Firstly, if you haven’t already, have a chat to your kids about why they are at home and potentially being home-schooled. Make sure you use language that is age appropriate. My children are 5, 9 and 11, so I have spoken to them all individually about what COVID-19 is and how it impacts us as a family.
I have been working with WORK180 just shy of a year and have had to juggle many a school holiday with kids at home. Let me tell you, it is not always easy, but it is definitely doable! Yes, you will most likely hear those dreaded words “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored” more often than usual, but if you have a plan in place, it helps the day to run a lot smoother.
"I like you working from home because when we need help, you are here to help us." - Zoe, 11.
Here are my 6 tips to surviving remote working with your kids at home:
1. Be prepared
Preparation is the key! Think ahead to what you and your children might possibly need to be able to all work under the same roof.
Some things to consider:
Make sure you have enough headphones / earphones for everyone. Potentially there may be times where you all need to be on video calls at the same time, so sharing things like headphones may not be practical.
Set up designated areas of work. Make sure everyone has their space. (This might just mean different ends of a table.) If everyone has a designated space, it leaves less chance of arguing over who wants to sit where. My younger two are more prone to arguing, so I have placed them on each end of our dining room table and my eldest in the middle.
Have a calendar for each child. (Could be a white board, or a handmade calendar that they make themselves.) This way everyone knows what is ahead for the day and expectations are set first thing in the morning.
Label everything. That way there is no room for confusion and arguing over whose book is whose!
"I like you working from home, cause then we can see you more." - Riley, 9.
2. Keep a routine
Stick to a routine during the week that is similar to that at school. A routine gives everyone some structure in the day and can help break up school hours and free time.
Get kids up and out of their pyjamas early in the morning, ready for the day ahead.
Set an alarm for when it is break time and when it is time for the break to finish. That way your kids know without having to come to you all the time, when it is time to work and when it is time to rest.
3. Where possible, adjust your work schedule
If you are a home-schooling solo, talk to your employer and see if you can make your hours flexible around the kid’s commitments. They may have Zoom conferences with their teachers in the morning that you may have to help with, therefore it may be best for you to start your working day a little later to accommodate.
If there are two parents at home, try and stagger your hours if your work allows. One parent may start a little earlier in the morning and finish earlier and the other might start later and work later so that the children have more supervised time.
Another option may be to stagger your workday. Start earlier in the morning and have breaks throughout the day to allocate time to helping the kids.
Either way, have a chat to your employer and see if you can come up with a plan that works for you both. This may require some trial and error.
4. Delegate / Assign chores
This is the time to take a look at the household chores and re-evaluate who does what. It is also a good time to get the kids more involved. There are lots of chores the kids can do to help out around the house which also help build important life skills.
5. Food, Water, Exercise and Sleep
When the kids are home, you are prone to hear “I’m hungry” more than you care to!
One tip is to make the kid’s lunch boxes in the morning so they know that is their food for the day till schools out. It also means you have more time at lunch time to spend with the kids, rather than trying to work out and prepare what everyone is eating.
Have fruit out on the table so they can access themselves without having to ask.
Make sure their water bottles are full in the morning and that they fill it at least once during the day.
If the weather is nice, send them outside during break times. Go for a walk at lunch time as a family to get some much needed fresh air and exercise.
When you are working from home, it is easy to sit for long periods of the day without getting up. Your kids being home is a good reason to get up and stretch at least once every hour and to go and check in how they are going.
Get enough sleep! This is probably one of the most important things to remember. If kids are not getting enough sleep, they become irritated, less likely to be able to concentrate and more likely to argue with each other. If parents don’t get enough sleep, we are likely to be less patient and less tolerant of our kids and each other. So, bedtime routine and plenty of sleep for everyone is so important!
"I like you working from home mommy because I can come in and give you cuddles." - Indie, 5.
6. Have a lifeline
If you are anything like me, primary school Math is a distant memory and one that I cannot dredge up so easily! Use the resources that the school provide and get yourself a tribe. Create a group on Facebook, or WhatsApp of friends with kids of similar ages and create a little community to help each other through. Otherwise google search is a parent’s best friend!
And my last piece of advice, be kind to yourself! These are circumstances that we have never experienced before. So, if you have a day where everything goes pear shaped, don’t beat yourself up over it. Write it off and start again fresh the next day!
“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.” – Sue Atkins
Subscribe to our fortnightly Women at Work email to find out about new stories, events and career building resources.
About the author
WORK180 is a jobs board with a difference! We pre-screen employers on paid-parent leave, pay equity, flexible working arrangements and more. Find your dream job here.