Home alone: the impact of working from home, tech poverty and home schooling on single parents
If you are a single parent with children, you will know the challenges of lockdown 3.0 all too well. The endless juggling of working from home with video calls, child care when you need to be in the office, home schooling for children of different ages, food to be shopped for (without the kids), the list goes on. All at a time when you may be mourning the loss of your relationship and a significant change in circumstances.
For many single parents, lockdown is having a significant economic and social effect even if you are employed and working from home. You may be cash rich in terms of income / salary, but time poor in terms of enough hours in the day to do everything. You have limited options for others to take on childcare, and grandparents can’t do what they used to either. In short, you need help.
This is where effective and compassionate co-parenting can click in. As separated parents, in most cases you have shared parental responsibility that covers issues such as education. You may not live together anymore, but you still need to maintain contact with your ex for the children. Many separated couples with children have child arrangement orders in place that specify who sees the children and when.
As LGFL Managing Director Rita Gupta says:
“At this stage, it is important for both parents to take responsibility for the children, their care and their schooling during the pandemic and a national lockdown. Everyone is impacted by the current situation in different ways, and it is unfair for one parent to feel more pressure than the others.
We also need to be mindful of creating ‘good cop, bad cop’ parenting. This is where one parent is responsible for the homework and basic care, and the other parent leads all the fun activities. Sharing home schooling and activities can help prevent that, and build strong bonds with your child. Also the children will benefit from the different skills and knowledge of their parents.
Finally it sends the children an all-important message that both parents are in agreement when it comes to their education.”
Freedom of movement
A recent statement from the Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division said that there can be flexibility in child arrangements, given the current circumstances.
“The expectation must be that parents will care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their child and deciding where and with whom their child spends time.”
Under the lockdown 3.0 rules, children of separated parents are allowed to move freely between homes as required. This allows you as co-parents to put aside your differences over the next six weeks and work together for the benefit and wellbeing of your children on two key areas of concern.
Converting your home into a full-time school is no simple task. It also requires a shift in mindset. There is great advice in this realistic article on how to approach home schooling and “ideas to help children learn that you can fit around the edges of working from home.”
Home schooling tips
You need space for your children to sit down and work, and access their online classroom portals and lessons via the internet. To achieve this, you need a reliable connection and sufficient bandwidth and data allowance to cope with live video lessons.
This is where so many families are struggling at present. Where you live will inevitably dictate the maximum broadband speed you can achieve. So, if the non-resident parent has the faster connection, or needs less of their bandwidth for work, it may make sense for the children to work from that home. This is a good explanation of broadband, data and bandwidth:
Broadband and bandwidth
For single parents with no fixed broadband and who rely on mobile data, your provider can temporarily increase your mobile data allowance so children can watch lessons online via a mobile device.
Get help with tech
The BBC has scheduled new online lessons on TV channels that do not require an internet connect. Morning lessons for primary school age children are on CBBC, lessons for secondary children are on BBC 2, and BBC Bitesize is available on iPlayer.
There are lots more online resources listed on this article too:
BBC technology news
The BBC Teach channel on YouTube features lots of lessons if you want to top up teaching from your school. For example, The Maths Show is designed for GCSE level pupils:
Your children need devices to work on such as laptops or tablets. If you do not have access to these, your school should be able to provide one under a Dept. of Education scheme.
Get laptops scheme
Again, this is a time to share as a co-parent if you have a device that you don’t use much, and the kids have nothing suitable. Various charities may also able to help, such as your local Lions. (If you are lucky enough to have spare devices, please consider donating them.)
Lions computer help
Need inspiration for educational activities that don’t rely on the internet? Families magazine has done a lot of the work for you in their latest edition:
By sharing home schooling responsibilities, your children will also benefit from two sets of knowledge and life skills as part of home schooling by both parents. In turn, each of you can have free time to concentrate on your own life and work.
Challenges of communication
As family lawyers, we understand the difficulties of cooperating with you ex when relations are not normally amicable. We can write a child arrangement letter that covers the extraordinary requirements of lockdown, laying out who does what, and when. It can also set out any details you’d like included regarding tech, such as a loan of a laptop until children go back to school. Call us for details and to book your initial 1-hour consultation with 30 minutes included.
Working from home (WFH)
As a starting point, it’s important to acknowledge that neither partner’s work is “more important” than the others. If you both work, and can work from home, then sharing parental responsibility can give you extra space and time you need to work.
If you are expected or required to work from home, your employer should provide the technology you require.
“Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.”
Employers might be willing to help boost your level of connectivity and data so home schooling is possible, as this will benefit your productivity and availability overall.
ACAS working from home
For many WFH parents with access, the biggest issue is sharing the bandwidth with children home schooling. According to a report, the average 30-minute live video lesson chews through 250Mb of data. The same will apply for your own Zoom calls for work too. For parents on a monthly data limit, the entire allowance could be gone in a few days.
Again, it’s worth contacting your service provider and asking for a temporary increase in your data allowance to cover home schooling and working, or looking for a better deal. Do bear in mind, however, that with so many children studying online, broadband speeds may be slower than expected/advertised.
Space is also important, as is privacy. Amusing though it may be to have the kids crashing in on a business call dressed only in a superhero cape and a smile, it may not prove popular with colleagues and employers. Co-parenting can allow you both to schedule video meetings when Superman and his crew are being home schooled, taking exercise, or making lunch with their other parent. See the article below for hints on how to work better from home and give yourself more time.
Work from home tips
Communications, mediation and collaborative law
As family lawyers, we are able to assist with child arrangement letters and if required, mediated online meetings to sort out issues without the need to go to court. Call us to book your initial 1-hour online consultation with 30 minutes included free, to discuss your situation and practical solutions.