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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tips for Working at Home With Kids (And Not Going Crazy)

Working at home with kids isn't an ideal situation, but it can be done.  Here are some tips to make it easier for both you and your kids.

Recently, there has been a rapid increase in the amount of parents working at home. At the same time, kids across the nation are on extended spring breaks or are transitioning to at-home online learning.

This presents a challenge for parents everywhere, as they have to balance their work, their child's career, and their normal home life. Thankfully, there are no shortage of tips to help you manage everything you need to while minimizing stress.

Although my kids are now 12, 14, and 18, I started working from home when my youngest was a baby.  I worked part time to supplement our income for fun money.  I started getting serious about working from home and started working full time when my kids were 2, 4, and 8.

Some days are a struggle, I'm not going to lie, but it's worth it for us.  It's the best choice for our family and our unique needs.

Tips for Working at Home With Kids

Establish and Maintain a Schedule

Organized and consistent schedules can keep everyone sane. Work with your family to establish a daily routine that will maximize your productivity while minimizing your anxiety.

For example, plan to work before and after your kids wake up, taking an hour in between for breakfast and your family's morning routine. Additionally, plan your children's routine around yours, perhaps consider making their virtual time when you need to fully concentrate on your work.

For younger school age children, consider using a visual schedule so they know what to expect.  This daily schedule lets you choose the order and teaches kids how to tell time.  It comes with preprinted cards plus 13 blank cards to customize.

I also use a visual timer called the Time Timer.  It has a red shaded area so kids can see at a glace how much time is left for an activity.  This stops them from asking me how much time is left for their work.

Additionally, communicating with your partner or other adults in the household can be greatly beneficial. Consider working in shifts with other members of the household, taking turns working and watching the kids.

With older kids, sometimes communicating with them about what your needs and expectations are can be helpful. For example, establish that you are not to be interrupted between 10 am and 12 pm, and that you will be available before and after those times.

I made my kids a homeschool schedule printable so they can keep track of their own schedules.  I like the velcro so they can move their tasks, but you can also use a pen or marker to mark them as completed.

Plan Around Children's Sleep Schedules

Sometimes, you just need  total peace and quiet while you work. If you are able, consider planning your most important work, or perhaps the brunt of your workload, for when your children are sleeping.

I get up two hours before my kids do and work uninterrupted.  Those are my most productive hours of the day.

This will greatly minimize interruptions,and you can rest assured that your children aren't glued to a screen or getting into mischief while you work.

For parents of older kids who go to bed later, consider working during their nightly relaxation time, such as when they are reading or gaming.

Don’t Be Afraid To Over-Communicate

Under certain unexpected circumstances, communication is key, both with your family as well as with your co-workers. As a parent, you may have certain interruptions during events such as conference calls or video meetings.

Communicate to your co-workers the problems that may occur, such as a child walking in, and assure them that you will fix it. Never be afraid to over-communicate your challenges, as it prepares everyone involved, which can make your life much easier.

Additionally, discuss your schedule with your coworkers and your bosses, as well as their own schedules. Not only will you be much more productive this way, but it can also save you a lot of stress later.

Reward Preferred Behaviors

After talking with your kids and the rest of your family about your needs and expectations, be sure to reward good behavior whenever possible.

For example, whenever your children leave you alone during an important meeting, deliver lots of praise and some sort of reward, such as screen time or allow them to play with a special toy.

With younger children, be sure to spend time with them when you can when working from home, and give them constructive yet quiet tasks to complete when you need to work.

Stop The Stress

Most parents probably try to monitor screen time and other activities their children do. However, when working at home, it really isn't that big of a deal to let the kids have a little more gaming time while you finish some work.

While parents may not want their children gaming or watching T.V. for weeks on end, a little extra time during the day won’t hurt anyone, and it allows you more time to work.

Take Breaks

You may feel the need to power through your day, with constant work and cleaning, as well as caretaking. Rest assured that it is completely acceptable to take breaks, even if they are only for five minutes.

Additionally, you can use breaks to check up on your kids, or get some self-care in, such as a nice shower. Communicating your need for breaks as well as when you take them can also be beneficial, and it never hurts to help a coworker out when they need a break.

Expressing a need for breaks, and acknowledging others' need for breaks can greatly reduce you and your coworkers stress.

Do a Little Bit of Homeschooling

Even if you don’t normally homeschool, don't be afraid to get a little bit of education while working from home. There are many free resources, and there are many places to get great curriculums and activities at a low cost.

Consider printing out some worksheets for your kids to work on while your on the phone. Whether for their own benefit or yours, homeschooling can be a very beneficial activity for your children.

Don't feel that you have to spend five to six hours a day sitting at the table while your kids learn.  Here's a secret: no homeschooler spends that much time doing book work.

Homeschooling should take about an hour a day for younger grades and up to four to five hours a day for high school aged kids.  My middle school aged kids spend 2-3 hours per day on actual book work.

If your school has sent home packets, do those first.  Then supplement with unschooling activities like cooking and baking, science experiments, and taking a walk.

Create an ‘Off Limits Zone’

While this one may seem obvious, establishing a certain area as off limits to your family can help you greatly. Perhaps you need to take an important phone call and need a quiet place to talk, or you just need some quiet concentration.

No matter the reason, establishing an off-limits office can help you. However, where does one establish this area? Any room with internet access and a cell signal will do, however, there are places that work better than others.

Your first choice will most likely be your bedroom, but that may not be too enticing if it gets a lot of noise or foot traffic from family members. If that is the case, consider using the basement or even the garage. Additionally, you could use your car if you had to.

If you can't spend all of your time in a quiet place, try to minimize the noise and distractions in the room in which you work.  I use noise cancelling headphones and listen to music while I work.  I can hear loud screams and keep an eye on the kids, but I don't get distracted by every little noise.

While working from home is rarely idea, certain situations warrant it. With these tips, not only can you maximize your efficiency at home while reducing your own stress, but you can also help out your other family members and coworkers.

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