Cracking Mission Impossible: Working from Home with Kids
Taking care of kids and working at the same time sounds like a mission impossible, but that is the daily reality for many parents around the world brought by the coronavirus pandemics. In addition to the general sense of worry and anxiety because of the health threat, parents now face more stress as they are required to multitask all the time. Working from home with kids along with interruptions, pressure, deadlines, demands, etc. from many sides leaves parents wondering if this situation can be conquered at all.
While it may be difficult to have (as we say in Serbia) “wolves fed and sheep safe” (“Vuci siti, a ovce na broju”) it is worth trying some of the following advice to make things a bit easier.
1. Plan your day ahead
Although it may sound difficult to sit down in the evening and plan the following day, you will be so grateful you did when you wake up the next morning and have an idea of how the day should go.
Planning makes us feel a bit more in control and provides the necessary structure for accomplishing our tasks.
This is the chance to try different time-management techniques. I recommend “Timeboxing”. It means that, as in boxing, you set up your time in a few rounds, with short breaks in between. Prioritizing the grid, recommended by famous Stephen Covey can be another helpful tool for working from home with kids and when you get lost in the chaos of tasks.
2. Involve kids in planning (if possible)
If your children are big enough (let’s say above 5), you can involve them in planning the following day with you. You will be teaching them a valuable life skill and make a family activity out of it at the same time (have them color the plan, write it, or tape it to the wall). Also, they will feel less antsy when they get up in the morning if they know what is going to happen.
There’s an additional benefit to this: a sense of stability and predictability which is so important to children, especially in moments of crisis.
If possible, let them choose some things themselves, they will feel like they are in control and will be more likely to stick to the agreed plan. If your kids are too small for this, then you need to plan your working time around their routine, e.g, nap time, lunchtime, or time when they are normally calmer.
3. Structure kids’ time wisely
Think carefully about how you are going to organize your children’s time as they are now stuck at home as well and demand much more attention. Basically, you will need quiet activities for the time blocks when you are working (cartoon, coloring, homework, playing with clay, reading a book) and more intense activities for the time you can devote to them (physical activities, singing, role play, etc.).
Using a “carrot on the stick” trick is also a good idea – organize the things they like the most at the end of the day, so they have something to look forward to.
This may sound a bit like blackmail, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
4. Get family and friends to help
Yes, we are isolated and the services of grandparents are not available for many people, at least not face to face. But, thanks to the internet, they are available online. A video call to granny, aunt or a friend can help you a lot. There are so many things that can be done like that: singing together, playing games, learning how to do something new (grandparents are full of skills and wisdom, put that to use). Here is a really cool article “Parents sharing tiny victories while working from home with kids”, that may give you more ideas.
5. Set up “me” time
As much as it is important to plan working and children’s time, you need to plan “me” time. In order to stay sane and healthy, you have to squeeze in those completely free moments for the things that recharge you and make you happy: coffee on the balcony, long bath, reading an article in your favorite magazine, calling your best friend, 15 min yoga. The best would be to have a few of those during each day to help you sustain motivation and energy. If you want, add them to your daily plan as well.
This mission impossible requires impossible effort from parents, but it also opens up opportunities to be better organized, more creative and try out new things. If you abandon the need for perfection, stay flexible and celebrate each small victory, you can get through this just fine. Stay strong parents!
About the author: Jelena Fu is an educator with extensive experience working in China in various fields of education. In addition to working in the classroom, she has designed curricula for different subjects and ages, held training for teachers and workshops for parents. She has been practicing and studying meditation for many years and wants to pass on her experience and the benefits of meditation to others. Her meditations on the Insight Timer app are very popular. She attended the TEDx Conference in Shanghai in 2015 and regularly writes articles on education and parenting.