Ten Tips for Working at Home with Your Children
Many parents and their children are immersed in a new reality, working at home together because of the Coronavirus. While veteran teleworkers may have the perfect setup, they never planned on including family members in their work, much less children.
Families can learn how to work and play together all day, every day. Below are some tips to create a new work at home plan that works best for you and your children. Understand from the start, things may not go as smoothly as you had hoped, but we’re all providing for the common good by staying safe and healthy.
Try to replicate the structure and predictability that your child experiences at school as much as possible. You should provide your children with a routine, as well as clear, predictable expectations that will offer them a sense of control and comfort. The disruption of routines and schedules can be stress-inducing to children. Sticking to healthy habits is also important.
Experts from the Yale Child Study Center recommend the following:
- Create a schedule. Sit down with your children each morning and make a schedule of what the day is going to look like. If your child is young, it can be a pictorial sequence you can draw and put up on the refrigerator. This works for children preschool through high school. It can be that breakfast is at 7:30 AM, followed by clean-up time from 8:05 to 8:10 AM. Be specific, particularly with younger children. The goal is to re-create the school day exactly as much as possible, but to build a new routine for doing schoolwork at home. For most age groups, 30-minute blocks of time are best for specific academic tasks. Of course, parents will want to make sure their child’s schedule matches what they need to do. If you have a conference call at 10:00 AM, then maybe it is time for the children to watch an educational video or documentary. There are many high-quality educational programs available. See the Stepping Stone School At Home™ web page for multiple options https://www.steppingstoneschool.com/stepping-stone-school-at-home/
- It is helpful to mix in gross motor play or movement and quiet time. After the children watch the educational documentary, perhaps they dance with Alexa or practice yoga by watching a video. Stepping Stone School At Home ™ has many options to choose from yogawithadriene.com/yoga-for-kids . Then your children may be ready to work on the online school activities provided by their elementary schools or their early care and education programs. There are many online activities about writing, math, children’s literature, or other topics. Nothing is better than going outside for some fresh air and some gross motor activities. This can be a game of hide and seek, shooting hoops, jumping rope, hop scotch, riding bicycles, climbing trees, hula hoops, roller skating, etc.
- Schedule a time to be with your children. Even if a family is in the same house together all day, that doesn’t mean children are getting the level of interaction they need from adults. Maybe you prepare lunch together and then hang out while eating lunch for 15 minutes. Engage them in conversation by asking open ended questions.
- Embrace technology. Children are social beings and there are many technological tools that allow people to stay in touch today, from FaceTime, ZOOM to playing games together online. You can call upon grandma to spend 30 minutes reading a book to your children on FaceTime or ask Uncle Allan to do math problems from his home in California. You should include online interactions with friends and family into your schedule. Perhaps you can create your own digital village. Parents should keep some limits on screen time, but now is the time to cut yourself some slack in these extenuating circumstances. It is important to know that even if your child doesn’t do 100% of what you were looking for, if they did their best, that is alright!
- Take some time to create activity boxes. Fill the boxes with activities that the children can do on their own. Create theme boxes and label them, so the children have some choices. Art projects, glitter projects, or even creating a family tree. Just make sure the activities are age appropriate and contain activities that require a minimal of your help.
- Capitalize on naptime. Take advantage of naptime for staying productive while working from home. Whether your children sleep for one hour or three, use this time to finish assignments that require your complete focus and concentration. This would be the perfect time for work-related phone calls.
- Reward good behavior. While you need to set boundaries with your children in order for you to get your work done, you also need to acknowledge and reward good behavior. Let your children know you are about to start a meeting. Let them know what is happening and let them know you cannot be interrupted. Help them start a quiet puzzle or coloring project, and let them know you will check back in with them shortly. Steer children toward more calm, relaxing activities. If your children do interrupt you, stay calm. You may need to stop what you are doing and shoo them away or even deal with the problem. But, once you have handled the situation, and finished your work, have another discussion with your children. Explain to them that when they leave you alone, it helps you do a better job, so you need their help to do the best work possible.
- If your child has special needs, reach out to their school. Children with special needs, particularly autism will benefit from predictability at home. Special education at schools provide the structure that helps children on the spectrum thrive. Parents can consult with their special education specialists to ask for strategies that can be adapted at home.
- Be on the look out for anxiety. If your child is acting out, know that many of these behaviors could be related to anxiety over the current situation. They may be more whiny or irritable or have more temper tantrums. Instead of getting angry, upset or annoyed, take a breath and ask what is on their mind.
- Look for the silver linings. Due to the pandemic, families are spending more time together and, eventually we will look back on this time and know that we got through something difficult. This experience can also teach children how to deal with disappointment and be more flexible. These are vital life skills that parents should be modeling as they work through this difficult time.
Lastly, remember you are doing a wonderful job balancing your professional role while loving and caring for your child.