Remote working with teenagers: how to make it really positive
June 11, 2020
Thanks to Covid-19 and lockdown, you’re working remotely. If you’ve teenagers in the family, so are they.
But it’s more complicated than that: you’re responsible for your teenager’s education. Not only are your whole family under the same roof 24/7; you’re working, parenting and teaching, all at the same time. It’s a triple whammy no-one prepared you for.
Schools are providing varying amounts of guidance, from fantastic distance-learning plans, to basically improvising.
But what’s common to you and your family is that you’re all missing your usual social connections and community support, compounded by the uncertainty that everyone’s feeling.
How, then, do you manage successfully?
Stay in touch with reality
Let’s be kind: teenagers will be teenagers. Having young people at home can be challenging at the best of times. They must deal with increasing academic expectations, physical and emotional changes and the influence of peers and social circles.
Right now, though restrictions are easing, social distancing is disrupting close friendships that are vital to teenagers’ development.
So here are three pointers:
- Encourage your teenagers to interact with friends regularly. They probably won’t need much prodding, but certainly don’t let them stew in their rooms gaming. Let them use tools like Zoom and Skype. Just as you do.
- Keep yourself active physically and mentally. You need to be in good shape to keep going.
- Lead by example: it’s the same for all teenage families. Your kids do what you do, not what you say. This will become obvious when you spend so much time together.
Like it or not, while you’re at home, keeping the lid on everything is down to you.
The secret is teamwork. Treat your teenagers as grown-ups, ensure everyone’s happy and keep control by establishing routine. Then the process will fly.
Make space for work: help everyone understand when and where you are ‘at work’. Find a dedicated space to knuckle down – not in bed with your laptop – but a quiet corner away from disturbances. Naturally, do the same for your teenagers.
Plan the day: help your family organise their day as if it were a normal work or school day. Use your watch or alarm to remind you when lessons and breaks start and end.
Eat lunch together: don’t gulp down a sandwich in front of your computer; get the family round the kitchen table. Everyone’s brain needs to be disconnected from the screen for a while and the conversation will do you good. And why not walk a couple of laps around the house (inside or outside) to restore energy?
Make a clean break: create a clear distinction between the work or school day and free time. It’ll make you more productive and satisfied, without feeling that you’re constantly working.
Don’t let things build up: when your children’s school day has ended, give them the freedom to run riot in their inbox. (That applies to you, too.)
The same goes for household chores, which can accumulate very quickly. But it’s a great opportunity for everyone to help and perhaps also learn a little of what needs to be done.
And when it’s all over
Remember how busy we all were before Covid-19? Perhaps we can see this extreme period as a fantastic chance to sit down and talk and have as many breakfasts, lunches and dinners together as possible. You never know: your kids might look fondly back to when their parents were home and we really had time for each other.
Caroline Mildenborn is a consultant project manager specialising in communications. She’s part of the Hoxby community.