Working from home with children: the balancing act

With many of us adjusting to working from home, balancing parenting and work responsibilities can be increasingly difficult to achieve.

Your Work
7 min read
When parents have been asked about their best tips for working from home with kids, responses have been varied from tongue in cheek suggestions to “buy more wine”, to the stressful admissions “it feels impossible to work from home with a toddler".

One common theme prevails amongst the advice shared - ‘routine’.

Routine, structure and a little balance. These words were the ones that have bubbled up in many online social groups full of parents helping each other navigate working from home. In compiling feedback from multiple social media groups, here are the top practical tips.

Stick to a routine

  • Try to find a dedicated office space when working from home, over time the children will learn this is ‘work’ space.
  • Keep the same snack and lunch routine as school. Routine leads to emotional and mental stability.
  • Consider structuring your kids’ day with their own agenda to help set their expectations about the structure of their day in the same way they might have at school.

E.g. 10-12pm drawing; 1-2pm outside time, 2-3pm learning and school work time, 5pm family time for everyone in the household. This could even help them to develop their own time management skills and help them to participate in creating their own routines.

Schedule downtime

  • Take a break! Being sedentary for prolonged periods (like sitting at your desk or work station) can have a negative impact on your spine, organs and muscles. Every morning and evening try to find time to go for a walk or do another shared exercise like doing a dance or playing a game together in the backyard to clear your mind and create the feeling of balance.

Don’t feel guilty about using your exercise break for some time to yourself, too – especially if you’d normally get to hit the gym or visit a yoga class on your own.

  • Let kids use Zoom, TikTok, or Houseparty to catch up with their mates, try to arrange this for what would have been recess and lunchtime. But do keep an eye on these interactions to make sure that they stay safe.
  • Schedule ‘hang out’ breaks so children can get some attention, and if they’re old enough, explain the balancing act of fitting work in with other tasks and regular family time.

Be realistic

  • Be realistic in your output, it’s not possible to achieve eight hours of schooling. Most teachers have just asked working parents to do their best. So do your best!

For extra reassurance, Kidspot has featured a post from a school Principal – they’re confirming that the most important thing to remember is that we’re all in this together.

  • Work through the pack the school has sent home, set a certain number of realistic activities to do together, and follow it up with an hour of play, family time, or screen time for the kids.

Working from Home: Children and the Balancing Act

Involve your children

  • If you can, involve your children in your job, e.g. could they press the mute button on your headset when you’re ready to talk, and turn it off again when you’re done, creating your own special headset signal for them to follow?

Maybe you could even have them join you during video calls and introduce them to your colleagues – it could even be a nice team-bonding idea to have everyone ‘bring their kids to work’ via a video chat during a time when many are working from home.

  • Include a prop or hat when working from your dedicated workspace and ask one of your kids to pick their favourite one. If one parent is wearing a hat, it means no talking to them while the hat is on. Once the hat is off, everyone can have a quick play with Lego or their favourite toy of choice.

Communicate often

  • If you need to create a more flexible work routine, be clear with your manager about your new schedule. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to do traditional office work hours 9-5, instead, your day might start at 6.30 am with a couple of hours break at 11 am, or whatever works best for your family. Setting expectations in advance can be a great way to make sure everyone is happy with a new routine.
  • For younger children communication is key too – explain things which relate to their world, if you’re jumping on a call and want to say how long it’ll take you could say you’ll be with them in about three episodes of ‘Bluey’ (approximately 20 minutes).

Try your best

  • Overall, the most important message from the various parents sharing their advice for each other during these newly challenging times is one of support and encouragement to each other.

For now, we’re all in unchartered waters and could be feeling overwhelmed, but as is the case with anything you can only do your best. Now is the time to take care of each other.

Bonus tips

  • Don’t underestimate children and each other, often in uncertain times, we all have a way of finding additional reserves of resilience and adaptability.
  • Play is considered learning, so those with younger children who might be worried about their kids missing time at school can take heart with what play specialist Cat Sewell told the ABC about playing being a form of learning and development for kids, “Children are so geared for play. They’re wired for play, and they’re wired for imagination. So, I think the first thing is for us not to stress”.
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