Thanks to Covid-19 many people around the world are now working from home and most schools & childcare are closed for the foreseeable future, it's a daunting time for those with kids who still need to work... and stay sane!
The juggle for working parents is already well documented, but throw in home schooling and the potential of being locked into the house together... well it’s hard not to panic!
Thankfully there are loads of resources out there to help find the balance between working from home, looking after your kids and keeping sane.
1. Tell your kids what’s going on!
It’s a confusing time for children, routines are changing, and it may be difficult for them to understand why they’re off school, but not allowed to go out and have fun or see friends. Explaining to kids what’s going on when most of us are feeling pretty lost ourselves can feel like a challenge in itself.
One example from CNN is to use Frozen characters to help explain social distancing to younger children. “Elsa had to stay away from her sister to keep her sister safe”.
Image Source: The National Arts & Culture
It’s helpful to explain to your kids that although it might feel like another weekend or an extended holiday because they aren’t at school and everyone is at home, these are unusual circumstances and you really are trying to work.
Many schools will provide information about talking to your children at this time, but if you are struggling with how to talk to your children about Covid-19 there are some tips here.
2. Establish a routine
- Replicate a normal school day
This will help in setting boundaries and keeping some form of normality. For older kids, they may well have work to do set by their school, however, younger children will need more guidance with learning, playing and regular breaks set out clearly.
- Create a colour chart that everyone can see
Create a schedule that you can stick on the wall, for everyone to see. You could use pictures for smaller kids, or print out a simple, color-coded excel like this one.
- Plan their activities to match your schedule
Some activities will engage your kids more than others!
Schedule the ones that are most likely to occupy themselves with for the longest times when you need to be the most productive. This should help reduce the amount of disturbance you get during these times.
Obviously, for much smaller kids this is harder as they generally need constant supervision, but this is where YouTube Kids is your friend!
- Set up a reward system
Reward them when they follow directions and keep to their schedule, this will reinforce the need for routine during these times. This could be stickers for younger kids, screen time for older ones. Or let’s face it, cold hard chocolate buttons as and when required!
- Make sure you get outside
If it's safe to do so, try to get outside at least once a day. It could be after breakfast, at the time you'd normally commute, or after lunch. It could be a scoot or a jog around the block (depending on the ages of your children) a trip to the park for a runaround. Fresh air will keep everyone sane and set you up nicely for the day/afternoon.
Set Boundaries - but be Flexible
- Screen Time
Although setting restrictions on how much technology your kids can use each day is important, it might be helpful to allow these restrictions to loosen slightly during the time when everybody is stuck inside, and you need to work.
However, it’s worth explaining (especially with older kids) that this is a special thing that won’t go on forever.
Also, consider what they are watching/playing. There are loads of amazing games and apps and shows all designed to help kids learn without realising!
- “Do not disturb mode”
A great example comes from Courtney Connley who had her child make a ‘stop’ and ‘go’ sign to go in front of her office door. This way he knows when the stop sign is showing he shouldn't come in unless it’s an emergency, and with the go sign showing, he is free to come in.
This allows you to have space where you can have private time, which is respected by your kids – especially effective if the child has made the stop and go signs themselves during an ‘art project’!
- Take breaks
You might feel pressured to overextend yourself while working remotely to prove that you’re working, but it’s essential that you take breaks throughout your working day.
You can regulate this in several ways, but one idea is to take a ten-minute break for every hour that you’ve been focused on work.
It’s also important to speak to your boss if you feel you need extra support or a bit of a break. This is again critical when thinking about your colleagues, offer support to your team who may also need a break!
It’s a strange time and everyone is in a similar boat so there shouldn’t be any judgment.
3. Teamwork Where Possible
- Alternate shifts with your partner
If you and your partner are both working from home, it can be useful to alternate shifts with them to make life easier with kids at home.
This can be done on a schedule of splitting the days up into chunks – allocating hours for one half to work and make calls, and the other to watch the kids and keep them occupied, making up any lost work hours earlier or later in the workday, or at weekends if necessary.
