With virtual learning, how to manage with school-age kids?

Q:  I am struggling with keeping up with Zoom meetings for my job.  I am supposed to be working 9am to 5pm but have 2 grade school children home with me.  I am able to keep up with some of the other work, as I can do it at night.  I have just found out that my school system is moving to a fully remote model.  My ex-husband is not helpful and he is not careful about masking, social distancing and understanding how to be responsible during this pandemic.  How do other single parents balance this?

A: It sounds like your current situation is terribly challenging.  I have some thoughts –

  1. If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), contact them. They may be able to help you with securing resources to balance these challenges.
  2. Ask your employer for flexibility. Perhaps some Zoom meetings are optional or some could be scheduled during off-hours.  In some instances, Zoom calls can be recorded for you to listen to them during off-hours.
  3. Enlist the help of family or friends. Many parents I know are hiring college students, a neighbor or asking a cousin to help out, even if it is only for a few hours per day.
  4. Research options through organizations in your community. Local YMCAs or similar are offering programs for school-age kids.  YMCAs often offer financial assistance for those families who may be challenged by the cost of such a program.  The organizations maintain a very small group size, with the goal of maintaining social distancing.
  5. You may be eligible for benefits through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). For more info, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.  There is one specific benefit that I suggest you review carefully.  It is called the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), though I call it the “school closure leave.”  It applies to your situation.  Even if your family’s school is providing virtual learning, the benefit is available for situations like yours, where remote instruction is being offered.
  6. Find others who may be in your same situation. Perhaps you can barter and trade child care with them?

Finally, take care of yourself.  These times are stressful for all of us, but this pandemic is hitting parents with school-age children (and single parents!) even harder than the rest of us.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.