When Mady Einhorn was admitted to American University last winter, she dreamed of going to college with her new friend Raquel Marie Mendoza. Mady and Raquel attended the National Senate Leadership Conference in DC during their senior year and hit it off. They would be college roommates. Raquel is a first generation student from California. Mady lives in Middletown, New Jersey with her parents Rob and Kim.
Two weeks before school started, the American University informed freshmen that the fall semester would be secluded due to COVID-19. At this point, Mady’s parents invited Raquel to move in with them for the semester. Surprisingly, it was easy to live and work together during the pandemic. “Raquel has become a functioning family member,” says Rob.
There are ways to work, study, and live together harmoniously with your college student during a pandemic. Here are 3 tips for success.
Create dedicated workspaces
The secret to living together harmoniously during a pandemic was clear communication, compliance with boundaries and dedicated work areas. Rob’s office is next to what has been designated as the “study”. Kim and Rob never go in. You leave the girls alone. It’s like they’re in college, just see each other eating.
For Emma Ginsburg, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, it was important to establish a routine and have her own workplace. She lives with her parents in North Carolina during the pandemic. Her mother is a cookie recipe tester and her father works in software. Both work from home. Emma’s dedicated space is her desk. She doesn’t work in other rooms. It’s distracting. She sees her parents for dinner.
Having a job of her own is important for Paige Allen, a Princeton senior citizen who will be working from home this semester. She suggests, “If you don’t have a private space to isolate yourself, you have a dedicated table to sit at to get your work done. It can help you feel like you own your space. “Sometimes you have to get creative. Professor Josh Withers works remotely and shares a home with three virtual learners. “It helps that the locations are as private as possible. I end up teaching in my garage most of the time. “
Manage internet usage
Internet management is a balancing act in multi-learner households. Professor Withers has become an expert in managing the internet in times of high usage. His tip: turn off Internet-based music services and TV services at home. These can take up valuable bandwidth. Yes, this includes Netflix and Sonos. Withers was kicked out of his Zoom classroom when one of his kids was video chatting with grandparents. Check with your local ISP to find out how many devices you have connected to your server. Some plans only allow a certain number of devices before your connection can be compromised.
Managing screen time is just as important as having a strong internet connection. Being on screens all day can be isolating and emotionally draining, especially when you live and work together. Emma makes sure she takes a walk between classes. Paige agrees, “In this virtual world, there can be a lot of whiplash when you switch from one meeting to another. You can go to work from home at the touch of a button. Take time to breathe, take walks, do a little “nothing”. “This self-care facilitates interaction and contact with the rest of the family.
Set the tone for independence
Parents of virtual students have the option to set the tone. Rob and Kim have made a conscious effort to give the girls space to be as independent as possible. You’re home, but you’re in college. “We have to give them both physical and intellectual space,” says Rob. We’ll see them at dinner if they’re available. Your parenting style is thoughtful and deliberate. “Give them their freedom. Let them be who they need to be. I don’t have to tell them to do 12 things. “Says Kim. Mady agrees that living with her parents as a student is very different from what she felt in high school a few months earlier. “It feels like I’m a real adult. It feels a lot better, ”says Mady with a smile. Mady and Raquel are scheduled to return to DC in the spring, but if those plans don’t go ahead, Rob says the door is always open for another semester at home with their new extended family.