossible), and so we default to patterns that aren’t always useful.

For example, anger is a key ‘displacing’ emotion – because anger often hides a wealth of deeper feelings: Hurt, grief, betrayal, rejection, abandonment… 

  • It’s the 6 year old who kicks his sister in the stomach in anger, because underneath the anger, he’s feeling hurt and betrayed that she chose to play on her own instead of with him.
  • It’s the father who screams at his wife the next morning over a seemingly tiny incident, because he’s feeling hurt and rejected that she was too tired for sex last night. 

How do we address and change these default reactions and patterns? Creating and holding space for feelings and emotions is the first and fundamental step.

How do you do this? By making emotions ‘ok’ in your family…

  • “It’s ok to feel how you feel.”
  • “No-one can tell you how to feel about this.”
  • “You are ‘allowed’ to feel exactly how you want to feel.”
  • “It is ok to feel.”

Once you’ve created the space to feel emotions, cultivating a space for curiosity, exploration and discussion encourages children (and adults) to learn how to verbalise and talk about their feelings…

  • “How does this feel for you?”
  • “What words would you use to describe how you feel?”
  • “Does it feel like …?” (The goal is to help them find the words that feel right to them, not put words in their mouth that don’t feel right to them).
  • “I wonder where that feeling came from…what do you think?”
  • “What caused/triggered that feeling?”

The more emotional literacy we help children cultivate when they’re young, the better their ability to navigate any situation life will throw at them and create deeper, more authentic and more fulfilling relationships in all areas of their life.

2. Use Sportscasting 

Many adults find it tough to talk about emotions – it’s a skill we can get better at though it’s not one many of us have been encouraged to cultivate and so we find ourselves in repeating patterns…

  • Consider that argument you have on repeat with someone close to you; the one you can never seem to resolve and which pushes your buttons like nothing else. 
  • Think about the person at work who you cannot bear to be around but have to work closely with, even though they may never have actually done anything ‘wrong’.
  • Consider the overbearing mother who just won’t let you live your own life without comment or judgment even though you’re a capable, functioning adult! 

Many of these feel like unresolvable, unchangeable situations. They are not because while you have no control over other people, you have full and sole control over yourself, and that’s all you need. This is the message we give to our children, over and over.

So how you do initiate a difficult, potentially conflict-causing conversation about what might really be going on underneath the surface? By using a technique I call ‘sportcasting’.

This is a technique I’ve honed based on Janet Lansbury’s method for addressing difficult toddler behaviour.

Sportscasting is a valuable way to get underneath any unconscious, game-playing devices or indirect, passive aggressive ways of communicating because it brings out the pattern into the open, puts a name to it, and allows both parties to address what’s actually happening in the dynamic between them from a place of conscious awareness.

Being able to verbalise what might actually be going on under the surface, on behalf of someone who can’t yet express it themselves, is a powerful way to step out of that pattern, especially for children.

Why It Works

It’s hard, in the heat of a moment, to maintain a clear head, especially if you’ve been triggered. It’s also hard to hear and understand what’s actually being said when the words sometimes don’t appear to make sense or don’t match your sense of what’s actually going on.

Stepping into sportscasting mode allows you to instantly and immediately step out of the drama, get yourself into a more adult space, and observe what’s happening as a more passive onlooker, than get sucked into a back-and-forth, emotionally-charged exchange which does nobody any good.

It allows you to look beneath the surface of what’s being said, to understand what’s actually going on, and empowers you to see things from a different (their) perspective and why they’re behaving and responding as they are, because you begin to understand where it’s coming from.

How Do You Do It?

To begin sportscasting, there’s a process you can use…

  • Step 1: Observe and verbally reflect back your experience of their behaviour.
  • Step 2: Identify what triggered the behaviour in the first place.
  • Step 3: Identify and encourage verbal expression of the emotion/feeling being displayed.
  • Step 4: Provide space for discussion to take place.

I’ve written a more detailed breakdown of how to do each step here. And if all else fails…

Use A Simplified Version of Sportscasting

The key here is to sportscast the behaviour you’re experiencing and then ask a direct question to be answered, which creates space for constructive and open dialogue instead of mudslinging or further game playing…

  • “It sounds like you’re really angry at me for changing this filing system; what could I have done differently to make it work better for you too?”
  • “It sounds like you’re frustrated by the lack of progress; is there something that’d help you to feel more ok with the process?”
  • “It feels like you’re really upset by something I’ve done; can you tell me what that is?”
  • “It feels like you really want to control what I do; can we talk about why that is and how that feels for each of us?”

