The last few months have posed many challenges and have been a time of adjustment and revaluation. Since school and some jobs are remote, many families are now spending more time together — for better or for worse. While there are many benefits to this (more family time, learning new hobbies, no commuting), we are also faced with new challenges, especially regarding our relationships with the people we are quarantined with and the new boundaries we are trying to establish.
We are learning how to shift our boundaries in the midst of this new situation. Many parents are not used to having their students underfoot at work and similarly, most students are not used to having their parents present during school time. We are not used to sharing our environments with the other people in our house and are used to a separation. We are used to reconvening at the end of the day or having various extracurriculars and social activities. With much of this on pause and spending our days at home together, we need to find a new system of setting boundaries and giving space. However, it can be difficult to know where and how to set these boundaries.
While many of us (parents and students alike) need help staying on track and on task in this time of remoteness, constant prodding and checking in can foster resentment and fracture our mutual trust. Maybe your student is having a hard time staying on track, but checking in constantly is exhausting for everyone. Having a calendar up or a daily schedule posted in a public space, like the kitchen or living room, can allow for more passive communication and will allow you to know when to step in. If the student is responsible for checking off what they have done, this holds everybody accountable for their responsibilities and allows for the potential to foster more independence. For both students and parents, creating more separation during the work day will allow you to maximize your productivity without constant nagging. This will also allow for more privacy during work times, as well as increase student responsibility and independence in a controlled environment.
Setting up your independent offices and workspaces, however official or unofficial, will be helpful in creating physical boundaries. Having designated work spaces can aid in clear communication about when you are working and when you are unable to be disturbed during class, calls, and conferences. This will help parents and students know how and when to interact; this can also allow for the quiet needed during all of our Google Meet and Zoom calls! These offices and workspaces are necessary for both students and parents, and the boundaries should be respected by everyone involved. Just as students shouldn’t interrupt parents on conference calls, parents should avoid interrupting students when they are completing classwork or taking part in a virtual class.
We also need time to spend together and interact with the other humans in our house. Setting aside specific times to spend together can be a helpful way of maintaining communication and space and gives everyone something to look forward to in the day. Maybe this looks like having family dinners at 6:30, going for a bike ride at 4, or playing a card game together after dinner. These activities will give you a set time to spend with your co-quarantiners, ensuring that you will be able to interact with them, but alleviating the need to always be together. Having a few of these times throughout the day provides the opportunity to check in on one another’s progress in terms of school (and work) in a non-invasive way.
Set up a calendar not just for your student, but for yourself as well. Set your goals for the day, respect everyone’s workspace and schedules, and clearly communicate what time you and your student have meetings that can’t be interrupted. These boundaries will help provide the necessary space and independence that all parties need, while also allowing everyone to stay connected and communicating effectively. Once that independence is figured out, the time your family does spend together can focus on topics other than work completion!