Working from home with kids

Wednesday, 8 Apr, 2020   /   Sarah Millard

Working from home with kids

Be prepared - Making the mental shift

During this pandemic with kids out of school, life is going to look significantly different than it did just a month ago; but it's going to be ok. Now's the time to prepare for working from home with your little ones. Have entertainment options available, make sure you have plenty of snacks, and understand what education requirements there are and whether there are online options. It's important to remember you won't be able to be a Pinterest-worthy parent at this time, so don't be too hard on yourself. Just do what you need to do to keep your household functioning.

 

Talk to your kids about COVID-19

Having kids home from school may be unsettling for the younger ones. The advice is to talk to your kids about COVID-19 rather than hiding it to try and protect them. Explain to them what it is and why we need to keep ourselves healthy at a very high level. Don't go into detail with statistics and overwhelm them by talking about people dying. Explain to them that we are all staying home to stay away from the bugs. Here are some handy downloadable resources to help explain COVID-19 to the younger ones in a fun, gentle way (available in many languages): https://www.mindheart.co/descargables 

 

Create a schedule for the kids

While you're all at home it's good for the kids to know what to expect and how their day is going to run. Once you have a schedule in place, you'll then have a clearer picture of when you'll be able to get work done.

 

Tips for younger kids

Involving your little ones in creating a schedule for being at home will help them process this sudden change, and will provide stability, security and structure that can help keep boredom and frustration to a minimum.

  • Break the day into short, manageable chunks (think 30 minute blocks)
  • Be flexible - it's more about flow. If the kids are playing well don't stop them because the schedule says it's snack time. Let it be.
  • Set aside time for independent play - remember that is a skill that kids need to grow little by little; it'll take time
  • Set time limits that they understand: "I'm going to unload the dishwasher. Where will you be playing? I'll come check in when I'm done."

 

Tips for primary school kids (5-10 years)

Children in this age group still think in concrete terms. This means they are most concerned with things that are "real" rather than ideas. To avoid burn-out (by yourself as well as your children) schools recommend limiting school work while at home to 2 hours a day.

At this age, try to involve them by:

  • Working together to create their schedule - this could be with pencils, paper, or on the iPad
  • Creating fun ways to communicate between you and them - for example a thumbs down may mean "I can't talk right now", or thumbs up from them means "is it ok to come speak with you?"
  • Allocating time for them to burn off energy and play outside
  • Creating craft supplies at home for them to get creative with e.g. Play dough (made of flour, water and salt).

 

Tips for intermediate aged kids (10-14 years)

Children at this age will look for independence. Try having a variety of activities they can pick from, offering them choices offers them some control, ownership and accountability during this uncertain time.

  • Create a schedule they can follow that has options they can choose from
  • Set daily goals for schoolwork - e.g. set a challenge of learning 20 facts about a particular topic, if they can recall them from memory at the end of the day they get a reward
  • Check in to see what they're up to and how they're going
  • Use breaks to go outside or do an activity together inside
  • Talk about what's happening in relation to COVID-19

 

Once you have a schedule for your household, don't be afraid to share it with your manager and team. As we adapt to these new routines, you will probably find it challenging to spend 8 interrupted hours at your computer. Instead, you'll most likely find yourself optimising chunks of time to get work done, with lots of interruptions and breaks in between.

 

Remember: With so many families affected right now, you won't be the only person making adjustments. We'll all need to be flexible during this time.

 

Kid 1

Set boundaries

Kids at all ages need to know where the boundaries are, as they are used to your full attention when you are at home. Now that you're working from home there will be some adjusting to do as you won't always be available. Boundaries could be as simple as:

  • A traffic light system on the door:
    • Red = I'm on the phone/Zoom and cannot be interrupted unless the house is on fire
    • Yellow = I'm concentrating but can be interrupted if it's urgent
    • Green = I'm available
  • When I am on the phone, you must wait until I am finished before asking me questions
  • If I have the door closed, you cannot come in
  • If I am talking to my computer, you need to go play until I am finished

 

Do emergency drills - make it fun and role play it

  • If the phone rings and mum / dad quietly slips into the office but you need something, what do you do?
  • If (for some strange reason) I leave the door open and you decide to enter and notice mum / dad on the phone, what do you do?
  • If mum / dad is talking at the computer screen and I give you 'the signal or the look' when you enter what do you do?

 

If your child is younger, and doesn't play well alone,here are some tips:

  • Remove some of the toys from the toy bin and re-introduce them over time. This sparks renewed interest in the toy.
  • Have toys that promote the use of their imagination; think lego, building blocks, dolls, rather than toys that give instant gratification.
  • Start play time with them by giving them an idea e.g. "you could have a tea party with your dolls"and encourage them to build on that idea.

 

To read more on how to work from home with kids, click below to download our playbook!

 

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