6 ways to survive working from home with kids

31 March, 2020 · 3 min read

The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to stay at home. Now parents face a terrifying new challenge: working from home with kids. ANNA takes a serious (but not too serious) look at how to cope.

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It’s one thing to entertain the little angels over the weekend, but quite another to be cooped up together all week, like increasingly surly prisoners at a maximum security creche (“I’m not in here with you. You’re in here with me.”). So how can you all stay productive without any screaming, sulking and pouting (occasionally them, mostly you)?

Start delegating some jobs

If your kids don’t have much homework try dishing out some jobs. They could earn some credits to be traded for treats or even cold, hard cash (we recommend pocket money. We discourage using Bitcoin). They could even do some domestic chores – it’s a win win.

If you’re struggling to think of jobs for them, we have a few suggestions – taller kids could hang pictures or dust shelves, while shorter children are great at painting skirting boards and scrubbing floors. Kids who like playing with Lego may be able to build you a new extension (please get planning permission first). The children who spend all day glued to their tablets could become the family’s brand-building social media gurus. 

Zone an area for work 

Working at the kitchen table isn’t going to cut it if your kids are chasing each other around the room. Try designating a child-free space for your work, and creating a clear cordon that is play-free. If you don’t have a separate room such as a study or a spare bedroom, a simple roll of police tape (here’s some on Amazon) will tell the kids not to come near you for fear of arrest and prosecution (perverting the course of justice/trespass/possible theft of intellectual property). If you have a home office, don’t forget to start rumours that it’s booby-trapped (“Apparently there are magnets that will stick you to the ceiling”).

Be realistic with what you’ll achieve

Accept that your productivity is going to take a hit. Manage your expectations and plan the day accordingly. Some days you will manage to brush your teeth. Some days you won’t. Remember that Mark’s scheduled sales report is less important than making sure the kids are clothed and that you’ve had your allotted seven cups of coffee. Remember that your colleagues are almost certainly in the same boat, even if they’re too proud to admit that they’ve just been bullied by a toddler. 

Mirror the school day

If your children are school age, they may be missing the regular routine of getting up and going to school (Note: they may not). Try sketching out a schedule to mirror their school day as much as possible; including lesson times, breaks, taking a register and surreptitiously messaging each other on TikTok. Feeling creative? Ban them from using their mobile phones, them catch them at it, give them a week of detention and then tell their parents 

Keep things simple

The simple pleasures of reading a book, playing games and puzzles, cooking and washing the car can all be fun, and you could join your kids in doing some of these things too. You can also create a fun to-do list for them to work through at their own pace: from staring at a fixed spot in the distance, to naming all their favourite lettuces (Iceberg always comes top). 

Try shift work

This one's for you and your partner (if you have one). You might both be parents working full time, so it’s worth splitting out the time so you share child duties during the working day. Maybe you can be the Geography teacher, and your partner can be the strict Headteacher. One of you could play the emotionally-scarred janitor whose mysterious past gets tongues wagging. Your kids will find the role play fun, and you can continue in your roles after bedtime too – by marking all their homework. What did you think we meant?

Much like parenting itself, working from home while parenting is a skill to acquire and hone. And much like parenting, it’s really hard. So stay well, and go easy on yourself and your kids. 

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