Working from home with kids
I would first like to note the incredible demands that are being asked of parents right now. While I would like to discuss the science of what works, in a situation where someone is working a full-time job remotely, parenting, and homeschooling, unfortunately there is NO SCIENCE because this has never happened before. I also know that I am not a parenting expert. I am one parent, and we are still figuring out what works for our family. I encourage you to respond in the comments with ideas, tips, and tricks etc. that have worked for you.
I feel like it is important to acknowledge that NO ONE asked for this. No one said I could be quarantined with my children for an indefinite amount of time, and still be working. It was not part of my decision to become a parent and was not in the fine print.
From a productivity and sanity perspective, here are some ideas
1. Time Blocking
We as humans cannot multitask on anything that requires concentration. We cannot, we end up doing two things poorly. As such, I strongly encourage where possible to either be 100% parenting or 100% on the job. Make a schedule with your partner or if you have someone to help. It is the best for everyone’s mental wellbeing. I do understand this is not always possible: but when you can this is by far the best approach.
2. Separate space
As much as possible, separate your work space from the rest of the house. I know this can be challenging but setting the expectations ‘if I am here, I am working’ for yourself and for others. It will allow you to ‘shift’ your focus faster to work and allow you at least a little separation between work and home. It also makes it easier for kids to learn that you cannot attend to their every need in a blink of an eye when you are in that space, thus improving the ability to focus at least a little bit.
3. Attention Management
Your ability to manage your attention becomes crucial. To be able to focus on work in the midst of chaos, to be able to do short attention management practices to separate home and work when there is no physical separation. Most importantly, it is what will allow you to give your brain a break from all the ‘tabs’ open. The ability to focus is a learned skill and requires practice. While there are countless ways to practice, one way is to try Box Breathing while you are out for a drive, in the shower, or while you are having a coffee.
4. Alter expectations
We are going through a unique, never happened before situation. This implies that there is no roadmap on how to be the best parent during a pandemic. Parenting is hard enough as it is, with it’s trials and errors. Some days you feel like winning parent of the year award, some days you feel guilty over the way you dealt with a meltdown or fight. Lowering the standards of what you consider to be ‘good parenting’ is advice I would give you in a normal situation and it applies even more so now. So your child has more screen time? He or she will not be traumatized, nor have a setback in their cognitive development. So dinner was mac n cheese from a box? This will not lead to obesity later in life. Your parenting goal right now is to keep your kids safe, clean and fed. Everything else is a bonus.
5. Get the children involved
Obviously, this one goes for families with children from a certain age onwards. But don’t underestimate them, even your toddler can contribute. Make a plan as a family. Ask your children what they could do while you are working so that they have a list of things they can choose from. Take this opportunity to train them to do the dishes. Ask them to help out in a way that is appropriate for their age. Tell them that in these strange times you need their help and that their help makes such a difference to you as a parent.
6. Give yourself a break
Literally, please work in a few breaks even if they are just microbreaks.
Take a deep breath. At the end of the day, you are doing amazing.
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