Child writing on a tablet

Watching my middle-school-aged children switch from in-person to remote learning early during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired me to resume the master’s degree I set aside when I changed jobs more than a year ago. Little did I know that having all of us attend school online presented opportunities to cultivate some life lessons along the way.

The Importance of Goal Setting

Before I re-started classes, I sat down with each child to discuss my plans to go back to school and realign my career goals. It was important to me that they see adults also set goals and make plans to achieve them. On a smaller scale, when they are challenged with competing demands, I sit down with them to set goals for the day or week. We break down their work into more manageable chunks, and then count down what’s left to acknowledge the progress we’ve made. High fives, all around!

Setting Limits on Screen Time

Numerous studies have shown that children who spend too much time on screens show more irritability, moodiness, obesity, sleep problems, and aggressive behavior. To help reduce screen time, I set a “computer curfew” for the night. The kids’ schoolwork must be done by that time (exceptions do apply) so that they can unwind from digital stimulation before bedtime. On Saturdays and days when I can work from home, we incorporate breaks throughout the day to help recharge our eyes, minds, and get our bodies moving.

Time Management Skills

Time management is a skill most adults are still trying to master—me included. Let’s face it, a five-page paper is not easy regardless if you’re 12, 22, 32, 42 years old, or beyond. Teaching children to schedule designated time for activities and assignments helps ease a cycle of anxiety and procrastination that some experience when getting overwhelmed; it also helps ease a parent’s anxiety about needing to micromanage or supervise all of their work.

Sharing Household Responsibilities

When children are old enough to help around the house, you can off-load some chores onto the kids. After my initial investment of time and attention, my children are able to do basic household chores, such as laundry, vacuuming, and washing dishes. Setting reminders and a schedule of tasks helps me get some much-needed study time, but it also helps the children build confidence in their abilities and affirms their contributions to the family.

Creating Quality Family Time

Finally, while juggling full-time work, maintaining a home, completing course assignments, and overseeing the children’s activities, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. To stay connected, we designated Sundays for family activities. Simple tasks like making breakfast, going for neighborhood walks, or watching a movie together have helped us focus on our family. Even if it’s just spending a few minutes every night to check in with the kids before I hunker down to work on the next post or paper, that little bit of quality time goes a long way.