While the current times cannot guarantee us what happens next, parents working from home with the kids can all agree to one thing: They faced the challenge of balancing their duties at work and responsibilities as parents. Anxiety can slowly creep into many parents as schools now prepare for remote learning, while they are still getting attuned to telecommunicating from their work from home desks.
But, fear not! If you suddenly find yourself working at home while your kids are remote learning (getting their schoolwork done in the next room or table next to you), there are ways you can explore to ensure that things are under your control and you keep your cool. Read on to learn how you can balance remote work with your family’s new normal.
Level off everyone’s expectations.
First, manage your expectations. Here’s a truth: You’ll never be as productive with the kids in the house as you would be without them. That’s perfectly OK. This reality is your life now, and you’re only fair to yourself the sooner you accept it. To manage the stress and maintain good mental health, look into the tasks and goals on your plate. Then, see what can get pushed back for now, with the blessing of your manager. The younger your children are, the more adjustments you might need in your work arrangements.
Second, manage the expectations of your colleagues. Be transparent about the fact that you’re at reduced capacity at this time, but at the same time, try to avoid being a bottleneck in productivity. Let your work team know that you’re doing your best to keep up with workload essentials. Think about whether doing some work during odd hours of the day would make your home and life balance more manageable. If this is the case, ask your teammates when they would like you to be responsive to communication during the day.
Lastly, do not forget to manage your kids’ expectations. If your kids are old enough to understand that you need to get some work done, you need to be clear with them about your needs while you’re working. Let them know when it’s OK to interrupt you during your working hours. For example, while it’s understandable to disrupt you in case of an injury, it might not be a good idea to tear you away from your work if one of their favorite non-learning-related apps won’t load on their device.
Host a short family meeting.
Before you get down to business in your remote work, sit everyone down at the family table or in the living room to discuss how the changes will affect the family. Here are a few suggestions on what can be discussed:
- What is everyone hoping to accomplish with their time during this quarantine and time together as a family? What do you all want out of this? How does everyone plan on achieving these goals?
- How do family members intend to structure their days?
- Will family members make their beds if no one is leaving the house?
- Do you plan to get dressed during the day, or will pajama days be allowed during quarantine?
- How will meals and snack times be handled while parents work and kids learn from home during the day?
During your family meeting, allow your children the opportunity to be heard. This way, even if your family meeting is a very short one, the five to ten minutes will be very worth it. When your kids feel as though they have more say in their day-to-day schedules, then they will have more energy invested in learning from home. This energy and emotional investment will go a long way toward their cooperation.
Create a daily routine while working from home with your kids.
Kids like structure. They feel comfortable knowing what to expect out of their days and feel best when their schedule can assure them of stability. A significant factor in making detailed schedules will be how old your kids are. For elementary school-aged kids, you can divide the day into two-hour blocks, filled with activities that they can execute independently.
Remember to be easy on everyone when scheduling. It’s OK to include a fair bit of screen time. This quarantine and its effects are a marathon and not a sprint. There’s no point in seeing who can win at best parenting from week to week. With remote learning in the mix, it’s all about just making everything work the best you can.
If your partner or spouse is also working at home with you, then the two of you can plan together to take care of the kids at different points in the day. Make the plan relatively simple. One parent can take mornings while the other can watch the kids in the afternoons, if possible. This plan is easy to keep track of while also ensuring that both parents each get half a day of uninterrupted work time at their disposal.
Prepare meals and snacks in advance.
It would be awesome if you could plan with your family in creating healthy, delicious meals and snacks ahead of time. The ideal set up is before getting into work or school mode, morning snacks are already ready, and the rest of the day’s menu is already agreed on. No one should be picky about lunch or dinner food. In reality, it’s hard to expect that level of organization from busy families, and many kids have a very selective palate.
However, perfection is not the goal when feeding your family in this new normal. Think back to managing your expectations so that you can still pull things off in preparing sumptuous meals while enjoying quality time with your family. The good thing is you don’t have to deal with a commute, so you can use this time to make simple snacks and lunches for later. Think about simple solutions like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pre-chopped fruits and raw veggies, chicken nuggets out on a plate, pre-poured glasses of milk in the fridge, and other kid-friendly options. Let your kids have some choices during the day when it comes to snacks and lunches. This way, they are less likely to put up a fuss when it comes time to eat.
Enjoy quality streaming content.
Streaming a few episodes of a fun podcast as kids play with puzzles or colors can keep them engaged for good periods while teaching them something unexpected. The activity can also keep them busy while you get some much-needed work done. Below is a list of our suggested podcasts:
- Brains On: This science show is for kids and tweens. Topics are wide-ranging, covering the silly (why you can’t tickle yourself) to the gross-out (what’s the deal with boogers).
- What-If World: This is the podcast where all of your children’s’ “What if?” questions get answered. It features lots of mini-sketches and character voices.
- Forever Ago: Forever Ago is a history podcast for kids and tweens. A famous episode from the series is all about the history of sandwiches.
In addition to podcasts, tons of documentaries are available for school-age kids. Children as young as four years old can get into some of them to be entertained and educated at the same time. For the pre-K through the second-grade set, check out Disney’s “Growing Up Wild” or “If I Were an Animal.” Nature shows like “The Blue Planet” feature remarkable photography suitable for any age. Students of mid-elementary school age can view videos on National Geographic Kids’ website for hours without getting bored.
Some museums and zoos are also live-streaming their content during quarantine and remote learning. Some zoos feature daily check-ins on social media, with follow-up activities for students to do later on at home.
For families interested in art, the United Kingdom’s National Gallery offers many videos about its collection. In the videos, viewers can learn about art restoration and artists who have painted some art in the museum’s collection, among many others.
Education apps are currently waiving subscription fees for their services. During the quarantine, if you’re interested in getting your children to use learning apps like Khan Academy, ABC Mouse, and Adventure Academy, now would be the time to take advantage.
Don't forget physical activity.
While COVID-19 canceled gym class at this time, it doesn’t mean that your family has an excuse to stop getting some exercise. Some great workout videos for kids and teens are on YouTube, plus dance and choreography videos if your kids are into that.
The best option is to get your kids outside, if possible. Public playgrounds may not be the way to go right now unless you know for a fact that local officials are regularly sanitizing the equipment. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy some fresh air in the backyards and open courtyards. Classic games like hide-and-seek, tag, and catch are lifesavers right now.
Try to spend a little extra time together.
While you probably need to squeeze as much working time as you can while parenting all-day from home during these uncertain times, try to take advantage of the extra time you are getting with your kids. If you can, during lunch breaks, take a walk around the neighborhood together, read with them, or build a fort in the yard with them. Despite the challenging times, you can still create good memories and cherish the little moments with your kids.
At Infinity Consulting Solutions, we understand that a healthy work and home balance is vital, especially during these times. To learn more about how we approach work-life, contact us today, and we would be glad to share our best practices with you.