The recent health crisis of Coronavirus has brought a wave of challenges in our lives such as self-isolation, social distancing, managing house without helpers and working from home with children around. Rather than focusing on these changes as deterrents, perceive them as vital life lessons, which will equip you and your children with novel life skills and coping skills.
Contrary to the modern belief, the concept of ‘working from home’ is not new. Women and mothers have been doing it from ages. With the advent of modern civilization and amenities, we became more conditioned as individuals to regard the ‘concept of work’ as something which is outside our homes. Similarly, managing children also became a task delegated to various persons and institutions. The present crises, hence forces us to slowdown and reflect on how we can make our lives less complicated and more efficient. If we keep an open mind and adopt a seekers attitude, we can learn to adapt to any crises and manage various aspects of our life, including work and children effectively.
Drawing from the age-old wisdom and modern psychological principles, here are 7 useful tips, which can help you manage your kids efficiently while you work from home:
1. Expect Less and Accept More
The first and the most important thing is to understand that when you are working from home, you can’t have the same schedule and routine that you have in an office setup. You will have doorbells, children fighting and other disruptions from time to time. Since, most of these cannot be controlled, expect that you will be able to achieve 40 to 60 percent of what you do on a typical office workday. If you keep your expectations reasonable and low, you will feel better when you are able to get more done. Accept disruptions and distractions of all kinds as a part of the process and instead of getting irritated or overwhelmed, work at resolving the issues that crop up from time to time and then get back to work. For instance, if your children start a fight, get up and resolve the fight rather than shouting at them or feeling helpless.
2. Identify Productive and Non-productive Timeslots
There are certain time slots in a day when you are more productive or can put in more efforts, for instance when the children are sleeping, watching the screen or are engaged in an activity — be it studying or playing on their own. Plan your workday in a way when you can do more pressing or important work during these times. Children are more demanding at certain time intervals, for instance during meal times or in the later part of the day when they are tired. Observe your child’s pattern and once you know the time slots when s/he is demanding or cranky, keep your work light and flexible so that you can attend to your kid/s.
3. Work as a Team
Delegate responsibilities to family members. Parents and family members can take turns in engaging the kid/s so that everyone can get their work done, get some downtime and also enjoy time with each other. If there is an important work call/meeting or you need to take two to four hours to finish some urgent work, inform your spouse/family members in advance to take over and manage the children. Make sure to appreciate and express your gratitude every time a family member or your spouse helps. This motivates everyone to work together and doesn’t lead to the trap of people being taken for granted and feeling under-appreciated.
4. Strike a Balance while Planning Activities
Nobody likes monotony, especially children. While planning children’s daily activities, divide them into four categories — daily chores, leisure, exercise and learning. Make a list of activities in each category. Suggestions for the same can be solicited from children. Involving children in planning activities is a great way to make them feel invested in the process. At the start of every day, get the child to choose one activity from each category. You can also make a game and have the child pick chits from a bowl for each category. To motivate younger children to help in daily chores, you can make attractive superhero badges for them like the ‘Dust-buster’, ‘Mom’s Helper’, etc. Daily chores instill a sense of responsibility and makes children understand the concept of work from an early age.
5. Incentivise Productivity
To get your children to cooperate and help you make the most of your day, make sure you reward them. You can use a simple reward system like stars for younger children or tokens for elder ones for completing the activities planned for the day. These stars or tokens can be exchanged for special treats like extra minutes of screen time or a phone call with their friend, etc. This will ensure that they are gainfully occupied for longer periods of time and give you space to finish your work. For every activity done well or when they have cooperated with you, praise their efforts. A word of praise goes a long way and helps to motivate children to follow through with their routine activities with a smile.
. Have Physical and Emotional Outlets in Place
It has been observed in many social experiments and popular shows that when you have people spending a lot of time in a confined space, they keep getting into conflicts and meltdowns becomes a usual feature. The same holds true when you and your children are in the home for long periods. Having physical outlets in the form of certain simple indoor exercise routines or engaging in some breathing exercises is useful to expend the internal frustrations and energize your mind and body with positivity. In a similar way, there may be times, when family members or children may be getting on each other’s nerves. At these times, it is important to have constructive distractions like venting to a friend or listening to some good music. Make sure that you do not over-indulge in distractions as that may lead to a domino effect of not getting work done at all.
7. Keep Communication Channels Open and Underscore Accessibility
This is vital to make a success of any situation. Communicate your expectations of how you have planned your workday with your family members so that everyone can cooperate with each other. Tell your children that there will be certain times in the day when you may be busy with work or on a call but that they can approach you in case they have any problem. Children older than six years are usually able to understand the concept of their parents taking time to attend to work and usually cooperate if they are asked to keep themselves engaged while you attend to something important. Younger children may keep coming up to you for something or the other from time to time, but if you patiently attend to them and distract them, they are more likely to let you do your work as compared to dismissing them or getting irritated with them.
Be assertive while handling kids — tell them what they need to do without shouting or getting exasperated. If they disobey you, you can have timeouts or withdrawal of certain privileges. Even though you may not be going to the office or the child may not be attending the school, keep the sleep-wake cycle the same as your regular days. It helps maintain a certain level of routine and control over the day. While you balance working from home and managing kids, remember to go through the day one task at a time. Pigeonholing activities helps to stay focused with the task at hand and not get overwhelmed. Last but not the least, take 10 minutes everyday to let your hair down and make the most of the limited moments of solitude.