Working From Home With Children During COVID-19: How to Survive and Thrive
We understand these are difficult times right now and we’re so grateful that you’re taking the time to read this blog. We will keep posting content that we hope inspires and entertains as we all wait this out together.
Just a few weeks ago, if someone told you that you’d suddenly be working from home while your children were also home from school, you probably would have laughed.
Yet, here you are, trying to find the new normal in a world in which your home acts as your workplace, your safe place, your children’s school, and your relaxation space.
You’re probably feeling overwhelmed, unsure, and questioning whether or not you’re doing everything “right”. Here’s the good news: there is no perfect approach to working and homeschooling in the midst of an emergency situation.
We asked working parents how they’re handling being at home with children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s their best advice for surviving and thriving during total family togetherness.
Establish a Routine
You might think you need to create a color-coded schedule that dictates everything you and your children need to accomplish each day. You don’t. What do you need though is a general routine so everyone in your house understands what is expected of them — and when.
Carrie Sharpe says, “It’s helpful to establish a daily routine that is structured, yet flexible. And remember — the routine doesn’t necessarily need to follow a school schedule. For example, kids can play outside while parents work on the porch. Work can even be done in blocks of time, with fun family breaks in between, rather than working a traditional eight hours in a row.”
And Sharpe is no stranger to working at home with children. She’s been homeschooling her kids since 2004 while running a business for the last decade. Her family may now have a routine that works for them, but Sharpe suggests being easy on yourself when it comes to figuring out what works (and what doesn’t).
She says, “For a family suddenly thrown into this scenario, it will take time to find a routine that works. It’s important to be patient and flexible. Work together as a family to plan the day, and make sure you include some fun!”
Your kids may be your number one priority, but that doesn’t mean your job can just fall by the wayside either. If your family is going to be home together, you’ll also need to teach your children that you need your own time to get work done.
How you approach this will depend on your children’s ages. The youngest will need you to guide their daily activities, so make sure to encourage supervised, yet independent play. Explain to them that while they’re playing you’ll be working, and set a timer for when you’ll reconnect for something more fun, like a quick dance in the kitchen.
The older a child is, the more they’ll understand about giving you the space you need to work — even if they aren’t the best about giving you that space. Still, talk to them about how they can help you, and be specific.
“Setting expectations is vital,” says Sharpe. “I hang a stop sign on my door when I’m on a call with a client, and our kids know I expect them to work quietly and not interrupt me during that time.”
Your children’s schools may be closed, but that doesn’t mean that it’s time for a vacation. If your child’s school assigned work to be completed, set up times throughout the day for them to do their school work.
If they didn’t, find tools to help your kids stay sharp. There are many apps, documentaries, and learning websites your children can utilize. Take advantage of any online storytimes or activities you see offered. If your child is learning a language, encourage them to video conference with a friend from school for practice.
That being said, you do not, and should not, replicate a seven-hour school day during their time at home. Your children may need to work in spurts (which is likely how you’ll be working too!).
Melissa Droegemueller, early childhood education specialist, says, “Short attention spans are normal and developmentally-appropriate, so don’t be afraid to switch up activities every 10-15 minutes at first. Before long, your child’s stamina will increase to 30 minutes or more.”
Let Them Play
While learning is vital, playtime is also just as important. Remember, this change is affecting your children just as much as it’s affecting you. They’ve suddenly lost their connection to classes like music, dance, or swimming. Their sports seasons suddenly ended or were delayed. They can’t play with their friends from school, neighbors, or cousins.
So let them breathe a little. And let them play more.
NJ Rongner, full-time remote employee at Clickfunnels, says, “I am used to having my kids at school all day, and now that they’re home, we’re doing the dance of educating at home and working from home. I realized this morning what a gift this time is to take them by the hand and give them their childhood back. They are six and 10; we’ve pulled out blocks, LEGOs, and Matchbox cars. Outside, it is all about sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and scooters.”
And Droegemueller recommends, “If you can, hold off on screen-time until mid-afternoon at the earliest. It’s much harder to turn screens off once they’ve been on for the day.”
That being said, go easy on yourself if you find that your children are watching more television or playing games more often than they normally would. You’re all adjusting to a major life change. And, if you’re concerned, just make sure the shows they choose to watch and the games they play have an educational slant to them.
It’s important to let your children feel like they have some control over the decision-making, and this goes for both educational and playtime choices.
Droegemueller explains, “When kids are able to choose activities for themselves, they are more likely to stay engaged for longer periods of time.”
Rongner agrees and adds “It is my job to provide the resources and it is their responsibility to figure out how to use them. So far, so good!”
And finally, know that you’re currently in uncharted waters. Give yourself some grace and whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to what your peers may be posting on social media.
Sharpe reminds us, “Every family is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to working from home.”