Business Unusual: Working from Home, with Kids

In this edition of our Business Unusual series, Jill interviews Amanda Soares, LCSW. They dive deep into what it means to be working from home with children, and explore some of the best strategies for keeping your cool and keeping up.

Jill McKenna:

Hi, I’m Jill. I’m the Campaign Marketing Manager at Ruby, and today I’m speaking with Amanda Soares, Mental Health Speaker, Therapist, Coach, Facilitator, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, based in Portland, Oregon.

Jill McKenna:

Amanda, I’m so happy is here, has over 20 years of client experience, and specializes in challenging and crisis-level circumstances. You can find her at RevolutionaryTherapy.PDX.com. Thank you for joining us, Amanda.

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

Thanks for having me, Jill.

Jill McKenna:

One thing I wanted to ask was what is some of the work that you’re doing right now? I know you’re working with some companies to guide them with their employees and their leadership. What are some of the issues that you’re hearing about being at home with kids and working from home with children right now?

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

I think it’s really normal right now to hear people absolutely at their wit’s end trying to figure out how to manage at home in a pandemic, how to also accomplish some work and to then do that in the context of having no childcare, no school resources available, no summer camps, no day camps, no options to send children to even daycare shares and the pressures that that’s creating. The fears I think a lot of parents have that their kids are going to fall behind, the fears parents have that they’re screwing this up, that they’re not doing it well, they’re not doing it right. I’m glad you used the “normal” in air quotes at the beginning of that because there is no normal way any of us could have prepared for trying to do all of those things at once, at home in a pandemic, without the options for other resources to come and assist us.

Jill McKenna:

Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m experiencing and I know so many of my friends are too. I’m curious about some of the best strategies. Obviously, if you’ve got three kids at home, it’s making it through each day. And you’re trying to work or save your business or whatever you’re trying to do, maybe taking care of elderly parents. What are some strategies people can use to try and juggle kids and work and lack of childcare in school right now? Or are there any?

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

I mean, I think some of it is what you just kind of alluded to, which is you’ve got to adjust your expectations to be realistic to the situation that we are currently in. To apply old standards to your parenting, your work performance, your child’s school engagement, to apply standards that were relevant last year to this situation we are currently in is not going to work. It’s a setup for failure, and I think helping parents adjust those expectations to more reasonable boundaries and to also encourage people to let some of this stuff go.

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

This is temporary. We are surviving. This is not a long-term solution. No one’s suggesting that keeping kids on screens for too long or really not getting much schoolwork done is a long-term solution that’s viable or even that we want, but for right now, it’s going to help us survive. And I think moving that conversation from what my parenting goals were, what my kids’ scholastic and academic goals were, what my professional goals were, to a more, what do I need to do to get through this disaster, this crisis, this pandemic in ways I never had to consider, is the way to go.

Jill McKenna:

Thank you. That’s a great way of framing it. I’m curious about people with kids at home. I know kids in different age groups, for what they can comprehend, it’s very different, depending on where they’re at developmentally. But are there good strategies or tools that parents can use to help kids cope now and to help kids get through this time or have any sense of understanding of what’s happening?

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

There’s a couple resources I would really direct people to in that situation that have an array of resources arranged actually by age range, so that wherever your child is developmentally you can kind of refer to that section. Harvard University has put out an amazing tool kit to help kids at every developmental age, develop self-regulation skills and also executive functioning skills during this time. It’s through the Developing Child Center at Harvard. A simple Google will help you find it. In addition to that, PBS.org, the Public Broadcasting Service, has put together state-by-state essentially, a list of apps and resources and tools and items, not just for parents, but for kids to engage with to help them develop coping and resilience skills during this time.

Jill McKenna:

We, as humans and as individuals, we often equate grief with the loss of a beloved person, and very rarely do we remember to apply it to the grief that we experience when, for instance, we lose a house or we move from a house into an apartment because of downsizing or children leave home to go off to college. Can you speak at all about how we can honor ourselves in the stages of grief and our communities as we move through this now?

