Many of us have gotten the email over these past few weeks that our kids will be going back to school virtually–either full-time virtual or hybrid. Whether you wanted your kids back at school or not, this news is fraught with concerns. Spring was less than ideal for all of us (and that’s an understatement). But we’re going into fall with our eyes open.

Whether you will have two people working from home (and by “working,” I include volunteering to get out the vote, or looking for a job) or you are a single parent at home, planning and preparation can go a long way. Below are some tips I am sharing after talking to parents about their best practices and what they, and I, have learned along the way. Yes, this situation is less than ideal, but in tough times, we need to do the best we can.

1. Prepare a space for everyone to work.
Whether it is their bedroom or the dining room table, it doesn’t matter, just designate it a work space only. Make sure you have bought all your school supplies and put them where the kids can get them. There is nothing as frustrating as your child interrupting your Zoom meeting because she cannot find the scissors.
2. Create office hours.
Of course this is easier with older kids, but you can attempt to have small intervals of alone time with younger kids, too. If you can have a door on your office, amazing! If not, figure out clever ways to gain a little privacy. This may mean going into your car for meetings sometimes if the distractions in your house are too much. Think outside the box and know that this is temporary (how temporary I am not sure, but please God this will end at some point). You can create a stoplight system to put on your “office space.”
  • RED: Do not enter unless you are bleeding … and I mean gushing blood. This is for when you are talking to a potential client, CEO, or potential employer.
  • YELLOW: Come in at your own risk. You are doing deep work, talking to a colleague, or meeting a deadline.
  • GREEN: Come in if you need help, but only after you have tried three times yourself first.
3. Divide and conquer.

If your spouse or partner is working from home, rethink your division of labor. Life has changed, so the way you have always done it may not make sense anymore. If your spouse is the better cook, perhaps they should take over that or at least take over some meals. My husband does not mind schlepping the kids around or running errands, so he has taken over some of these responsibilities. If you want to be really thoughtful about the distribution of labor, check out the awesome book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky or visit her website at

4. Encourage your kids to be more autonomous.
If you want to give your kids more responsibility, you have to provide the instruction and make your expectations clear. You can’t just wake up one day and yell at your kid for not filling the dishwasher if you have not communicated your expectations. Set up the scaffolding they need. Maybe it is writing out clear instructions about how to make mac and cheese, keeping the juice boxes where your toddler can reach them, or providing a dishwasher-filling tutorial. Make sure your expectations are clear with consequences if they are not met (and then deliver on these consequences if need be). Becoming more autonomous is one gift you can give your kids during this pandemic.
5. Enlist the help of others.
It takes a village, as they say, so start building yours. Whether you are single-parenting or part of a couple with two very demanding jobs, asking for help may be the only way to survive. Perhaps you can pay a tutor to give your your kids a little extra assistance or help them get organized. Or maybe you are lucky enough to have a grandparent who is willing to help with math homework over FaceTime. Have your kids put these numbers in their phone so they can call on the family village when you are not available.
6. Over-communicate, and support each other.
Make sure everyone is aware of your expectations, talk to your spouse about your day, send out a daily schedule via text if your kids are old enough to benefit from that. Let them know when your important meetings are, when lunch time is, and encourage them to let you know when they have a test or an after-school activity. Everyone in the house needs to be respectful of each other. At one point this summer, both my husband and I were working and both of our kids were in meetings for their internships. We all had to tiptoe around the house. At first I felt frustrated—and then I took a step back and realized that this was a moment of pride. We were learning and growing and doing despite the limitations of our world right now.
7. Create structure through meal times.
I already discussed the importance of identifying work spaces and keeping everything in its place, You can also create structure through schedules. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have family meal times. This may not be a perfect science, but try to have as many meals together each day as possible (allowing for flexibility). During these meals, you can ensure everyone is taking care of themselves, debrief, and savor some in-person connection during an otherwise virtual day.
8. Manage up.
As a work-life coach, I work with my clients a lot on how to manage up. Managers are getting adjusted to this new normal–some are having a harder time with it than others. If you can communicate with them the schedule that best works for you and your family, then hopefully they can allow you to work in a way that will make you more productive. If your spouse has a daily 9:00 am call, perhaps you want to avoid scheduling meetings at that time. If your kids have tutoring at 4:00 pm, maybe that is a good time to schedule your deep work. By communicating these needs clearly, you can help your manager understand how to best support you to do your best work.

In the end, this pandemic is really revealing the holes in our education system as well as our workplace structures, but we can find ways to do the best we can. I have so much compassion for everyone who is trying to survive during these times and I know these suggestions are easier said than done. Know that I am with you, trying to share temporary solutions—and some solutions we may want to maintain long after the pandemic. We will all have good and bad days. Days when our best efforts are met with success and days when our best efforts are met with frustration. Just keep plugging along, searching for ways we can get through this together.

Amy Alpert

Amy Alpert

Amy Alpert, a graduate of the Certificate in Positive Psychology, is a solutions-focused coach with a practice based in positive psychology. A former human resources executive at Goldman Sachs, she holds a master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University. This article was originally published on Amy’s blog at