If like many, you’ve been asked to work from home due to the coronavirus outbreak, then there’s a high chance your children will be joining you today too.
On Friday, the government asked schools across the UK to close their gates, isolating children to their homes, unless their parents are key workers.
Many of us enjoy any extra face time with family, but it can come as a distraction to have a full house.
If you’re worried about your productivity at work while the kids are off school, read our tips below to make sure you’re as efficient as possible in your new working environment. It might help you maintain your sanity too, if like some, your children are a bit of a handful!
Let them get bored
Children are good at keeping themselves occupied. You might find that today your kids have thrived on their first day off, finding lots to do and keeping busy. It won’t last, but while they’re keeping themselves amused, there’s no reason for you to disrupt them. Crack on with your day and you might even squeeze a meeting or two in uninterrupted! Just be sure to check in every now and then if you’re not 100% sure that your children being quiet is a good thing!
Give your children screen time
Studies have shown that extensive screen time isn’t good for any of us, let alone children. However, in times lke these, we have to be realistic and ask ourselves what the best ways are for our children to access their educational resources, time spent online with their friends and more. Allow your children to watch their favourite shows, or play games on your iPad etc. They could end up learning while they play.
Older children will likely be more interested in getting in touch with their friends online. While this is important for them to stay in touch with each other, don;t allow them to develop an unhealthy over-reliance on it. Set some rules on how long they can use it, and then try to give them some variety, like exercise, reading books or learning a new skill.
Find a quiet room for meetings
Meetings are important. It’s easy to miss key details if you’re distracted, so while you’re working from home with your children, you need to ensure you have a calm environment available for calls and meetings. We of course understand that with younger children, this simply isn’t possible! But we’re sure that if this is the case, your employer will understand.
Pragya Agarwal is a behavioural and data scientist based in the UK. In her article about working from home with children, she suggests that you can’t do everything, so prioritise. It’s even more important to prioritise which tasks will be completed, because you’ll need time away from your desk to check on your child, feed them, and potentially more. Work on the most important thing in the morning, and when your children begin to get bored or more unsettled in the afternoon, you can rest easy knowing you got the top of the list jobs done.
Give them flexibility
Since we don’t yet know when our children will be given the O.K to head back to school, ensure their time at home is enjoyable and educational. Instead of setting a strict routine, give them the flexibility to make decisions on what they would prefer to do – you might end up surprised when they want to catch up on some homework, read or learn a new skill.
Since they won’t be out playing with their friends, making time for your children to stay active is essential for their wellbeing. Younger children might be happy to dance around their TV to their favourite shows, or run around in the back garden, but if they’re having an off day on the couch, motivate them to get up and move around – don’t forget to do this for yourself too. Currently, we’re allowed to step foot outside of home for exercise, for example walking the dog – this is something your family could enjoy together.
Note for staying safe: Keep your distance between each other, and don’t spend too long away from the house. Keep an eye on the news too – this could change soon.
Time at home is a great opportunity to teach your child a new skill. It doesn’t have to be Groundhog Day. Teach them something new or give them a choice of things to learn. You can use online tutorials to teach them too. It could be something as simply as getting them to help with cooking in the evening, or sewing, or learning to play a new game. You might even consider getting them to learn a new language, which can be easily done through online resources.
Ensure learning is still happening
A number of teachers have set up online classes for their pupils, so if this is available, it’s important that your children take part. They can have their school hours, while you have your working hours too, which keeps everyone occupied.
Other options might be to order books to the house so they can improve their reading skills – check with your teacher what they have been reading in class so you can make sure they are getting a book that is challenging them.
Make the most of outdoor space
Being outdoors is important for the whole family to maintain positive wellbeing. Make time for your daily intake of natural vitamin D, and get your family outdoors (preferably in your garden) to enjoy the fresh air.
This will be a very confusing time for your children. They have just changed their daily routine, and some of them may not adapt as well as others. Listen to them, and try to connect with how they’re feeling to ensure they don’t end up feeling unhappy about being isolated.
Your children will miss their friends, so you could try to set up video calls with other parent’s phones so they can see their pals regularly. A simple phone call will likely help too. They might even agree to writing a letter. Emily Proffitt suggests: “It’s vital that children get downtime to be independent and relax. We are encouraging our pupils to write to each other, giving them a purpose but also helping them feel less isolated.”
Be available for advice on how your child is feeling, so you can help them get through what could be a difficult time and a very limited environment for them.
Talk to your children
Similar to the point above, you may find that your child has a lot of questions about what’s going on. Be as clear as you can with them about why it’s important they do not leave the house, and let them know that everyone else has to do the same.
The most important thing is to keep your child safe, but they have to understand why they can’t just go and see their friends, or go to school, so continue to communicate with them so they can get to grips with the transition. Also, don’t forget to implement the most important steps to keep them safe – social distancing, washing their hands and not touching their face.
Look after yourself
While your children and your job will likely be front of mind right now, your mental health and wellbeing is vital too. Prioritise time for yourself during the day, which might include enjoying some time with your children, or taking time for yourself, like having a bath or enjoying your favourite podcast. Whatever it is you’re interested in, it’s essential that you are happy, so you can ensure every other aspect of your life is too, particularly during such a frustrating time with no current end goal. You might also find these tips for work-life balance helpful.
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