- Set up virtual babysitters
Physical playdates and babysitters may not be an option whilst everyone is practicing social distancing, however, virtual ones certainly are!
It’s a great time to reach out to friends, family, and babysitters to arrange virtual playdates over a video call. Having someone else around to keep your children occupied, even if this is over the phone or video call, can be really useful in allowing you to successfully work from home and keep in touch with Granny and Grandpa!
Virtual babysitting can encompass a range of activities from reading, playing games, singing, dancing and more, which can all take place easily online /– just make sure your child is in a safe place and you have a half an eye on what’s going on.
- Know any Teachers?
Many teachers who are now off duty, are offering their services to friends, family and the local community to assist parents with questions, issues or inspiration as required. For those lacking confidence in home schooling, let alone home schooling and working they could prove truly valuable support.
4. Keeping your Kids Busy
So, you’ve got some tips on managing working from home with kids, but when it comes to actually keeping the kids busy, you’ll need some solid resources! Here’s a great place to start...
Resource Facebook Groups
These all have some great ideas and tips for how to keep some control in these crazy times and would be a great support network if you’re the only one in your company working from home with kids!
Teacher Approved Resources
- https://www.doorwayonline.org.uk/ - interactive activities covering a whole range of subjects and year groups
- https://www.topmarks.co.uk/ - huge treasure trove of activities that cover a whole range of subjects. Also holds links to games etc that are hosted by other sites.
- http://www.pobble365.com/ - a new picture is shared each day to provoke discussion, debate or writing ideas.
- https://www.twinkl.co.uk/ - a huge range of different subjects and focuses, arguably the best host of any resource you could need.
- https://www.weareteachers.com/free-online-learning-resources/ - lots of specific links to different sites that offer free resources or learning platforms.
- https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize - huge range of different resources and information broken down into Key Stages and year groups.
- https://tpet.co.uk/ - free online resource packs.
- https://spellingframe.co.uk/ - spelling activities with specialist resources for each year group.
- https://subscribe.firstnews.co.uk/free-downloadable-issue/ - free online digital download of a specialist children’s newspaper.
- http://myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/ - vast online store of animated comic strips tracking legends and myths from across the world.
- https://thereadingrealm.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/The-Nature-and-Animal-Realm-1.pdf - downloadable reading activity pack.
- https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home/find-a-book/library-page/ - free online books – brilliant if you can’t get to the library
- https://mathsticks.com/my/ - online resources and print offs with specifically broken-down key stage focuses.
- https://www.topmarks.co.uk/maths-games/hit-the-button - times tables and number bond practice
- Play shops! Turn frustrations into games.
- https://www.childrensuniversity.manchester.ac.uk/learning-activities/science/ - lots of science subject areas covered with resources specifically designed for primary age children. (Other subjects are also available on this site).
- https://groweatgift.com/2017/06/14/30-ways-to-go-wild-with-science/ - lots of different and fun science activities you can do in the house or garden
- https://www.gonoodle.com/ - lots of online videos that help keep children active inside and teach mindfulness and meditation
- https://www.typingclub.com/ - an online programme for teaching and developing touch typing
- https://groweatgift.com/2017/06/12/30-ways-to-get-creative-for-30-days-wild/ - different activity ideas that involve creating or engaging with different things in your house or garden
- https://www.jumpstartjonny.co.uk/home - some videos are free – dances, workouts, fitness challenges
- Bored with their toys? Make some new ones! - https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=224052115453022
- If you’re in need of some daily inspiration, check out FiveMinuteMum on Instagram, who’s sharing loads of ideas daily on how to cope right now.
- https://www.facebook.com/JoeWicksTheBodyCoach/videos/243516396683639/ Everyone’s favourite body coach Joe Wicks will be doing a weekly family workout #PEwithJoe on Monday mornings at 9am on his YouTube channel
- https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga/videos Cosmic Yoga is a great place for kids to discover yoga, practice some mindfulness and move their body – you can even join in too
We really hope you are managing to get some work done and all stay sane at this strange and troubling time. If in doubt cuddle your kids, play with them, read with them and work whilst they sleep and watch TV. Good luck everyone!