Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of U.S. parents struggle to balance their work responsibilities and the needs of their children. The national crisis has caused many childcare centers around the U.S. to close, posing a huge problem now things are slowly returning to normal. The change in childcare availability is something unexpected, especially for parents who are leaving the work-from-home setup.
Experts say the child care ‘crisis’ will likely slow down the U.S. economy if this goes on. Without someone to look after their kids, parents cannot leave home for work. Many have to make major parenting decisions, such as deciding who returns to work, the type of job the parent should take instead, and the kind of work setup that suits them.
Now more than ever, parents have to rely on preschools, childcare centers, and daycare to navigate their new work schedules. But as most schools remain closed, it’s important to consider the available child care options that work for you and your child. With that in mind, here are ways to navigate the childcare shortages and manage parenting responsibilities during a pandemic.
Support from family members
The pandemic has further strengthened the need to look after family members, especially the kids, seniors, and those with an underlying illness. As a result, some families are sharing homes with seniors or retired family members. Although it poses a huge burden, most multigenerational families can seek the help of a family member to look after their children while they are at work.
This option works best for families with limited options for childcare. Even before the pandemic, many people rely on their parents to take care of their children. Some even leave their children at the grandparents’ house before leaving for work.
Working parents with babies or younger children are now taking critical steps when choosing the right daycare center for their children. Governments and health organizations are also posting guidelines on how childcare and preschool facilities can safely reopen with COVID-19 in mind.
Today, a few childcare centers are back in operation, but they can only accommodate limited students. Whether you’re enrolling your child at childcare, daycare, or preschool, make sure to read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for operating childcare programs during COVID-19. This will serve as your guide on how you will choose the right childcare program for your child, with their health and safety as the top priority.
Childcare safety protocols should not be limited to the following:
- Ensuring observance of social distancing
- Screening staff and children for potential exposure or infection upon arrival
- Strengthening sanitation and cleaning practices
- Adjusting pickup and drop-off
- Ensuring adequate teacher-to-student ratio
- Requiring teachers and students to wear masks
Besides the items above, childcare centers can take other serious precautions to ensure the safety of the staff and kids. This will give parents better peace of mind while they are away.
Parents who have the means to pay for in-home help are hiring babysitters, au pairs, or live-in nannies. Some families are seeking childcare and someone who can fill in their child’s educational gaps.
Nannies with educational backgrounds, particularly college-educated ones, are currently in demand. For example, parents depend on caregivers to assist their young children in setting up virtual schooling equipment and handle issues related to the child’s online experience or even school-related tasks. Some are also taking charge of non-school-age kids so parents can work peacefully without interruption.
Health experts recommend setting mask expectations and symptoms screening before hiring in-home nannies. If you’re hiring a nanny or au pair for your child, be sure to discuss the mask expectations during the interview. You can also ask for their medical history to be safe. If they’re showing signs of illness, it’s advisable to consider other applicants instead. Face masks at home can be difficult, depending on the child’s age. So make sure to consider outdoor activities.
You may also consider nanny sharing if there are shortages of in-home caregiving. Homeschool co-ops work for families who want to homeschool their kids together. Some co-op services provide both social interaction and education for kids.
The childcare crisis in the U.S. can be a vast, thorny problem and is likely to be a long-term one. While this period can be challenging for parents, they have to remain optimistic and resourceful until they find the best option for child care. Until then, make sure not to let the current crisis affect your work and parenting responsibilities.