Due to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), the world has more or less stopped and many parents now need to work from home while homeschooling their children. In some places this happened so fast, many couldn’t arrange a designated home office overnight and/or hire a nanny to look after their young ones. Is that you? The good news is that you don’t have to cope with the situation alone. A lot of parents have been doing this for years. Of course, there is a difference between those who have decided to become stay-at-home working parents and those who have found themselves in this new world without an escape. But there is always a solution. Keep reading!

How to work from home with children around during COVID-19?

While you’re in the same boat with many other parents, your situation is unique to you. You should always keep that in mind. You may not see the light at the end of the tunnel right now but you will—hopefully soon. Here come 21 tips that can make the quarantine time more relaxed and help you stay sane!

1. Talk about the situation with your kids

Media outlets hardly report on anything other than COVID-19. Facts and statistics are published daily and there is always another story. Unfortunately, the spread of disinformation must be taken into consideration as well. Disinformation refers to false claims disseminated deliberately. When outlets make a mistake but guided with a conscience, we can talk about misinformation. That’s why media literacy plays a key role in this new media landscape. Be aware of this and turn to trustworthy websites to get informed.

If your kids are old enough, sit down with them and have a chat about the outbreak and how it affects your life. Start by asking them about how they feel to find out their level of worry. You should use simple and age-appropriate language. Have you ever seen an episode of the 5 Levels Video Series by WIRED? A scientist explains a concept to a child, a teenager, an undergraduate majoring in the same subject, a grad student, and a colleague… You have to do something similar. If they are worried that a loved one will die, maybe it’s time for a talk about the circle of life. However, let them know what they can do/control to help: like washing their hands, not touching their faces, etc.

2. Take advantage of tag-team parenting

If both you and your partner work from home, you should alternate shifts. Taking into account your business hours, one of you can watch the kids in the morning, the other during the afternoon. You can make adjustments if one of you has to deal with something important that cannot be postponed or rescheduled.

3. Create a schedule according to your kid’s age to keep them busy

Parents with babies, toddlers, school-age children and teenagers will embark on a quite different journey. While you may keep your baby close in a sling, you can’t stop your toddlers and older kids from roaming or running around. Teenagers might show more understanding but the lack of time spent with their friends may affect them so they become moody. Who knows?

So you should plan a schedule that works for them and for you as well. School-age children should follow a schedule similar to the one in school. If you have time, use cardboard or something like that to create your board and place it somewhere visible.

work from home with kids around
Source: Julie Gillins on Twitter. How does your schedule look?

4. Designate a work area in your home

Even if you live in a tiny apartment, set up a workstation. You should not work in your bed, though. You may need to trick your mind so you can separate work and private life. Wear your clothes when working, not pajamas. You should set some boundaries for your kids. Explain to them what it means that you’re in work mode: you can’t talk, you need to focus, etc.

You can create a sign that visualizes this for them: a thumbs up or down or “do not disturb” written on a sheet of paper. You can even encourage them to leave you a message or prepare some answers to their most common questions and place them on your door or wherever you can.

5. Set up a craft corner/activity area for your kids!

Why not ask your children to design your sign at their workstation? That designated area could also function as their school, if applicable. If you haven’t stocked up on crayon, colored pencils, highlighters, notebooks and such, order them as soon as possible. If your children participate in distance learning, an electronic device should wait for them as well.

We saw a video made by the son of a video journalist not a long time ago. The elementary school-aged boy received his homework from his teachers online, even the PE lessons. He had to do some burpees and jumps, for example. The parents even installed a rope climber in the house.

6. Plan your days

It’s easier said than done, especially with young kids. Yet listing your responsibilities for the next day could make you more efficient. You can prioritize tasks in many different ways. Just by deciding on your clothes for the next can boost your productivity.

7. Let your colleagues/clients know you’re at home with your kid(s)

Not every parent shares stories about their kids in the office. Even if you like to keep things strictly professional, you should communicate what your boss and colleagues should expect. Do you remember what happened to the Kelly family, right? The kids stormed into their dad’s study while he was discussing politics in South Korea on BBC. You may lock the door (if you have one) but forget to mute your microphone so everyone could hear your kids shouting “mommy” or “daddy.” Speaking of muting, use this function whenever you can.

8. Enjoy your time with your kids

It might be a cliché but we can’t emphasize this enough. Your life has turned upside down and it may affect you subconsciously or unconsciously. You may even feel overwhelmed. Reading the news doesn’t help you either. You may not be able to control everything but you can pay attention to your behavior and adjust—maybe just a tiny bit. So, don’t consider your kids as a burden during these challenging times, but cherish every moment. They need you as much as you need them. And you know what they say: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

9. Utilize the hours early in the morning and late in the evening!

To reduce the number of unexpected guests during work hours, you can schedule all the important calls for early in the morning or late in the evening when your children are sleeping. Generally speaking, you should aim at completing your tasks when uninterrupted work is possible. Do you have to attend a meeting around noon? Ask your partner to step in and take care of lunch.