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

I think the first thing to acknowledge is that so much of this COVID-19 crisis has caused us grief. We have all lost so many things that we enjoy, so many relationships that nourished and sustained us, our socialization, our favorite places to go and be in the world, our friendships, our relational moments, our offices, just our routines. So much of that has been lost for, we don’t know how long. And I think that’s what has invoked a grieving-type process for so many of us. And, interestingly, though we don’t know everything about coronavirus, we know plenty about grief.

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

When you think about the stages of grief being shock, denial, anger and fear, bargaining, depression, testing solutions until we make it to acceptance, and then how those apply to the COVID situation we’re in, and then think about how the grieving process actually works. Sometimes we’re hit with three or four of those at once. Sometimes we move through one, we backslide, a new one comes.

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

There is something to be gained, I think, from observing what is happening with us right now as a form of grieving, and also recognizing with that, that everyone’s going to do it differently. Every child’s going to do it differently. Every adult is going to do it differently, and it will hit us in different moments, in maybe combinations. Other days might feel fine, and then others you just wake up, you forget for a moment that we’re in COVID-19 world, and then it floods you like a wave. And that really is mimicking, I think, the grief process.

Jill McKenna:

We are not at our best, right, when we are in a trauma, and perhaps we are quicker to snap or quicker to respond in a way that doesn’t, that is not our usual or our best. What’s the best way to repair with kids when we are in a place where we are extremely stressed out?

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

I think reminding yourself of the critical nature of your own self-care is one piece of that. That’s kind of a piece that happens before that ideally. It’s that same airplane instruction we all get where I can’t help you until my own mask is on. And I think remembering that if we are finding ourselves feeling more fragile, more irritable, more snappy, less patient with our kids, it might be one of the signs that we’re not taking enough care of ourselves and we’re trying to pour from an empty cup.

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

To answer the main part of your question though, I think kids understand that we are under incredible stress. They feel that, and sometimes they’re reacting when we don’t even realize they are. They’ve done studies with even very young babies, and eating and sleeping patterns change in response to caregiver stress. So even pre-verbal kids we know pick up on those cues from their caregivers. They’re very tuned in. I mean, it’s a two-fold process. You might be more snappy at your kid, but your kid’s behavior might also be more nudgy. And the interaction of those two factors is probably the first flag up where I would say take notice of where your stress levels are and how that’s interacting in the relationship.

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

Pause, remove yourself to do that self-care, but then if you find yourself in a situation where, well, you already had a snippy moment with your kid that you don’t feel good about or you don’t feel proud of, I think it’s okay to acknowledge that and give yourself some grace and explain it at an age-appropriate level. Like, “I felt really stressed. I used angry words. That’s not okay.” We’ve got to find some better solutions, like what can I do different? What happened here and working through the situation with the child in an age-appropriate way to do that repair.

Jill McKenna:

Are there other things like grounding and re-centering that we can invite kids to, to do with us, along with us?

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

I think modeling our own self-care strategies and engaging kids in many of those same strategies in an age-appropriate way can be really beneficial. Some of the stuff I talk about with adults in regrounding yourself, change of scenery, change of airspace. Go do something that soothes you. Go take a hot bath. Go color. Go walk outside for a moment. Go snuggle a pet. Go throw a comforter in the dryer for five minutes and wrap yourself tightly in it. The same things we would do for ourselves, I think it’s critical to not just model for our kids but engage our kids in, so that we can teach them to do those self-care skills for themselves and show them that they’re important.

Jill McKenna:

And that’s important. Thank you. That’s great. Amanda, I want to thank you so much for your time today. If people want to find you online, where can they go to?

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

They can look me up at RevolutionaryTherapyPDX.com.

Jill McKenna:

Amazing. Thank you so much for your time and for all of your expertise today. We value it so much and you can find-

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

Thanks for having me.

Jill McKenna:

Of course. And you can find more about Amanda in the comments or in the social media posts that we make about her good work. Thanks so much.

Amanda Soares, LCSW:

Thank you. Stay well.

Amanda Soares, LCSW

Amanda graduated with a degree in Psychology from Yale University, with a focus on Women, Race, and Gender Studies. She received her Masters degree in Clinical Social Work Practice from Southern Connecticut State University. Raised in Newark, NJ, Amanda has lived and worked in Portland, OR since 2008. In her downtime, you can find her climbing rocks, traveling, gardening, cooking, and snuggling any cat she sees.

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