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Social distancing due to coronavirus has made working from home a way of life. Try these tips for keeping the kids happy while you get your remote work done.
With an extended period of social isolation looming and many schools closed or set to close due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), working parents can expect every day to be bring-your-kids-to-work day. But working from home, with the whole family under the same roof, comes with a host of distractions, particularly small ones that ask a lot of questions. We spoke to three remote work veterans about how they make it happen.
Uncertainty is unsettling but you can make kids feel secure by having a morning routine so they know what to expect.
Jacqui Kwong, an editor working from home along with her husband and two children, aged four and seven, says organising the day into manageable time periods prevents kids losing focus. “We write out a timetable with lists of things they can do in half-hour chunks. We have all their colouring books, notebooks and pens set up on the table and pack their lunches like a normal day, to try to let them run with it with minimal interruptions to our work.”
“We made a rule that none of the kids can enter the kitchen outside of mealtimes,” says mum-of-four (ages 13, 11, eight and three) Zoe Coyle, who is running her small business Pilot Light from home.
But the rule didn’t work for her famished eight-year-old boy, who wanted to graze all day. “Now, he packs his own lunchbox in the morning before he starts his lessons and that way he can eat whenever he wants without us having to keep an eye on what he’s up to in the kitchen.”
Don’t make the mistake of using this keep-quiet tool too early, or too freely. Save it for times when you really need it, advises Alison Bulloch, who has been working from home as a freelance editor for two years and has a nine-year-old daughter.
“To avoid having my daughter constantly asking if she can use the iPad or requesting to watch TV, I let her know exactly when and how long she’s allowed to have screen time. That way I can schedule it in for a time when I really need to concentrate or make a conference call.”
Make your home office a separate space if you can, says Alison. “It gives your child an understanding that you’re working. I like to declare the plan at the beginning of the day: ‘Mummy will be working here from 9 until 12pm, and then you and I will have lunch together in the garden.’ ”
Allowing kids to keep in touch with their friends is a great way to keep them happy and occupied while you’re working. “Some of the school parents are coming up with ideas to connect the kids via social media,” says Jacqui. “One of the boys in my son’s class is starting a comic club to help other kids draw and create comics.”
Zoe and her cohort of parents are also using social media to help each other out. “We’re using Houseparty to connect with other families and share our skills,” she says. Recently, while she worked, Zoe’s three eldest took part in a kids’ yoga class run by one of her friends via the app. Other parents have volunteered to run kids’ meditation and empowerment sessions.
Not only does having the kids contribute to the household take chores off your plate, it keeps them occupied, teaches them responsibility and gives them a real sense of accomplishment. “I like to mix it up each day – so it could be polishing cutlery with a homemade cleaning solution one day or re-potting plants the next,” says Alison.
Buy yourself some peace while you work from home by inserting quiet time into their daily routine. Sweeten the deal by allowing kids to do something they love, like chat with their friends on FaceTime or read comics. Zoe’s three eldest children each have an hour of quiet time in their schedule in which they can do whatever they like – as long as they’re in their bedrooms.
Making time for moments of joy each day can do wonders to keep kids happy and amenable, especially when they’re cooped up.
“I pop little delights into the day,” says Alison. “A game of tennis using balloons and plastic plates or a special toy from a box of tricks that I keep stocked with FIMO modelling clay, stickers, Lego and packets of coloured paper. It can buy you hours.”
Zoe agrees: “We’ve just discovered [fitness coach] Joe Wicks and we crank the music and jump around. Yesterday, we dyed my eight-year-old’s hair blue!”