Many parents try to limit working from home with their children to the occasional sick or snow day. However, all that is set to change during these unprecedented times. With schools closed, working from home and ‘social distancing’ now our unusual reality, many families are finding themselves in the position of needing to work and mind children – at the same time, under the same roof.
Tips for working with kids
So, what can working parents do to ensure their children are occupied and happy, whilst still being able to support their business and colleagues?
1.Create a family schedule: It’s important to create a schedule early. Ideally, it should outline the full day from waking up to bedtime, your set ‘office’ hours, when food will be made, when it will be eaten and when any breaks will occur. Try to line up your work plan with your children’s typical routines – for example, parents of young ones may find it easier to schedule calls during naptime or when older children are doing schoolwork.
A good template for a child’s weekday schedule – one which aims to keep them occupied so you can get as much work done as possible – might look something like the below. If there are multiple working adults in the household, you might also want to allocate who will ‘own’ each chunk of time, thereby helping ensure everyone is able to have some distraction free work time:
2. Agree your working hours: Dependent on the age of your children, you may need to alter your hours slightly – some may find it easier to work earlier than usual, for example. Most leaders will want as much business continuity as possible whilst also setting an understanding tone, so should be accommodating of all reasonable requests.
3. Stick to the routine: Once your schedule is in place, try not to deviate from it. You want your children to adjust to the circumstances quickly, and establishing a routine is vital to achieving this, as well as assuring their general wellbeing. It will also be a good way to make them understand that there are set times where – if possible – they should try not to disturb any working adults.
4. Plan to keep them entertained with games and learning: Pre-plan new games for the week ahead – there are plenty of blogs with ideas for games that only require basic household items or toys you already have. Here are a few fun ideas to get you started:
- The 30-day Lego challenge: download your instructions for a daily way to get kids using their imaginations
- Run an indoor scavenger hunt
- Create an upcycling project with an old piece of furniture in the house
- Ask them to recreate famous paintings – and teach them about the artist and era at the same time
- Make ‘gratitude’ paper chains: on the inside of each link, your kids can write something they are happy about or grateful for. Add a new link each day, to keep the family positive during what can be an anxious and stressful time
- Have them research and create their family tree, maybe with the (careful!) use of old photo albums
- Create costumes or jewellery (using old clothes, paper and paint) from different eras in history. Have them research these themselves, and maybe give you an educational ‘fashion show’, where they talk through what they have learned
- Make a ‘badge’ challenge: award your kids badges every time they do something positive, helpful or creative, and tally up badges at the end of each week, perhaps giving a reward if they have earned a certain number
- Gardening: even if you don’t have a garden, buy some pots and (indoor friendly) seeds, and teach your kids to look after them every day. Maybe see who can get their plant to grow the fastest?
- Ask your kids to create and learn an exercise or yoga routine that they can teach back to you, as a way of ensuring they are keeping active – there are plenty of YouTube tutorials showing exercise and mindfulness movement specifically (and safe) for children
Now may also be a good time to teach them some life skills: perhaps they can help prepare food on your lunchbreak or be your assistants with the household chores? It might also be a good idea to encourage them to keep a diary or scrap-book over the next few weeks.
Give older kids some extra responsibilities, such as looking after their younger siblings – sporty teenagers will be especially good at keeping little ones active and healthy – and maybe ‘owning’ certain mealtimes. This will also help ensure they don’t spend the next few weeks glued to their tech devices! Of course, it’s important to reward them for this behaviour, so consider pushing their usual bedtime back, increasing their pocket money or whatever other perks you see fit.
You might also want to consider having scheduled video-call ‘play dates’ with their school friends. Of course, too much technology can prove tricky for many kids, so try to factor in quality time earlier in the day and position movie viewings or computer time as an afternoon ‘treat’.
And of course, with lots of time away from school, it’s great to know there are lots of resources at your disposal which you may find helpful in your quest to keep kids learning, whilst also getting that work project completed on time. Have a look at some of the below:
Educational content for kids
5. Carve out a work zone: For many parents the thought of creating an ‘adult only’ zone in your home may be wishful thinking. However, if your kids are a bit older, try to carve out a space to work in that is free from children’s paraphernalia. This is so you can keep your work and parenting roles separate, giving each your full concentration for a set amount of time without feeling like you aren’t doing either well.
6. Expect the unexpected: There is no point being too stressed about your child suddenly interrupting a conference call or needing to rearrange a pre-planned video-meeting at short notice because one of your toddlers has hurt themselves. These things happen, and under the circumstances, most of your colleagues, or customers should be understanding. But, saying that, always know where your mute button is!
And finally, try to enjoy this time together. These are stressful times for many people. However, it is important to try to notice the silver lining wherever you may find it. Chances are, your kids will be pretty excited to be spending so much time with you!
About this author
Orlagh Reynolds is a Senior Business Director leading a team of Hays recruiting specialists across Office Support, Accountancy & Finance, Senior Finance HR and Procurement and Supply Chain. Orlagh has over 16 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, in both Ireland and Australia, and is based in our Dublin office.