3. Agree On Positive Forms of Communication 

There are many ways of communicating that we learn as we grow up that keep us rooted in patterns that don’t serve us well in adulthood. These include:

  • Indirectness
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • Game playing
  • Name calling

We use these because they’ve either been modelled to us by our primary caregivers or because we’ve learned to use them to get our needs met when we haven’t been empowered to do it differently.

How we relate to and communicate with people is fundamental to our experience of life; none of us lives in a vacuum and yet we continue to use communication that is harmful to our relationships and our own and others’ emotional wellbeing because we’ve never been taught anything other. 

In our family, we consciously and openly talk a lot about the things we value as a family when it comes to how we communicate because how we do this has an emotional impact on everyone.

To us, clear and honest communication, kindness and respect, etc. are important and so we encourage our children to use forms of communication that are:

  • Direct
  • Take ownership of their emotions
  • Respectful
  • Kind

You might like to consider and explicitly agree as a family how you’d like to communicate too. This agreement can then form the basis of all your communications with each other and has everyone’s buy-in.

It doesn’t mean it will always happen (we still get name-calling, game playing and indirectness rearing their ugly heads frequently!), but an explicit and conscious agreement helps to create a new, more positive default for everyone to work towards.

There’s a wealth of opportunity to talk and learn about emotions currently – from how everyone’s feeling about the lockdown, isolation, homeschooling and home working journeys to navigating the day to day friction of sharing the same space in such close proximity.

Talking about our emotions and how everyone’s feeling – openly, honestly, directly and with positive intent – is, I believe, one of the most positive approaches we can take to helping our children (and ourselves) survive through the uncertainties of where we find ourselves currently.

It’s possible you could even see this time as an opportunity to address some of the longstanding patterns that may be highlighted when you’re so ‘close’ to your loved ones for the foreseeable future…as a truly valuable opportunity to thrive during the pandemic, and beyond.

Homeschooling, Working From Home & Staying Sane: 5 Techniques & Tactics To Help

Homeschooling, Working From Home & Staying Sane: 5 Techniques & Tactics To Help

I just scrolled past this in my Twitter feed today. It’s one of many, many tweets sharing the realities of working from home, with the kids at home all day, every day.

I’ve worked from home, running a variety of my own ventures 100% online, for well over a decade. I’ve been homeschooling my kids – the eldest is now 10 – for about the same amount of time too. It has NOT been a walk in the park!

For half of that decade, I had my (now ex) husband helping out with childcare, household stuff and homeschooling. Now I’m a single parent and though we co-parent and share the children for around half a week each, I still have to earn a full-time living in part-time hours. It is still NOT a walk in the park.

And now, we’ve got this. The Covid-19 virus. Forcing us ALL to stay at home, working and educating on the fly – no group activities, no play dates, no day trips. Nothing. It is definitely NOT a walk in the park for any of us.

This is CRISIS-schooling, CRISIS-working and CRISIS-living. It is not homeschooling, remote work or location independent living, as those of us who’ve CONSCIOUSLY chosen to do this have ever known it.

It’s stressful, anxiety-inducing and taps into many of our insecurities leaving us fearful, grieving and angry.

And if we’re fortunate, we still have jobs to do or businesses to run and somehow have to do this, while homeschooling the kids and staying sane during a global lockdown.

I’ve had a less steep learning curve than most so here’s what I’ve found is working for me…

Identify YOUR Needs & Natural Rhythms

Women, in particular, find this hard. We are so used to slaving to others’ needs (it’s what society has conditioned us to do) that the concept of considering our own needs first (yes, first!) is almost anathema. I would urge you to start re-thinking this!

You, right now, are likely your children’s primary and only role model. Do you want to give them the message that it isn’t ok to prioritise themselves? That they need to consider others before their own? Please understand, this does not have to mean meeting your needs at anyone else’s expense; it does however mean recognising and meeting YOUR needs too!

You can’t give what you don’t have, and right now our kids need us to have and give!

How do you do this?

1. Pay attention to & honour your own patterns – your energy, circadian (sleep/wake) and productive patterns.

One of the benefits of being at home currently is that you are less likely to be tied to a specific schedule of 7am Wake & get up > 7.30am Breakfast > 8-9am commute > 9-5pm Work/School > 5-6pm Commute > 7pm Dinner > 9pm+ bed. Your schedule is likely subject to far more flex than the rigid routines of the office and school.

It may take a few weeks to identify what your natural rhythms are; you’ve been following a prescribed rhythm for so long now…

  • It helps to practice good sleep hygiene habits and, if you can during the lockdown, get out into the fresh air and some sunshine.
  • Eat when you’re hungry, not just because it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Exercise when you feel most energised and strong, not just because it’s early in the morning/after work and you’re conditioned to squeezing in a workout then.

