How to work from home with children
Schools all around the UK have been closed from the end of March to prevent children and staff from catching and spreading coronavirus. Many schools are doing whatever they can to remain open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, with members of staff staying in school to support their needs. Children of non-essential workers, essential workers with the ability to work from home and children that are safe to be at home will be joining their parents or guardians for the foreseeable future.
If you’ve been joined at home by a small colleague or two (or more!), you’re likely to feel overwhelmed by your new working life. Whether you’re self-employed or working for an employer, juggling your full or part-time role with childcare is a challenge. Family life is hectic at the best of times without throwing work into the mix. Without freedom of the outdoors and the school day to keep your children stimulated, your work life is likely to be impacted by lockdown. Here are a few tips to help you find balance while working from home with your children.
Be transparent with your children
It’s a confusing time for children whose lives have suddenly been put on hold. Depending on their age, your child will know differing levels about the coronavirus and its impact on the world. It’s important to be open and honest with them about what’s happening, why they’re at home and that you still have to work. Before engaging in conversation about the virus, you will need to gauge their level of understanding to know how in-depth you should go to explain it. You could ask what they know already and if their friends are chatting about what’s going on. Ask if they have any questions and answer as truthfully as possible, without causing any other worries. You don’t want their concerns and anxieties to build up so keep the conversation productive with things they can do to help themselves and everyone else.
Focus your conversations on hygiene. Make sure they know that the safest thing to do is stay at home and wash their hands. There are lots of great resources online to help them learn about spreading germs and practice their handwashing technique. If you have an older child, they’ll already know what’s going on but may not have the information from the right reputable sources. If they have questions that you don’t know the answer to, send them in the direction of the government and NHS websites. If you think they’re getting overwhelmed by it all, try to limit their exposure to the news so their anxieties don’t grow.
Be flexible with your routine
Nothing is normal right now so you can’t expect your work life to stay as it is in the office. Establishing a new routine will help you gain some form of normality in this strange climate. You might have to speak to your employer about your child commitments and that your work hours will be out of the ordinary. If they agree, you could work earlier in the morning or later in the evening outside of the typical 9-5 hour day. If your child is still young, nap times are ideal to get in up to an hour of work or more to fit in some calls or emails.
You could create a flexible schedule that your family can stick to. Having time slots for breakfast, lunch, dinner, exercise, free time and learning will help you and your child stay motivated. Try not to be restrictive with what you do in those slots – just chat to your child about how they’re feeling and what they want to do that day. This could be playing in the garden, watching a film, doing some crafts or going for a walk. If you commit to specific lists everyday and life gets in the way, you can feel like you’ve failed to achieve your goals.
Establish working boundaries
At the beginning of each week, plan out your work schedule and tasks so you know what calls, meetings, emails and projects need to be worked on. Mark out these hours and fit in time with your child around them. Let your child know that you’re going to be occupied during this time and that you need to concentrate on work. If you know you’re about to go on a call, you could set your child up with an activity that can take an hour or so. After you’re done, check in with them and give them some attention. If you give them your time, they’ll give you yours.
Your work hours could be within their daily film viewing slot. Give them blankets and their favourite snacks so they have something to look forward and stay occupied while you’re working. If they want to be in the room with you whilst you work, you could put some toys or a puzzle near your workstation. This way, they can see you but aren’t demanding your attention.
Increasing their screen time is fine
Screen time gets a really bad wrap. With so much more time to spare during the day, your children are bound to spend more time in front of their screens. Whether it’s the TV, tablet, phone or electronic game, screens are great for stimulating their learning and holding their attention. There are so many great resources available for children online including games, puzzles, talks, podcasts, bedtime stories, videos, TV shows and movies.
However, with more screen time, you’ll need to increase your internet safety measures if you haven’t already. Thinkyouknow.co.uk has some great resources for the online and offline safety of children of all ages, parents and teachers.
Not everything has to be educational
With your children out of school, you might feel the pressure to fill their days at home with lessons. No one expects you to be a teacher while you’re still working from home; free learning through play and exercise is just as important. Depending on the age of your child, you might want to check how many hours of actual studying they need to do a day. For younger children, it might just be an hour or two and for older children, it might be more.
Stay up to date with your child’s nursery or school as a lot of institutions are streaming classes over video or live channels. These virtual classrooms might be the solution for you if you’re struggling to devote a couple of hours a day to teach your children. Twinkl has brilliant resources for children in early years, KS1, KS2 and KS3/4. They’ve put together a COVID-19 school closures home learning hub with resources for children, parents and teachers as well as wellbeing and support. You can print resources or download them digitally depending on what you have available at home.
The key to working from home with children is to be realistic about what you can actually do. No one expects you to be a brilliant chef, employee, teacher, personal trainer and entertainer rolled into one. The situation you’re in is a unique one but it’s only temporary. That’s not to undermine the challenges you’re facing right now, but try to find the silver lining in all of this. You’re able to spend a great deal of time with your child at home that you wouldn’t usually experience. Looking forward to the small things like going for a walk, making lunch and watching movies with your children will help you get through the day.