We all know that schools are closing throughout the nation in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many parents are now left to quickly figure out alternate childcare so they can still go to work. For those parents who have the ability to work from home it’s still a daunting task to remain productive on the job while keeping little ones busy. In this article, we offer some expert advice on how to handle things at home in the coming weeks.
Shift Your Work Hours
If you have very young children, and no one to help you care for them during the day, it will be very challenging (if not impossible) to work while they are awake. That’s just reality. So, to help you cope, you need to create a plan for yourself that capitalizes on the time they are sleeping. That may mean:
- Setting your clock for 4am so you can work for a few hours before your kids wake up
- Working during any and all nap times
- Opting out of conference calls that will be during your child’s awake time
- Putting your kids to bed earlier (much earlier if necessary) so you can work after they’re asleep (here are the recommended bedtimes for children by age)
Be honest with your employer about your constraints around childcare and ask about shifting when and how you work. Most employers will understand and appreciate you coming to them with a clear plan of action for how the work will get done (even if it’s a bit unusual!).
Create a Daily Schedule
If your children are a little bit older/school-age, it will help to create a daily schedule. Children thrive on structure (and so do most adults), so one of the first things to do is create a daily plan for your family. This will help your kids know what to expect and will give you blocks of time to get work done. You don’t have to get too involved with this. If it makes more sense for your family to create three longer blocks of time, then do that. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but here are some suggestions for things you can schedule in:
- Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner (this will mitigate the constant asking for snacks)
- Reading: quietly reading a book (choose books that stretch your kids academically)
- Creativity: coloring, painting, playing with clay
- Recreation: riding bikes, roller skating or just general outdoor play
- Naps: if you child still takes them
- Television/Electronics: We suggest following screen-time guidelines as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Family time: where you spend time together playing a game, watching a movie or just hanging out
Be sure to have a discussion with your kids so they understand the new schedule and that you cannot be disturbed during certain blocks of time. If your kids are school-age, you can place a “Do Not Disturb” sign in the open doorway when you are in a work block and ask them to interrupt only in an emergency.
Cut Yourself a LOT of Slack
The most important piece of this evolving “work from home with kids” situation is to reduce your own stress. The truth is, even shifting your work hours and creating a schedule will not eliminate all the challenges that come with working from home with kids. In fact, if all the advice and recommendations you're getting are driving you crazy - don’t do them! You just need to do whatever creates peace in your own home. Then, breathe deeply and be gentle with yourself if it doesn’t all turn out perfectly. This is a challenging, ever-evolving time and we are all figuring out how to bend and adapt to the best of our ability.