Many of us are now a few weeks into working remotely and starting to adapt to this new routine. However, one challenge we face is trying to work from home with children. Kids need extra attention during this crisis as it’s such an unsettling time, the life they are used to has been turned upside down and they don’t understand why. They need you.
I for one find the balancing act of home schooling, entertaining, feeding and working very difficult. There are some days where you feel like you’ve been a good parent, the master of fun and crafting, but your work has slipped. Then there are the days where your work consumes you a little too much and the iPad becomes your best parenting tool (happens to the best of us). Then there are those golden days, where everything is just right, everyone is happy, and you feel on top of the world.
Below are my tips for WFH with children, the advice won’t always work...because kids are crazy and unpredictable... but hopefully it will help!
Communication is Key
Communicate with your children about this new home life, reassure them that even though you have to work, they are still your priority, and everything will be fine. They will learn to understand that you won’t be able to tend to them every 5 minutes like you can at weekends and they will need to adapt to that, but with everything going on in these crazy times that we are living in, what they need the most is you. In this sense, you physically being at home working, is actually a very positive thing for everyone.
Communicate with your partner, if you have one, about how you can work together to make sure both of you are able to adapt to this new way of working. Chat about dividing responsibilities and childcare between you if you are both WFH, so that you are both able to still do your job effectively. If you are a single parent, you'll divide your work and childcare duties to suit your family differently. I fully respect that you have a mightier task than most. My husband has taken a temporary delivery job and works long hours, so I am solo parenting and all I can advise is that you communicate with your family and friends on a daily basis...virtual support really helps!
Communicate with your employer, making sure you are open and honest about your WFH situation. We are all in the same boat at the moment, so your employer will understand that you’re working day will need to be much more flexible than before and might not mean youre necessarily at your computer from 9 until 5.
When you can, try to include lots of breaks and outdoor time (in the garden) for yourself and the children in your daily plan. At the very least, make sure you're all getting outside for your daily walk, run or cycle. It's important for everyone’s mental health. Children need lots of play time to help them both learn and rationalise their world.
‘Experts believe that play is vital for a child’s emotional development; the emergence of their experience, expression and understanding. From processing ideas and feelings to developing empathy, emotional resilience and coping with anxiety, play is a natural way for children to develop the skills they need to understand the world they live in.’ (maketime2play.co.uk)
If the children are happily playing, you can get on with your work!
If you are juggling work with home schooling, then make sure that they are doing schoolwork at the same time every day. The key to this is PLANNING... make sure you know exactly what learning activities will be done the next day and at what time, so that you can set them to work quickly and be ready to help them learn when needed. If your kids are busy, then you can be too with your own work!
For example at my house, 9am-11am and 2pm-3pm is ‘work time’ my son does his school activities and I sit next to him in the morning on my laptop designing/posting and scheduling social media content for the day, making sure I am on hand to explain fractions and grammar. I do however also have an erratic 3 year old thrown into the mix which means this is not always as straight forward as planned!
The positive effect of structure also applies to your house, separate your workspace from your family space, have a dedicated area where you can turn on ‘work mode’ and focus. If possible, in a separate room while your partner supervises the children, but even an area on your kitchen table that allows you to work and also keep an eye on the kids.
Make sure you have a daily structure that works for your family, but be flexible, take every day as it comes and definitely don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go to plan and the kids end up on the iPad for a few hours. They will be happy if you are.
We are all adapting to a new way of living and working together at home with our families... it’s not easy! However, this is actually a really positive time from a family perspective, as you are spending time with your children that you possibly wouldn’t normally. ENJOY IT and try to release the guilt you feel to both your employer and your children... you aren't superhuman and we are all in the TOGETHER!
Sam Shinners is Marketing and Social Media Executive at Forward Role, you can find out more about her HERE.