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Parent support for working at home, how to achieve the balance

By Sarah Finnan

April 5, 2020 at 5:46pm

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Lovin has teamed up with Mum Talks to bring you 'Mum Talks From Home' this Wednesday April 8th at 8.30pm. It's a completely free online parenting event with speakers including Helen Steele, 'Fabulous Pharmacist' Laura Mulvany and parenting expert Aoife Lee. Register for your place here

A proud mother of three and qualified parenting coach - Aoife Lee possesses a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the ebbs and flows of raising kids right.

Offering parents easy-to-learn skills, Aoife Lee uses her know-how to pass on parenting tools that are effective and practical - helping to build the framework for a calmer and happier home. A regular on TV and radio, she also has over 12 years working with the HSE under her belt and she will be a panelist on Wednesday's Mum Talks From Home event, which you can learn more about here.

However, for many, it's her role as the founder of Parent Support that makes her the first port of call when it comes to getting parenting advice - especially given the current circumstances in which parents find themselves juggling multiple roles, jumping between work and play, parent and teacher.

Aoife's top tips? Prioritise your work and communicate with your partner.

She explains: "Roles will vary among us all regardless - the time we are currently in right now has meant that flexibility and understanding are a must. If you can, prioritise the tasks that need your undivided attention when the kids are in bed at night time or get up that hour earlier in the mornings."

As many of us now know, working from home brings with it its own challenges. Breaking work into bite-sized pieces that can be completed in intervals is far more effective.

"One thing that has helped many parents – especially if both are working from home; is sitting down together at the beginning of the week and going through their diaries – again prioritising meetings, conference calls, training sessions, etc so you can both work around your schedules and when the kids need you most."

Though not an emotion exclusive to parenthood, parents around the country are undoubtedly feeling overwhelmed by the new situation. Challenged to take on the role of teacher while kids are home, Aoife emphasises that setting realistic goals and taking things at our own pace is key.

"The less pressure we put on ourselves and the children, the better. Take regular breaks, some children really need movement breaks to allow them that level of concentration. Fresh air is currently the best medicine – I can vouch for that, even if it’s a walk around the block."

In fact, fresh air can cure a multitude of issues... including bickering children. Spending so much time at home means that tensions are high as we adapt to being in each other's pockets.

"Bickering and arguing will be a given in some way, shape or form."

Reassuring to know it's not just in our house, but what can be done?

"If you can offer a distraction to avoid the disagreement this can be a great way to diffuse matters straight away. Often when children fight it becomes a habit and it gets our attention. Unless you know that one child has clearly provoked the other, it’s important to avoid taking sides. The child that shouts the loudest can often get the most attention so keep an eye on who is setting off whom."

Aoife Lee Parent Support

"Approach with a calm but firm tone. It’s often good to speak to them together for whatever is going on, create expectations so everyone knows where they stand. If you do use consequences, rather than focusing on one child try to have consequences that affect them both such as 'the game is being put aside until everyone calms down.'

"If they need time away from each other, allow this. This might mean opposite sides of the house. Our children often need that space too. Fresh air may also be the answer!"

And if that doesn't work then routine could be the solution.

"Believe it or not, children love a good, predictable routine. They manage a lot better when they know what’s happening, as do parents; it creates a sense of normality in our day to day while we are at home a lot more than usual."

Aim for an element of 'same', but know that rigid schedules won't work especially when throwing working from home into the mix.

"Children feel content in themselves when their daily plan holds an element of ‘same’, however, it’s important that we don’t put ourselves under too much pressure to be rigid and that it ‘has to go to plan’. Making some daily choices like setting the alarm for a regular wake-up time each morning as if we are going to the office or getting ready for school, encouraging mealtimes of breakfast, lunch & dinner at similar times each day while keeping bedtimes as you normally would during the school week, this gives us a really good outline to go by. While it might not play out every day – look at it as the ideal; remember it needs to work for you and your family."

For many, the toughest side effect of current life is the feeling of being apart, more particularly the stringent social distancing measures that mean families are separated. Difficult for parents and children alike, not having a constant network of support can take its toll.

"We need to be practical and take social distancing serious by protecting our older generation... We have to expect our kids to have ups and downs through all this, while we are being asked to change our behaviours, they are too so, therefore, you will see their form dip and dive."

Luckily, with so many parents facing the same struggles, there are endless resources available to help keep overactive minds busy - from the Dublin Zoo webcam and activity books, to digital scavenger hunts (brilliant for older kids who love a challenge, according to Aoife)  and online coding classes.

Not all activities revolve around screentime either with fun alternatives including free audiobooks and pretend games (one involving cooked spaghetti poured into a bucket of water dyed green using food colouring).

With supporting parents making up the bones of her job, Aoife Lee is available for virtual consultations or you can also check out her Instagram page for nifty tips and tricks that will help to get you out of a pickle while working from home.

She will join the likes of Helen Steele and Mum Talks founders Kara Heriot and Lucy O’ Driscoll Edge on our first online Mum Talks From Home this Wednesday at 8.30pm.

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