2. Use this knowledge to your benefit (and your children’s)

Plan intense, focused work that needs more concentration at a time when you and your children are more suited to it; and plan easier work when you’re not so on top form. So if you and your kids experience a post lunch, mid-afternoon slump, take a nap instead of scheduling in some intense work requiring good concentration.

This is such a great opportunity to begin to pay more attention to your own natural rhythms and encourage your children to pay more attention to theirs too, then work your plan and schedule around these, instead of slaving to one that doesn’t actually work for you.

Fill Up Their Wells With Focus

We are so used to multi-tasking and dividing our attention between tasks, kids, and more. Now’s a great time to practise giving your focused attention to one thing at a time, then releasing that focus for a while. It’s a bit like weight training – focus, then release, focus, then release.

So, if you’re doing an activity with the kids, instead of trying to multi-task, check your emails AND help your kids, switch off the emails and give them your FULL and SOLE attention. This could be for a 30-40-minute block, after which you can release that dedicated focus.

This fills up their wells with your undivided attention; it lets them know they’re important and that your focus is theirs and theirs alone, and will often result in you being able to find a window of time afterwards where they’re happy doing their own thing for a bit because they’ve had their well filled by you, leaving you to switch focus.

Keep Your Promises & Boundaries

“Just give me 5 more minutes, sweetheart”.

If you hear yourself repeating this over and over, stop. Otherwise, it’ll go on and on and one of you will lose your temper. Depending upon their age, children often don’t really understand the concept of time very well and a 5 minute promise that stretches into half an hour or more does nothing to help this!

Children LOVE and thrive on boundaries. Give them a firm and easy-to-understand boundary around time:

“When that big hand gets to X, I’ll come and help you”.

Again, depending upon their age, that may be a window of 5 to 30 minutes! And if they’re really young you may need to physically point it out (or set a timer on your phone that they can see and watch counting down).

This technique works really well with my own children because they know that their request and needs will be met at a specific time, instead of an unknown “in 5 minutes” which goes on and on, indefinitely.

Integration, not Balance or Separation

Jenn and I have both been banging the work-life integration drum for a while now; when you work from home with kids around, there is very little balance or separation!

Unless you have the luxury of at-home childcare and a lockable office or a separate wing of your mansion, you can’t easily secret yourself away to focus on work for hours a day. At least I can’t, in an open-plan living space in a pretty small house. So separation isn’t always physically possible. And work-life balance… what exactly is that anyway?

Let’s just admit it; currently there is no work-life separation or balance, and integration is all we have.

Over the years, I’ve had to say “Could you just hang on a minute, I just need to go and wipe my son’s bottom” on conference or coaching calls one too many times for comfort. But this is now our reality – and work and life are pretty much all rolled into one for the foreseeable future. Let’s embrace rather than resist it…

Get Them Involved

Jenn wrote a brilliant piece on how to get kids to do chores (cheerfully). I’ve tweaked my approach to emphasise this more with my own children and focus them on the aspect of learning new skills and enabling them to do stuff many adults still can’t do, and have seen just how empowering my children are finding it – learning how to cook all their meals, keep the house clean and tidy, and contribute to the running of a household. It’s brilliant!

The same approach can work for your work too… instead of keeping them away, include them. Talk to them about your work and consider setting them an age-appropriate task or challenge for them to complete; all the better if it actually helps you out! For example:

  • Show them how to use image creation tools like Canva or Picmonkey. I upload a selfie photo for my 6 year old and he can spend a good half hour, adding filters, devil horns and scary backgrounds.
  • Ask their opinion on a question or challenge you’re facing; you may be surprised by how their simplistic, uncluttered thinking can sometimes cut through your own over-thinking to the core issue and a simple solution.
  • If they’re old enough, consider a gentle introduction to social media; my daughter is on Instagram and is a genius at it. She watches, experiments, engages, connects – although I’m a business strategist, she’s needed absolutely zero input from me and it’s inspiring to watch her.

This is a great opportunity to talk to your children about what you actually do for work; most of the time our kids have NO idea what we do or how we earn a living and the world of work remains a mystery until they’re throw in at the deep end with their first job. This is a chance to show them what ‘work’ actually looks like – at least for the meantime.

And if the changes we’re currently experiencing have a lasting impact on the world of work they’ll be going into – as we suspect they might – what better way to prepare them than for them to be experiencing it now, and learning how to do it while you learn a whole new approach too?

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