Working from Home with Kids During the Coronavirus Pandemic

More and more parents are now working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Perhaps you’ve been trying “not to bring work home” but employers, mindful of the coronavirus pandemic, are asking many parents to do just that. If you’ve never worked from home before – let alone with a house full of kids – let’s shorten the learning curve for you.

Having been in this situation before I can tell you being organized and having a plan are your best defenses against bedlam and anxiety. Take a deep breath and a proactive approach and you’ll get through it better than you thought possible. So if your children are out of school and you are working from home here are some tips.

Family meeting
If ever there was a time for a family meeting it’s now. Clearly explain to the kids what’s happening and why. Don’t be secretive, but don’t be an alarmist. Kids need to buy into the new arrangement, and yes they still need routine. Life at home isn’t going to be a free-for-all it’s a change in the schedule. Figure out together what everyone needs.

Set up your space
A little preplanning helps here. If you already have a home office that’s easy, if not the dining room table (not the kitchen table) might be a good choice. Also, set up a space for the kids. If they don’t have a desk you can turn a bridge table into a learning center. If your children are very young a low table with arts & crafts, books, and games should be set up and made to look enticing. Change the items on display each day.

Get up and ready
Assuming that you don’t have a nanny or any other outside help let’s move on with the plan. As usual, everyone gets up on time and gets dressed. Everyone adheres to the routine. That includes making beds and brushing teeth. Don’t fall into the trap of staying in your PJs or letting the kids do the same. Save that for the weekend so there is a clear difference between the workweek and the weekend. You don’t need to put on your pearls, but a clean shirt and a pair of leggings or jeans should suffice.

Schedule the day
After breakfast together, you go to work and the kids go to homeschool. Avoid turning on the TV or giving into letting everyone use his or her electronics. Early energy should be spent accomplishing work. Save the electronics for the late afternoon slump. If your children are old enough be sure to discuss interruptions and how they should be handled. You’ll need to take breaks to monitor life at home, but this will replace getting up for another cup of coffee at work. If you have a toddler you’ll have to introduce an activity and be prepared to take breaks to introduce new interests. I once let my toddler take all the books off the bottom two rows in a bookcase and then put them back as she saw fit. It kept her very busy.

Break for lunch and recess
Sit down together and have lunch – it helps keep a routine. After clean up, go outdoors for some exercise and play. Kids need to burn off steam and stay invigorated – you do too. If you have a dog, walking the dog can be worked into the routine as something positive to do.

Back to work or nap (if applicable)
Recharged and refueled everyone goes back to work or if your kids are young maybe a nap.

Late afternoon playtime
Let the homeschool day end. This is where a treat like a TV show or other electronics can be offered. How your kids spend this time depends a lot on their preferences. One child might enjoy creating a ballet to perform for the family that evening, another might be drawn to the LEGOs. Remember play is how children learn so let them play. Board games can be a good solution to get kids doing things together.

End the workday
Just as you would come home from work make an end to the workday. You may need to go finish some work once the kids are asleep, but stop and enjoy some family time. Perhaps you can cook diner together and after play a game, or exercise together. Try and use this time to get in some fun as a family. Pulling together is what it is all about, and that alone is a powerful lesson to teach your kiddos.