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Parenting and working in a pandemic

Note: This page is meant to advise NRCan employees on working during COVID-19. Please consult Health Canada’s COVID-19 pages for up-to-date information on the situation.

This is the third in a series of articles that provides tips for working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information is provided courtesy of our colleagues in the Corporate Management and Services Sector.

With two kids 5 and 7 there’s no telling how each day will go. Schedule!? At the outset, I put a great one together - it was going to be great. My kids had other plans. Most days we wonder who’s in charge.
– an NRCan employee, Twitter chat, April 23, 2020

As we enter week nine of physical distancing measures, working while looking after children continues to be a struggle for many parents.

You are not alone. Many are feeling overwhelmed as they juggle multiple hats each day: teacher, employee, caregiver and playmate.

On April 23, NRCan held a Twitter chat to talk about teleworking, work–life balance and mental health during this period of physical distancing.

One question was posed directly to parents:

For parents. What strategies are you using to strike a balance between keeping your kids engaged and feeling productive at work?

There were over 40 replies to the tweet. NRCan parents admitted that it’s hard to work, teach and parent at the same time. Here are some suggestions they shared with their colleagues:

  • take it day by day
  • incorporate exercise
  • realize we’re all doing our best
  • don’t feel guilty on screen-heavy days
  • forgive yourself for making mistakes
  • be compassionate with yourself and others
  • remind yourself that you and your family are safe

Consider these additional tips, but do what’s best for your family

  1. Don’t expect to be as productive as you were pre-COVID-19. If you haven’t already, talk to your manager to set realistic expectations for your work and to set up a flexible work schedule. NRCan’s priority is your health and safety. Your manager will work with you to find the best work solution possible. Be aware of the leave available to you.
  2. Have your children help you create a flexible routine. Don’t make it too rigid or timed to the minute. Include meal-, play- and bedtimes and a conversation with each family member about how their day or week is going. As you create a schedule, keep in mind young children often focus better in the morning, while teens are better focused in the late afternoon or evening.
  3. Don’t fret about extra screen time. It can be helpful when you’re having a meeting or if you just need a few minutes to yourself. Make sure you know what your children are accessing online, and talk to your kids about cyber security – predators know more children are online these days.
  4. I have set work hours. My mornings are dedicated to my kids - we play, we go for walks, we learn. Afternoons are dedicated to work while they nap or entertain themselves (mostly with the help of electronics... *sigh*)
    – an NRCan employee, Twitter chat, April 23, 2020

  5. Give kids some choice as to what they do during the day, especially teenagers who can’t act on new-found freedoms, like driving or hanging out with friends. Try to find a way to give them some independence while making sure they continue to respect physical distancing guidelines.
  6. Don’t worry if your children don’t finish all their assigned school work. Pick and choose what you think your children can accomplish. The lessons are meant as a way to keep kids engaged, but if it’s not working, don’t force it. If you’re concerned your child may fall behind, speak to their teacher and come up with a plan that suits your family.
  7. Set some goals for the day, but not too many:
    • one or two things you need to accomplish at work
    • one or two things you want your children to accomplish
    • one thing to accomplish as a family, even if it’s as simple as watching TV together
  8. Set aside some individual time with each child every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Try to have it at the same time each day so your child looks forward to it, and let them choose what you’ll do or what you’ll talk about.
  9. Be gentle on yourself. Each family is unique, and what works for one family, might not work for yours. And what works one day might not work the next. Single parents, parents of children with special needs and parents of babies and toddlers will likely find this time especially challenging since the supports they had in place before the pandemic might not be there now. As colleagues, we need to support each other now more than ever. Be kind. Be compassionate.

Remember, the most important thing right now is the health and safety of you and your family. Do what you need to do to keep your family safe – don’t forget your mental health is as important as your physical health. If you need a break, talk to your manager.

Take care of your mental health

The Employee Assistance Program is available to you and your family 24/7 at 1-800-268-7708 (TTY: 1-800-567-5803).

Stay informed about COVID-19

Get your information from reliable sources:

More resources for working from home during COVID-19

  1. Tips for setting up a home office during COVID-19
  2. 6 tips for staying connected as a team during COVID-19
  3. Mental health and COVID-19 for public servants: Balance family life


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