Working from home alongside young children is a new experience for many. Here are some tried and true tips to not just survive these unprecedented days but to use them as a way to make positive memories and come out on the other side more connected as a family.
1. Make your days predictable, schedules are your friend:
● Maintain your typical routine and schedule in terms of waking up and going to bed. Keep bedtime and wake-up time the same.
● Create a schedule that children can assess. For young children under the age of 7, create a visual schedule of your day. Use your cell phone to take pictures of your children brushing their teeth, eating breakfast, etc. and print them off. Arrange them in sequential order so your child knows what is coming next. Unpredictability and not knowing creates anxiety. Or, children can draw pictures of their daily routine and arrange in sequence.
● Schedule periodic breaks. Determine a reasonable length of time for your children to occupy themselves. The younger the child, the more often you will need to schedule a break. The breaks don’t have to be long. I look at it as “gathering my chicks, regulating them and then sending them back out.” Take a ten-minute bike ride or walk. Put a puzzle together. Color a picture. Play a quick game. Keep their “love” tank filled.
● Use a visual timer if possible. There are commercially made clocks that allow young children to visually track time (see www.timetimer.com). With elementary children in second grade or older, let them set the timer on the oven or cell phone. This will allow them to track time.
● Make family dinner a priority. Use this time to strengthen connections and encourage children to talk about what is on their mind.
2. Be purposeful in creating work environments for you and your child.
● Fill your child’s “love tank” BEFORE you sit down to get some work done. Parents often take the approach of “if you do so and so, then we will read a book…play a game…” The tried and true lesson that I learned as a mom is that you first fill the child’s love tank and then do what you need to do. You will have more uninterrupted time if you take this approach and make sure your children know that you see them…hear them… and know that they are there.
● Special or novel spaces. Throw a sheet or blanket over a nearby table creating an “office” for young children. If you have an old keyboard in the closet get it out. Provide paper, markers, crayons, paper clips, stapler, hole punch and whatever office supplies you may have on hand and let them work alongside you in their office. Older children may enjoy creating a fort or other cozy space to read in.
● Workspace for your child. If your child has homework to complete, provide them with their own organized space. It does not need to be “fancy”--a coffee mug with pencils, a container with a pencil sharpener and colored pencils, markers, or crayons will work great. They may need help creating a system to keep their papers organized. (see “writing-to-go” boxes).
● “Writing-to-go” Boxes. Save the pizza boxes from delivery and create “writing-to-go” boxes. Pput a variety of paper, writing materials and office supplies in the box. Kids LOVE these boxes. (Hint: take the pizza out of the box immediately upon delivery to keep the box from getting food all over it).
● Personalized stationary for your children. Allow them to pick out or create some kind of clip art and create a heading that says, “From the writing box of Eleanor…” Write letters to family and friends.
● SAVE your work on the computer often. These days there are some back up measures to save your work but there is nothing more frustrating to do an hour of work and have a little one hit the delete button!!
● Plan for interruptions. Have a conversation with your children about what you would like them to do if they have a question and you are not able to help them right away. Post-it note questions work well or a hand on your arm to let you know they need you. Remember that when your children interrupt, they are seeking connection, not just trying to manipulate your attention.