Working From Home While Caring For Kids

Working From Home While Caring For Kids

How To Survive Working From Home While Caring For Kids

Working from home can be challenging all on its own. It is even more challenging if you are used to having an office that you can go to and work in peace with equipment to help you do your job and coworkers you can collaborate with in person easily. It becomes even more challenging if you have to care for others while working from home. With stay-at-home orders in place and many schools and day cares closed more and more people are feeling the stresses of working from home while also caring for kids and helping facilitate distance learning plans. Is it possible to work from home and take care of your kids at the same time? How can you succeed?

 Know Your Work Expectations

Talk with your boss about what the expectations are. Be realistic when you discuss what is reasonable. If you promise a workload you can only get done if everything goes perfectly that week it will set you up for a week of stress and conflict. Make sure you know what tasks take priority and what the deadlines are, and also if there are times during the week that you must be available for video calls or teleconferences. If you are encountering problems reach out for help right away, do not wait until a missed deadline to admit to struggling.

If you are your own boss, prioritize tasks. What things must be done? Some tasks may have to wait. If they can’t wait, look at your workload. Are there things you can delegate? Sometimes there are time-consuming tasks that could be done by someone else. Hand those tasks off so that you can focus on priorities. Look into hiring a remote assistant.Delegating work can help you focus on the most important tasks.

Assess Your Childcare Options

With the current social distancing guidelines in place, work-from-home parent standbys like creating play dates and hiring babysitters for your children are not good options. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get help.

If you have a partner working from home, see if you can create a schedule where you swap work and supervision time based on each of your work needs. If you have a high school aged child or a child home from college, see if there is a way to set up your schedule so that they can still work on their classes, but they can also help make sure you can get your work done. Ask grandparents, aunts, and uncles who would normally step up as babysitters to help by scheduling Facetime or zoom sessions with older kids. Kids can ask their relatives for homework help or stories, or get creative and play board games virtually with them, while you work without interruptions.

Create a Schedule

We have talked before about compartmentalizing your day and block scheduling. Make a schedule and block your work time. Utilize your childcare options but block your work time in the way that makes the most sense for your situation. If you are lucky you can utilize partners and older kids so you can have a long block of work time. For some families it is really hard to get one long block of work time, but if you break up your work day do not fragment it into lots of 15 to 20 minute work blocks or you will be constantly rushing back to work and struggling to make meaningful progress. Your care-giver and work roles will start to become blurred and everyone’s stress will go up.

Look at the tasks that need to be done and assess a reasonable amount of time needed for each task, add enough time to recover if you have an unexpected interruption. Post the day’s schedule in a place that you can see it and if your kids can read post it where they can see it too.

Anticipate Stress And Try To Help Mitigate It

Helping Yourself

This is a new situation for you and for your children. New situations come with stress as everyone learns and adjusts. Having a schedule and discussing your plans will help. But everyone will still need time to decompress. Your 6 year old will spill his juice on the carpet. The kids will have a day where they fight about everything. You will have had enough after the 5th day of magically regenerating floor legos. Or maybe that you get an email from your grandparent’s nursing home that makes you start to worry. Utilize the extra time you built into your schedule to take a small break. Make yourself a fresh cup of tea, meditate, say a quick prayer, set a timer and spend 5-10 minutes stretching, deep breathing, or journaling. Find a technique that helps you calm down and refocus when things go wrong.

Kids Feel Stress Too

You might think that your kids’ lives are less stressful now that they get to stay home all day. That is not the case. Your kids will be trying to adapt to a new way of learning, and a new routine. Social children will miss their friends. Kids missing out on a birthday party or eagerly anticipated field trip are going to grieve that loss.  The stress you are feeling will be sensed by your kids. Plus, a virus that means people can’t go to work and kids can’t go to school or have play dates can be scary and overwhelming for adults. These feelings can be amplified for kids. Children don’t know as much information and will fill in what they don’t know with worst case scenarios.  Not to mention, kids haven’t learned many of the coping skills adults have

Helping Your Kids

Make time during the day to let your child talk about things that might bother him. When your child is melting down at the drop of a hat or snaps at everything you say, remember she might just need to decompress. Sometimes kids just need to name the thing that is bothering them and the feelings they are having. “I don’t like not having my teacher’s explanations.” “I miss my friends.” “I am scared about this virus.” “I don’t understand why I can’t go to the playground or play on my sports team.” Kids need a caring adult to assure them that eventually they will get to do those things again.

