Whether you’ve found yourself back homeschooling the kids or you need some advice in balancing parenting with working from home, these tips from Dr Anamika Devi – expert in early childhood education from RMIT University – are sure to help.

Thousands of Victorian families have seen the return of homeschooling, and as further lockdowns loom in other parts of the country, even more parents are facing the reality of learning and working from home – again.

As a lecturer in Early Childhood Education in the School of Education at RMIT University, Dr Anamika Devi has more than eight years’ of teaching and industry experience in early childhood education under her belt.

Dr Devi shares her expert tips to help families survive – and thrive – through the next round of restrictions.

Maintain a routine for young children and yourself

“Setting up a routine for daily activities can regulate your body clock, minimise frustration and keep you organised,” says Dr Devi. “In this unpredictable situation, planning our time in such a way means we can focus on children’s activities as well as fulfil our work commitments.”

Following a set routine can minimise stress and anxiety for both you and your children, while also promoting organisation and enjoyment of learning moments at home. Your kids should have a clear picture of what the day may look like and what activities they are going to finish – just like they would in the classroom.

It’s okay to play

Playing is a fun but vital activity, which helps children reduce distress while learning new things from their surroundings.

“Children perceive real experiences by engaging in imaginative worlds,” says Dr Devi. “For example, by pretending to be a doctor and a patient, they try to understand these real-life roles through their imaginations.”

Playing with puzzles, blocks, musical instruments and using recycled items for building any construction could be appropriate for young children. For older kids, try creating longer projects that teach a lesson while giving a sense of accomplishment.

“The classic papier-mâché volcano is great for this; it keeps children active and creative while teaching them about our world,” says Dr Devi. “These projects also support children’s holistic development and improves their self-learning capabilities.”

Make wellbeing of your children and yourself the top priority

“It’s important to realise we can’t achieve everything; managing expectations can reduce our stress and tension,” says Dr Devi. “Don’t feel guilty if you can’t give your children enough of your time or activities. Rather, communicate with teachers and other parents to learn about alternative techniques and arrangements. This will assist with being flexible with children’s routines and thinking realistically of a way of managing workloads during this unexpected time.”

If both parents are working from home, having a mutual understanding among all family members is vital. It is impossible to juggle everything, says Dr Devi – instead, we should think about cutting out some of the extra workload for the wellbeing of all family members.

Create a space for family time

Creating a family space by sharing time, even just to enjoy a movie together, can boost our mood and give us the energy to finish work commitments, says Dr Devi.

“In our free time, we should enjoy moments with children without the pressure of achievement or learning goals,” says Dr Devi. “But it’s also important for parents to talk to their children about the coronavirus, by creating a safe family space where concerns can be shared.

“Young children can experience anxiety and stress more than adults as they are seeing news on TV or hearing updates from other people, but with perhaps less understanding about the practical situation. We need to allow them to express their feelings and welcome them to open a discussion.”

Having a conversation and relating the current situation in a positive way to children could minimise their anxiety and stress, even ours as well.

“If we view the situation positively, plan accordingly, follow the routine, maintain a flexible attitude and focus on our wellbeing, we’ll be in a better mindset to enjoy this time spent with children at home during this pandemic and even once it’s over.”