Lifestyle

How to juggle home schooling and your mental health

Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at Benenden Health, shares her advice on how to balance home schooling with the mental and physical health of you and your family.

With the UK’s latest lockdown meaning many more parents will be juggling home schooling and additional childcare with work, it can be easy to forget about your own mental wellbeing.

How can I look after my mental health while home schooling?

Managing deadlines, getting your kids online and making sure they’re not left behind socially or academically can be daunting, but there are some things you can do to ensure you stay positive and support your own mental wellbeing at this difficult time, and a wealth of free tools to use to ensure your children are occupied and stimulated.

Don’t Panic!

Common questions asked at the moment are, ‘how will I fit this in?’, ‘will my child do enough work?’, ‘how much time will home schooling involve?’ and ‘I’m not a teacher how can I teach?’.  So how do we stop the anxiety heightening around home schooling?

There are multiple guidelines issued by lots of education pundits on the rights and wrongs in this situation; the fact there is a plethora of information, sometimes contradictory, just shows that there is no perfect solution! So don’t panic, compare yourself, or raise unreasonable goals, what works for some parents may not work for others in differing situations or locations. 

Lockdown 3.0 seems to be demonstrating that education institutions are better prepared this time round to manage the rigours of home education and support parents. Contact your provider and see what systems they have in place to support your child’s education and what their expectations are. Knowledge is the key to planning and lowering both yours and your child’s anxiety around education.

If you are anxious around your child’s social development and mental wellbeing, encourage the use of digital platforms, where available, to keep your child connected. Consider a ‘walk and talk’ where your child can undertake challenges set by their friends whilst out walking. Or alternatively activate or download a ‘walkie talkie’ option which keeps friends connected to chat about the latest maths challenge or funny TV programme.

Use Technology (or don’t)

Use whatever works best for you. If your schools are utilising digital platforms i.e. Google Classroom then this provides a fabulous teaching tool. For some, it may be reverting to pen and paper or using more practical teaching methods to aid learning.

If you don't have available technology to support your child, then consider contacting your school who may be able to signpost you to an available loan supply. Some gaming systems, Xbox and PlayStation, can also support the access to Google classrooms which may make access to resources easier, whilst those struggling with broadband or data issues can see if their provider is offering support: Three, Smarty, Virgin Mobile, EE, Tesco Mobile and Sky mobile are all taking part in a scheme to provide free mobile data increases. Learn more about support on offer.

Various providers are also offering free activities and educational support for children. The BBC is running lessons for children on TV during lockdown, the British Library has various free activities to support education through creating a comic or cookbook, writing a limerick or short story even the ability to dream up an imaginary school. Let’s not forget the nation’s PE hero Joe Wicks, who is back with three weekly 20 minute sessions, providing a fabulous opportunity to join the kids in throwing some sweaty shapes around the lounge. If you want more PE inspiration, check out our top tips to get your kids moving.

Consider some non-digital methods of supporting education, your child could start a chain story with a friend where they write a paragraph, post the letter to a friend who writes the next section and so on. Use the time to aid home-led learning opportunities - baking provides a great science, maths, and life lesson. For older children, why not challenge them to cook a healthy meal for the family using one of our delicious recipes.

Be a Time Creator

Look at your, your partner's and your child’s time needs. Work out which events are those ‘have to attend’ and which are those events that are ‘desirable to attend’. Your ‘have to attend’ time slots can be factored into your planning which means you can be more time creative with the ‘desirable’ events.

Be open and honest with your employers and work out how flexible you and your partner can be with your working hours but do remember to be realistic. The working and school day may currently need to look and feel very different with earlier starts, down time breaks and later log off times. If you or your partner can shift workflow to pre-defined ‘non-working hours’ then this will allow some flexibility to cover some of those structured educational support sessions. If possible share the workload across the household rather than taking the onus of responsibility on one person. Working from home for many roles can provide greater flexibility in your working day and can provide an improved work life balance for many busy parents.

Be proactive and plan how your household can support everyone’s needs. Let go of those non-essential tasks and use those resources available to free up time. Some suggestions for creative time management are, try to get a home shopping delivery, use your dog walk to undertake ‘walking meetings’, cook tea with your child which is a lesson and a task all in one.

Be Your Own Positive Penny/Percy

Our children are metaphorical sponges for emotions and will pick up on those negative emotions of anxiety and frustrations. The age-old saying of a smile breeds a smile is very true and is also comparative to positivity. Exploring the positive in a situation helps to provide constructive long-term results. These emotions are great for supporting our children’s mental wellbeing, life skills and also helps to support them in planning and decision making.

Address the current home education challenge similarly to how you would tackle any project. Including the whole household in planning allows each voice to be heard and can be classed as a learning opportunity. Encouraging and listening to your child’s voice when planning allows them to be a co-conspirator rather than an opposing faction. Through collaborative discussion, increased commitment to comply should be achieved. Allow everyone to list their challenges and jointly devise an action plan on how to tackle those challenges, develop an agreed rule book of do’s and don’ts and respect the emotions that are heightened at the moment.

Benenden Health offers high quality, private healthcare at the same affordable cost for everyone. This includes round the clock care such as 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines, plus speedy access to services such as physiotherapy and medical treatment. If you're concerned about your child's wellbeing, learn how you can spot the signs of poor mental health in children.

For more advice on how to look after your mental wellbeing this winter, visit our healthy lifestyle hub.