As a psychologist, I’ve identified 8 strategies to help parents more effectively work from home with their children. With children out of school, no sports, no camps, no activities, and no playdates it is a tremendous upheaval and disruption. At first kids will enjoy having no school or activities but in the coming weeks it will become more difficult for both parents and children. Teenagers and middle schoolers are already texting me freaking out!
Throughout the US the lockdown is serious and could last 8 or more weeks! So let’s be as effective as possible during this time. The advice in this article is helpful for kids from 2 years old – 12 years old. For teenagers you will need to set expectations and discuss their plans for staying at home. It is also important to encourage and reward teenagers for effective behavior.
Below are 8 strategies for working from home with children.
1. Try to starve off kids from TV, ipads, movies, or video games as long as humanely possible. It is bad for their brains, for their relationship with you, and can create severe emotional outbursts when they are off the screen. Only use technology if it is absolutely necessary and have children watch educational programs. The workplace has no choice but to accept that your kids are at home and if they cannot tolerate this then you must set limits with them.
2. Have kids bring their toys and activities into your workspace and encourage them to be creative. Ask them to build, draw, or make something for you or to do their homework. Give them fun assignments and activities. Try to brainstorm some ideas with your kids the day before and make sure to talk with them about your expectations in the evening and in the morning. If they are older, get their input and create a plan together.
3. Sibling rivalry and fighting can also be severe during this time so set your expectations early, reward good behavior, and have a plan for their activities during the day. When fighting arises stop what you are doing for that moment, close your mouth, drop your agenda (even put someone on hold), calmly walk over to them, get down at their level, and set your expectation or discipline as necessary. At first this might take up a lot of your time and be frustrating but it is critical if you want to be productive working from home in the long term. **It is also critical to give older siblings the authority to care for younger siblings. Again it will take time to make this transition if older children have not cared for their younger siblings before.
4. Give rewards for your children’s accomplishments like stickers or just a high five. Make sure to give lots of hugs too! Be very supportive and reward their efforts to stay quiet or avoid sibling rivalry! This will encourage independent play or activities so you can work. It is important for them to feel like they are helping you and are now part of your work team. You are now a team together and the team must be properly rewarded for its efforts.
4. Move your desk so it faces outward toward the children and away from the wall!! This is critical even if it is highly inconvenient. It is probably a good idea to have two workspaces. One in the kitchen or living room, and one in an office or bedroom.
5. Put an extra set of chairs next to your desk or bring in another small table for them to sit at near you.
6. Play classical music in your workspace with no commercials. In the Bay Area we love classical 90.3 KDFC.
7. Take designated breaks and put the breaks on a whiteboard or sheet of paper for them to see. In addition, periodically interact with your kids to see how they are progressing on their own projects. It is critical for you to give your full undivided attention during periodic check ins or designated breaks. Make good eye contact, listen, ask questions, be encouraging!
8. Take a lunch break and make sure you take your kids outside for 30 – 60 minutes for a short walk (rain or shine) or go into your backyard and do something together like throw a ball. In the evening, watch a TV show or movie with them and talk about it together. Only give your children 1 hour of alone screen time if possible.
Your kids are a critical part of your work team now. If you implement the strategies from this article, you can be just as productive working at home as you were at work. The faster we implement these strategies and accept our new reality the better for everyone. It is my hope that by following these strategies you will enjoy this highly unusual and memorable experience with your children and talk about it for years to come.
Please feel free to post your ideas for best practices in the comments section of this article. If you would like coaching or support, please reach out to me via my website.