Working at home with Children
Working at home with children around certainly adds a layer or two of complexity to normal home working – and let’s face it, it’s something that a lot of us are getting more experience of at the moment as our schools and nursery’s close for the foreseeable future.
To be realistic, no matter how planned and organised you are, even the best behaved, most self-sufficient child will interrupt you with questions (“what are you doing mummy?”), the need for your attention (“look how tall my Lego tower is”) and requests (“I need a drink/food/poo”). At the end of the day, you need to be there for your child so getting a balance is the key.
When we are working and James is at home, we tell him at the beginning of the day what is going to happen. It goes something like … mummy and daddy have got work to do today so you can do XYZ this morning whilst we work, then we’ll all have lunch together and do some playing and then in the afternoon ABC is going to happen. Then when we all finish, we can go and play together.
We have found that kids cope better when there is routine, when they understand what is happening, when it’s happening and why it’s happening- so tell them upfront what the plan is (or even ask them to help you design the plan) and manage their expectations. Add in regular breaks and rewards through the day.
Younger children need more support for sure. We have worked from home on and off since James was tiny. When he was very little we had to share the load, one of us would work whilst the other cared for him and vice versa. The only way you can actually get any work done is to be completely focussed on what you need to achieve and then work to get those things done. You will not get time to do more than the essentials – so have a think about what HAS to be done for your business to continue to operate. And stick to those things for the time being. And again, tell your child (even if they are little) what is going to happen during the day.
Even with small children it is worth planning out a “typical day” so you can ensure that you get time to sleep, eat and do all the necessities as well as get some work done. It’s amazing how much you can achieve in an hour when you’re completely focussed on what needs to be done and you’re limiting yourself to a time slot.
Schooling from home
I am hearing so many people saying that they are worried that they aren’t “schooling” their children enough at home, worrying that they’ll fall behind and that they aren’t doing as good a job as they should …. so let me say this to you;
You are not a teacher (unless you actually are employed as a teacher of course)!; You did not opt to home school; You do not have a curriculum ;You have had no time to prepare for this; Almost everyone is in the same situation – so give yourself a break, be kind to yourself and remember that children learn best when they are happy and having fun.
Please don’t beat yourself up about home-schooling. Yes, you want you child do do some reading, writing and maths every day but they don’t need to be spending 6 hours a day sat at a desk. Let’s just get some balance and perspective.
Children need your support right now – their worlds have been turned upside down as much as ours have so give them some slack. Think of this as bonus time that you get together, to have fun together, to learn together, play together and make memories. If you or your child are struggling with mental health and welfare you can find advice and support here
If you can, download learning apps and tools to an iPad or laptop. James loves DoodleMaths and will happily spend an hour doing maths in the app – which is MUCH longer than he would ever sit with us learning maths! Plus that hour is valuable work time for us to crack on.
Make a list of other activities that they can do – so when they are bored or don’t want to do the thing you had planned, rather than rant and feel frustrated, you can pull out the list and get them quickly focussed on something else.
Your working day
Having a plan of how each day will flow will definitely help you and your children (as mentioned above) but if you don’t think this will work for you, you may need to tip your working day on its head. When we are travelling or on holiday we get up early and work before J wakes up and then we work again in the evening once he’s gone to bed.
In the morning we work and when James wakes up we spend an hour or so with him (have breakfast, get washed, read books, go for a walk). Then we work for an hour whilst he plays on his own (lego, doodle maths, colouring, drawing). After that hour we all go and do something together, we have lunch and then we check our emails, maybe phone a client if we need to whilst James plays and then we have a couple of hours more together in the afternoon before slotting in another hour of work whilst James plays by himself (or watches TV) before tea time. After his bedtime we log back on and do a few more hours work. It might not be ideal but it works.
If there are two of your working from home you can split the day so one of you works mornings and then other works afternoons. Then you can both do more work in the evening if you need to. Just make sure you factor in some time when you all come together as a family – perhaps at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Granted this goes against the grain of traditional work boundaries, but if you agree the structure and the hours that you are going to work to and STICK TO THEM then it can work in everyone’s favour.
Have you been working home? Are you about to start working from home? We’d love to hear about your situation and how you are coping with working from home with children.
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A Guide to working at home with Children
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