Balancing Working from Home and Raising Children
By Meredith Tufts
• Keep expectations for yourself and your kids reasonable and allow more flexibility and acceptance that the situation is far from ideal. Be extra kind to yourself and your children! If you're trying to start a new pattern or teach new behaviors, like asking your child to play more independently or wait to interrupt you, set your family up for success by starting small and gradually lengthening the time they are playing by themselves or waiting for your attention.
• Start each day with quality time together (quality is more important than quantity), letting your child take the lead. This helps fill their need for connection so they can be more self-sufficient in their play and give you a chance to do some work.
• Set clear expectations: What can they do during your work time? When is it okay for them to interrupt you and how should they do it? Try using visuals to give them a clear sense of the day (this could be a drawn schedule of the day, a small stop sign to show that it's a time they can't interrupt you, etc). Use role-play to practice, both with you as the adult and them as the adult! For example:
"After we play lions, it is time for me to do my work. While I'm working, you can play with your toys in the living room or play quietly with soft dough at the table with me. When my work is done, we'll eat a snack together, then go out for a walk."
"When the stop sign is on the door, it means I'm on the phone or on a computer meeting. You can quietly sit on this chair, or put your hand on my shoulder if you need help and I will help you when I can."
• Think about your child's temperament and developmental needs to help make sure the activities you're offering can engage them. Do they need more opportunities to move, more sensory activities, things to build (and knock down!), or something that challenges their mind? Children are developing quickly and their preferences for different activities often reveal a specific aspect of development that their brain is especially urging them towards, so we sometimes need to adjust what we're offering. Rotating what's available is helpful because children will focus longer and show more creativity when they have a smaller number of choices.
• Connect after work: Talk about what they played or watched; engage in play or an activity together.
Lastly, notice what works in your family! There's no one, right way, so notice what does work well and find ways to expand on it. Don't be afraid to reach out to others for help or ideas, or to change up what isn't working. We're all figuring this out as we go!