Make a poster of things your kids can do when they are feeling upset.

Post it as a reminder to you.  If your kids are not old enough to read use pictures as cues. After a while, if you help them see they are upset and encourage them to use one of their “Calming Activities” they can start recognizing their emotions and calming themselves down.

If you have to go it alone

Sometimes you have to work while you are the only caretaker for your kids. When that happens work in a room with a door that shuts if you can. Some days (maybe most days) you will have interruptions, but you can prevent impulsive child interruptions using non-verbal clues such as an Open/Closed sign on your door or a special hat that you wear while working. These cues can help your kids remember not to interrupt if it is not an emergency. If your children are old enough to understand, have a conversation with them about your needs and expectations of them. Make sure these are reasonable and age appropriate and when your kids meet those expectations make sure you rewarded them. Point out how much it helped you that they got along and how much you appreciate that they waited to ask their question.

Here are some ways you can carve out interruption free time by age:

Try to work during nap time, or when they are content to swing or bounce in a bouncer. When babies are mobile, put them in a play pen near you with toys. If they demand to be held when they see you put the playpen in a room with a monitor.


Try to work during nap time, or when they are content to swing or bounce in a bouncer. When babies are mobile, put them in a play pen near you with toys. If they demand to be held when they see you put the playpen in a room with a monitor.




Work during nap times, or early in the morning or in the evening. Distract them with  a favorite show. Busy-Bins and Sensory-Bins offer great quiet activities, they help toddlers with their fine motor skills and keep them occupied. Sometimes older toddlers and pre-school aged children enjoy listening to a relative read stories through iPad Facetime.


Early Elementary

Most kids this age have outgrown regular naps, but you can still institute a quiet time. Tell kids they have to stay in a designated space, and they can read books or play with a quiet toy. Kids this age have longer attention spans, so you can put on a movie instead of a show. Some early elementary kids still love sensory bins, and you can transition these to activity bins. Does your child love dinosaurs? Grab a delivery box and put all the toy dinosaurs and some things for making dino habitats. Your kid is more into dress up? Put accessories that are easy to put on and take off in the box. The possibilities are endless! Puzzles, coloring, and building blocks are also great activities for this age group.

Late Elementary and Up

Kids this age respond well to screen time. Let kids watch favorite shows and movies. Older kids can also use Facetime and Zoom with relatives. Set kids up with everything they need to do their distance learning before you start working. Make sure they know that if they have a question the should set that part aside. But be sure to have a list of tasks or homework assignments so they don’t just sit around waiting for your work time to end.

Board games, reading, and journaling are all great ways for your older kids to pass time. Activity bins are still useful, just adjust for their maturity. Let your kids try something new like an oragami book and paper, or supplies for shadow puppets. There are lots of great STEM ideas, simply tailor them to your child’s interests. Give older kids a list of chores and a fun activity they can do once they finish.

Take the Day With a Grain of Salt

Working from home with kids at home will take some getting used to, and you may have to make some adjustments. Maybe you learn that moving lunch up helps prevent whining kids from camping outside your door asking when they get to eat, or maybe you can’t move lunch up but you put a snack bin on the table and tell them to pick one thing to eat after 10, to help tide them over until lunch. Your kids will adjust if you stick to your schedule and expectations.

On the days that go well make sure to let your kids know and celebrate that, play a game as a family, let them have extra playtime, or schedule that new movie they’ve wanted to watch. On the days that don’t go well, try to remember that all of us have rough days and you aren’t the only one struggling. Parents all over are struggling to work from home while caring for their kids. Remember that tomorrow is a new day and can be a fresh start. Do an end of the day assessment: What went well? What didn’t go well? What might have changed the outcome?

Sometimes there is nothing you could have changed- teething babies are going to teethe, and you can’t control that the delivery man ignored your sign ringing the doorbell and ending nap time early, but reviewing things can help you feel more confident going into tomorrow. Try to find the humor where you can and utilize the power of positive thinking. With the right adjustments you can survive, maybe even succeed, at working from home while caring for your kids.

Other Resources For Cutting Stress:

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