Working from home with kids

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Our survival guide

We’re back in National Lockdown, schools are at reduced capacity and many of us are trying to navigate living and working together as a family. Things are already feeling slightly different. In some ways, perhaps easier because we know what to expect, but in other ways, more difficult. Being winter this time, means we might be feeling more cooped up and have a strong sense of déjà vu and at the same time, experiencing ‘Covid Fatigue’.

To help us all get through, we have trawled the net to find some helpful tips to survive the next few weeks, as we face the prospect of home schooling and working without childcare. There are a wealth of articles providing useful insights out there, so we have collated and picked out our highlights. All links are included so that you can dive in and read more.


1. Virtual playdates are the way forward.

We’ve found virtual playdates to be our saviour throughout 2020, and amazingly our 4-year-old is just as comfortable playing and interacting on the iPad as he is in person. He has playdates with friends, cousins and grandparents, who often bring out puppets and other props to make things more fun. Virtual story time is also a good one and all these activities just give us a bit of time to get work done. We’ve also found playdates give the grandparents a chance to be involved when they can often feel they’re losing valuable time with their grandchildren.


2. Talk to people about your concerns.

It’s easy to get your head down and push on through, feeling like you don’t have time to speak to anyone, but by talking to others, you might find it helps you get through the hardest of days.

“They may not be able to solve it all for you, but just listening to your issues and providing suggestions could take a load off your shoulders. Find out what are other working parents you know are doing. Talk to your manager about your worries. Of course, they’ll be aware of the issues parents are facing and your organisation may well be looking at what can be put in place. But for the immediate future can you take a couple of days of annual leave to sort it out? And if you’re worried about pay visit Mental Health and Money Advice for tips” (https://mentalhealth-uk.org/blog/looking-after-children-and-yourself-while-working-from-home/)


3. Get your focus priorities done first

“Prioritize your own workday and make sure you get to anything that requires time and focus (like writing) first because there will be interruptions and it will take longer than it should,” said one WFH mom. “Then do give your kids some time and attention. Some tasks like replying to emails or reading can be done while overseeing schoolwork. Get everyone outside for a bit, even if it’s just five minutes of jumping jacks or being silly.” (https://www.todaysparent.com/family/family-life/working-from-home-with-kids-coronavirus/).


4. Managing snack time

There are lots of ways you could manage snacks throughout the day. Emily Weinmann suggests setting up snack stations andrecently had a post go viral when she shared her tips for running a design business from home with kids under the age of seven. “Prepare a BUNCH of snack kits the night before. I have little snack bags and cups. They are ready on their own shelf so I can grab two while on a call...it also makes sense to put kid-safe glasses on a low shelf kids can reach, and teach your little ones how to get themselves water.” (https://www.todaysparent.com/family/family-life/working-from-home-with-kids-coronavirus/)

If you have toddlers in the house, you might need to think about how you can put these out of reach, otherwise it could be very tricky to manage! Alternatively you could try the following:

  • Make individual snack boxes the night before so that everyone can have them in the fridge and can manage their own snacks throughout the day.
  • Have set snack times and use the time to get your head down while they’re occupied. In our house, there is is no quieter time than when the kids are busy eating.

5. How to use the downtime

“Kids sometimes need to entertain themselves, but don’t set them up to fail. Suggest quiet activities when they have downtime. (Puzzles or crafts are great.) Download books from the library or teach your kids how to access and listen to podcasts and audio books. Provide easy access to LEGOs, board games, toy cars, dolls – whatever they’re into. Allow them additional screen time. We’re in the middle of a pandemic – an hour or two of extra electronics each day isn’t going to scar them forever. Plus, many authors, illustrators, musicians, teachers, national parks, museums and more have been offering engaging, educational and free online content. Take advantage of it. Make a long list of “things to do when you’re bored” and post it for easy access.” (https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/salaries-and-skills/how-to-survive-working-from-home-when-your-kids-are-around).

We love this idea of coming up with a bored list. You can direct them to it whenever they’re feeling like they need a boost. There is also so much in terms of educational material that they can watch now, they can be learning while you're busy. Check out the BBC from Monday 11th January for a whole range of live educational programmes daily.


6. Leave the house (while following the rules)

“Don’t underestimate the benefits of even a brief change of scenery. Take your work to a local park and snag an empty park bench. Also consider your front porch, back deck, balcony or patio. Physically leaving the house (even if only a few steps) and getting some fresh air can do wonders for the psyche. Your car is a good place to conduct conference calls or interviews when silence is necessary. Driving to a deserted parking lot also is a great way to achieve distance, silence and a change of scenery. “ (https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/salaries-and-skills/how-to-survive-working-from-home-when-your-kids-are-around)


7. Teamwork

If you have a partner living with you, and you're both working from home during this time, try to agree a plan between you of when to spend time with the kids. This will mean that you’ll have time for work while the kids are also getting some much-needed attention from your partner and vice versa. “ (https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/working-from-home-tips-and-ideas)


8. Get help with the chores

Sometimes it feels like delegating chores could mean more work and time involved. However, the kids will get a good sense of satisfaction from it and once they know what they’re doing, it’ll probably help all round in the long run. Here are some ideas that we found for keeping 3 and 4 year olds busy. If you follow the link to the website, you’ll find more for different ages.

Chores for 3-year-olds – putting toys away, neat piles of books and magazines, helping to make the bed, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket, dust surfaces that don’t have anything on them.

Chores for 4-year-olds – as above, plus: getting dressed with minimal help, bring things from car to home, help unpack items from the supermarket or unload online shopping, wipe up spills, clean their room.

For more ideas on chores, see the article here.


9. Get activities set up to discover

“Prepare activity stations,” says Weinmann. “Think beads and string. Macaroni, glue and paper. Play Doh and rolling pin and cookie cutters on a garbage bag. Always on a garbage bag. If it’s the worst disaster pick the whole thing up, while on a call, and throw it out.”

But what’s more, she adds: Never tell your kids to do the activity! They won’t, she says. Just have them set up. “Let them discover them on their own. You’ll get way more silence. If one whines while on a call (see the theme?), silently lead them by the arm to the nearest garbage bagged station and watch as they dig in.” (https://www.todaysparent.com/family/family-life/working-from-home-with-kids-coronavirus/)


10. Look for the positives and enjoy the time

This is a stressful time for everyone as different worlds all collide in new ways, so it’s important to enjoy the little moments. Taking a quick break to get a little snuggle can really give you a little boost when you might need it most (https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/working-from-home-tips-and-ideas).

You might be anxious, they might be anxious, so have lots of cuddles, play lots of games, read them your favourite books, teach them your favourite recipes, make a mess. Whatever makes you happy and calm, try and make some time to share it with them (https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2020/04/09/five-tips-for-working-from-home-with-children/).


Useful articles

https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/working-from-home-tips-and-ideas

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/working-from-home-with-kids#reinforcement

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200401-how-to-work-from-home-with-your-kids-during-coronavirus

https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/fail-working-home-kids/1679946

https://www.todaysparent.com/family/family-life/working-from-home-with-kids-coronavirus/

https://www.ft.com/content/0cc49726-943c-11ea-af4b-499244625ac4

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/its-not-just-you-working-from-home-with-kids-is-impossible

https://www.totaljobs.com/advice/working-from-home-with-kids

https://mentalhealth-uk.org/blog/looking-after-children-and-yourself-while-working-from-home/

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/working-from-home-with-kids#playdates


We hope you found this article useful, and it provides you with some constructive ideas to use in these surreal and challenging times. And remember, we can only do our best.