We all had a glimpse of the realities of working from home with children in 2017, when political analyst Robert Kelly’s children entered into his home office during a live BBC News interview. This was an unexpected interruption, but he managed to keep his composure and complete the interview.
Working while parenting can be challenging and stressful – even more now with nation-wide shifts to telecommuting to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The changes needed to adapt to a work from home environment with children present, may differ based on several factors: the number of children you have, their ages, school closures, your home (do you have a designated space for you and your children?), an available spouse or family member to assist, etc.
For your children, school closure may seem like a snow day (well, that depends on what part of the U.S. you reside in). Experts recommend having a compassionate conversation with your children on what this truly means. They may have questions on the virus, why they are home instead of their classroom, and how long will this last. Childmind.org has a good resource for talking to your kids about the coronavirus.
Establish a Routine
When working from home, it is helpful to keep a daily routine, both for ourselves and children. Consider establishing guidelines and boundaries too. Children may not physically be in the classroom, but they likely still have learning to do. Also, there may be times when you need to focus on work, and they cannot interrupt you.
Here are some suggestions on how to mirror their normal school day.
- Wake up at scheduled time each day and maintain the same sleep schedule.
- Get dressed, eat a healthy breakfast, brush teeth – just like they would any other school day.
- Have the children follow a daily/weekly learning schedule that will fill their day. Include the school’s curriculum. Create a visual board. This could be a great project for the whole family.
- Schedule snack time, lunch time (enjoy a lunch break with the kids!), and recess. Check out com for free video activities, games ideas and more.
- Schedule fun activities such as virtual field trips (zoos, aquariums, museums, natural parks), extracurricular activities (virtual art lessons, workout classes (for parents, too!) online or printable workbooks, mazes, and crossword puzzles), and free time.
- Consider limiting screen time and setting rules. Some parents also monitor sites visited and enforce parental controls.
Recommendations and Resources
In addition to establishing a routine, and utilizing online resources, social media groups, family, and friends can be a great support system. There are several parent support groups on Facebook, Meetup and NextDoor.
Have older children that can help with chores and watching their younger siblings? Reward them…let them know how much they are appreciated. No older siblings? Some neighborhood parents are swapping childcare duties and hiring neighborhood teens, to create quiet work time.
Check with your employer to learn if they offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The program may offer counseling for you and your family members addressing wellness and stress management.
See the positive in this – no traffic to face each day, involvement and quality time with your children, plus, you will get an actual lunch break (and with your kids). Try to stay calm and breathe. It may take time to adjust to this new routine and way of life. Give yourself room to make the necessary changes that will work for you and your family.
P.S. It’s ok if your colleagues see toys on the floor, kids running by, and your fur babies (cats and dogs) during virtual meetings. This is our new normal and it’s likely your co-workers will be understanding.