You thought working from home was hard last week? Try doing it with your kids around. Now that the schools are closed, here are a few suggestions to help you stay productive, and, sane (relatively speaking, at least) — and hopefully keep your children out of your hair.
1. Communicate your situation
Tell your employer, and anyone that you’re talking to on the phone, that your kids are at home and there are bound to be interruptions. If working after bedtime is an option, take advantage of it when you can.
2. Set boundaries
Have a family meeting and explain how work works. Let your kids know that you have things to accomplish and you won’t always be available. Explain that when the door to your office is closed, they have to knock. And, if there’s a “do not disturb” sign up, they can’t knock, slide a note under the door, or text you 50 different snack emojis.
3. Find a hiding spot
If you don’t have a home office, find a place where you can have some privacy. Can you use the basement, take calls in your car (lock the doors if you need to!), or work inside a large closet?
4. Reward good behavior
If you have young kids and need to take an important call, help them start a puzzle or coloring project first, and let them know when you’ll be back. Explain that it’s important that they leave you alone so you can do your job, and you need their help to do that. If they don’t interrupt you, praise them and thank them for their help. Read them a book or play a game. Maybe even grant them some extra video game time. We won’t tell.
5. Take breaks
Instead of sitting down and working on a task for three hours, try working for 30 or 50 minutes, then taking a short break to hang out with your kids. Try having a quick dance party to get the wiggles out of them, and to energize you.
6. Make activity boxes
Take some time one night and fill boxes with activities kids can do on their own. Create themes and label each box, so they have choices: art projects, teddy bear tea parties, toy car races. Just make sure they don’t require much help from you.
7. Come up with even more activities
Write down activities on pieces of paper and put them in a jar. When the kids are bored, have them pull a slip from the jar and do the activity. Tell them that whatever they pull out, they have to do. Think Legos or fort building or Play-Doh. But maybe not “clean your room."
8. Make the most of the Internet
Print out coloring pages and age-appropriate worksheets. Check out home-school schedules and education companies offering free subscriptions for online activities.
9. Stress less about screens
You probably usually try to limit screen time. But these are extraordinary times. And a few extra videos isn’t going to cause permanent damage. Explain to them that this is a special circumstance, and it won’t last forever. When you’re done with work for the day, turn off the screens and play a board game.
10. Work in shifts
If you’ve got a partner who is also working from home, consider taking shifts. Maybe you work for a few hours in the morning while your partner watches the kids, then switch. Then when the kids are in bed, you both get a little more work done. Just don’t forget to stop working.
Katie Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.