Strategies to help parents working from home with kids
Engagement 5 minute read

Strategies to help parents working from home with kids

Andra Mircioiu | April 16, 2020

Working from home with kids—whose routines have been displaced by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic—can be a challenge, no matter the age of the child. With schools closed and social distancing measures in place, parents now have to provide round-the-clock child care while also working from home.There are a few day-to-day strategies that you can share with remote working parents to make everyone’s day as productive and enjoyable as possible.

For kids at home, suddenly finding themselves unable to play with friends or see their classmates can lead to loud stressful meltdowns… particularly during company-wide video calls.

Experts at the CDC and the Canadian Paediatric Society offer many helpful tips on how to communicate age-appropriate information about the coronavirus so that kids can understand what’s happening and how staying at home helps keep everyone safe. 

1. Create weekly family schedules

You can visually separate “work time” and “play time” with a family schedule that everyone can refer to. 

If the kids are old enough, ask them to assign themselves activities. For example, from 1-2pm they can put down “colouring” and from 3-4pm it can be “quiet reading”. Self-assigning tasks creates a sense of responsibility and increases the chance of your kids actually following through with each activity. 

Be sure to also schedule family time, where everyone gets together to do one activity such as taking a walk around the neighbourhood or playing a board game. 

Your family schedule can be as descriptive or as sparse as you’d like to make it. Try it out for a week and tweak as needed to find the right level of detail that works for your family. 

2. Communicate your availability 

If your partner also works from home, use Google Calendar or similar software to create a separate work schedule that you both have access to and can edit. 

Be sure to include time-sensitive tasks and video calls to be able to see each other’s availability at a glance. Make contingency plans for any overlap or try to reschedule if possible. 

Sharing insight into your workday schedule can help set expectations with your partner regarding when you can or cannot help with childcare—and vice versa. 

3. Ramp up productivity during nap time

Working from home with kids often requires flexibility. Instead of 8-5, you might find yourself working early mornings, mid-afternoon and evenings to wrap up projects, with the time in-between spent with your children. 

Schedule important tasks to coincide with your kids’ nap time or bedtime and schedule tasks that require less focus when you’re all sharing a space or your kids are in the other room watching a show. 

Keep your manager in the know about any extended times you’ll be away from your computer and communicate your availability to your coworkers through status updates on instant messaging software such as Slack

Be kind to yourself and don’t expect everything to go as planned. You’re doing your best to balance your responsibilities in life and work in a time of extreme uncertainty. 

4. Find ways to ‘signal’ Do Not Disturb 

It happens. Kids interrupting a video call to tell you they’re hungry or they just saw a red car passing by. If you want to have a hope of not being interrupted, short of barricading yourself in a locked and sound-proof room, here are a few things you can try. 

If your kids are a bit older and you’re working in a separate room, try putting up a “shhh, please” sign on the door or tying a ribbon on the doorknob. Explain to your kids that if they see your do-not-disturb signal, it’s important to be patient and quiet. You can sweeten the deal with a special reward if they follow your instructions. 

Sharing your workspace and don’t have a door to close? You can still signal do-not-disturb to your kids by wearing a specific blazer or shirt that you only wear during video calls. A headset can also work as a visual cue. Be sure your kids understand the meaning behind whatever you choose to use as your do-not-disturb signal. 

5. Turn screen time into learning time 

While they’re away from their friends, you might have to allow for extra screen time to keep your kids entertained—especially if you’re working on a deadline. 

However, just like pasta that’s made out of veggies, you can turn screen time into learning time. If you're working from home with kids you should utilize one of the many free educational resources that can help your kids continue their learning while at home. 

For younger kids, YouTube has created Learn@Home which can be watched on laptops, mobile devices and smart TVs that have the YouTube app. 

Teenagers might enjoy TedX Talks, available to stream on YouTube in several different languages and on an incredible range of topics including STEM, politics and current events. 

There’s one more valuable resource for parents who are working from home with kids. 

Other parents. 

Encourage parents in your organization to share with each other any tricks, hacks and resources they use to stay productive at home. If you use Slack, create a private channel where parents can share encouragement and information.

Or consider hosting weekly video chats through Google Hangouts or Zoom at lunch where parents can connect. 

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