10. Try not to procrastinate!

Procrastination might be art, but you should not immerse in it right now. Even if you are one of those people who get more productive or creative when racing against the clock to deliver a project on time. Try your best to spread your work evenly over the day/week/month. That being said, your clients or co-workers may understand if something urgent comes up and you don’t meet the deadline. This connects back to our advice on informing them about your situation.

11. Give tasks to your kids!

What happens when the entire family is cooped up in a house for an extended period of time? Well, it means the pile of laundry, toys and dishes may set new records. Over a certain age, children can take their fair share of household chores. You may tell them to organize their books according to colors or sort the spices in the kitchen. You could include these assignments in their schedules. Once the results are reported, reward them.

12. Practice possible scenarios with your kids!

Kids are like sponges. They learn by watching and copying their parents and teachers, and the people around them. With schools shut down, you may have more pressure on you, still take some time to do some acting with your kids. Play out different scenarios that may happen while you’re working. Discuss events that can wait and cannot wait. Practice them every day until you can see they “follow the plot.” Consistent behavior could fasten the process.

work from home with kids coronavirus
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova

13. Schedule video calls with grandparents and friends!

Grandparents over 70 belong to the risk group when it comes to COVID-19, as you may know. This means even if your parents could look after your kids for a few hours a day, you may not ask them to come over—especially not where there is a lockdown. But you may FaceTime with them daily! They could read stories or encourage your children to do some exercise. If you happen to own the same jigsaw, LEGO or board game, they could play together. Are they old enough to learn how to play chess?

Regular video chats with other family members and friends could bring some variety to your days in quarantine, too. Set up a secure community where your kids can interact with their friends, maybe play video games.

14. Find educational content online

Do you usually limit your kids’ screen time? Maybe you should loosen up about it a bit. Whether you want it or not, most of today’s kids grow up with technology, and the entertainment industry and educational institutes and institutions have also taken notice. Nowadays a sea of informative and perhaps interactive apps, websites and audio-visual content address children.

You may reward them with an episode of cartoons, such as Captain Planet and the Planeteers. By watching them they could learn about the environment, the human body, etc. You can check their school’s library to see what you can rent online or look for children’s books on YouTube and create a playlist for them. Add this to their schedule as well!

15. Keep your work hours separate from your family time

How? You may ask. It’s a matter of routine. You get dressed every morning to work and change when you’re done. Don’t bring your computer/phone to the dining table or when you play/learn with your kids. Clean your workstation once done and set your status “away.” If you send emails with a signature, insert your business hours in it. Some suggest that no housework should be performed while working. However, you may do chores during your breaks to refresh your brain. What small (weird) things do you do to delineate your work from home life?

16. Accept the fact that you may not finish everything

Even the best workers have to silence their perfectionist self. You too. You and your family need to adapt to an unprecedented situation. You may learn how to cope with it on the fly. So be realistic, lower your expectations and set easily achievable goals.

17. Don’t be so harsh on yourself and your kids

Happy and challenging days will come. Keep calm and you’ll manage to weather the situation. If your kids break a rule or you forgot to do homework with them, don’t punish yourself. Can you even tell which day is today? Many can’t. Just keep going, you’re doing your best.

18. Seek advice if you need it

Don’t hesitate to reach out to fellow parents for some advice. We bet many working STHM and STHD (stay-at-home moms and dads) have blogged about their experience. Not all of them, but a certain percentage of them probably work: they might run a business or freelance. Find out how they manage their lives and work from home with kids around.

19. Don’t forget to have fun

We’ve begun our list by telling you to enjoy your time with your kids. Now we’d like to remind you of taking care of yourselves. Whatever you do to relax or have fun, do it. Even now! If you can’t attend your yoga or pilates classes in the morning, turn on the computer and turn your living room or kitchen into a gym. Involve your kids, too!

Due to panic buying, many supermarkets ran out of yeast and other products. How did people respond to it? They started baking sourdough bread. It’s a time-consuming experiment, but you could do it as a family. Here you can find fun activities like: “Mix a batch of bread dough and separate it into several different bowls; place them in different places (outside, inside, in the dark, in the light) to see which environment yeast thrives in.” We can highly recommend learning about chemistry in a fun way with Kate the Chemist (Dr. Kate Biberdorf), too. Some other ideas?

20. Come up with a strategy

You’ve got the talk and set the right mindset, so you can start working on a strategy—a flexible one perhaps. Nobody knows how the situation will develop and things may suddenly get worse or better. Fingers crossed. Jot down some ideas and consider what approach(es) to remote work with kids around could work in your house.

21. Try and fail to find your way

Once you’ve got some ideas, you can implement them, one after the other if necessary. Rome wasn’t built in a day either. When you fail, learn from your mistakes and make some amendments. Next time you might succeed.


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