Working from Home with Children: How to Manage Parental and Professional Responsibilities
The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are so widespread that, for many people, it has affected multiple aspects of their lives at once.
For example, many professional parents were accustomed to dropping off their children at school before heading into the office. However, these same parents not only find themselves working remotely now that their office building is closed, but their children are also at home now that schools are closed as well. With daycares and babysitters off the table due to social distancing orders, parents must somehow try to entertain and educate their children on their own, while at the same time still fulfilling their professional responsibilities.
This is a difficult enough position to be in for two parent households, but single parents will face even greater challenges, as will parents with special-needs children.
While it’s true that some schools are offering distance learning programs, where they provide video lessons and printable worksheets through online portals, I’m afraid not all school districts are able to offer these resources, nor are all households able to make use of them. Access to a reliable internet connection or printer are luxuries not everyone can afford, and even if they can, some parents are too busy to provide their young children with the supervision they need to focus on their studies. Indeed, being cooped up all day without any playdates or trips to the park mean many young children are easily bored yet brimming with energy, which any parent can tell you is a potentially destructive combination.
Every family’s situation is unique, so the exact solution for one may not necessarily work for another. However, there are a few basic principles that apply across the board, and once you come to understand them, you can work out the details that best meet your needs.
For starters, if you want to be able to get any work done, then your children will need to be kept occupied. This means you may need to accept that they will be spending an increased amount of time in front of screens, either watching TV, playing video games, or using smart devices. I know there are parents who don’t like the idea of their children’s eyes glued to an electronic device, but trust me, we are lucky to be living in a time when there are so many interactive tools to help us weather through this storm. Besides, it’s not like they’ll be rotting their brains watching mindless programming. Even if you don’t have access to distance learning resources through your local school district, there are a variety of educational videos and apps available for little to no cost.
If you want to provide alternatives to electronics, consider investing in coloring books or workbooks with math equations and writing lessons. Dollar stores have plenty of material at low prices, many of them themed around popular children’s characters or interests, such as princesses and super heroes. Beloved characters will help make the material more appealing, but you can take it a step further by adding incentivizes. Try to make a game out of accomplishing their work, offer rewards for getting a certain amount of work pages done by the end of the day, such as colorful stickers or a small piece of their favorite candy. While you’re at the dollar store, consider picking up jigsaw puzzles or simple model kits. These serve the additional purpose of acting as enticing rewards that still keep children’s minds active, providing a tangible prize for exercising their problem-solving skills.
Remember, if you can make a game out educational activities, your children will be more eager to complete it, and you will have more time to focus on your own work while they’re busy earning their reward.
Speaking of your own work, households with more than one parent should try taking shifts with childcare. Remote work can occasionally allow workers to set their own schedules, so use this opportunity to ensure one parent will be with the children while the other parent can focus on their work, then trade off when possible. Not only does this allow parents to balance their professional responsibilities alongside personal obligations, it will also maximize the bonding time your children have with the both of you, which can yield long term results in your children’s mental and emotional development.
While we’re on the subject of your child’s development, it’s important to point out that they require routines to follow in order to learn. If left with things to do but no structure for doing them, they can become directionless and apathetic to their responsibilities, resulting in them coming up with their own ways to entertain themselves, which can end up being destructive. Unfortunately, these trying times mean our lives are constantly changing, so while you may constantly need to alter your routines, try to follow them as closely as you can for as long as you can. One useful strategy is to provide children with a checklist, teaching them the importance of following steps to achieve a goal, as well as the satisfaction of accomplishing their tasks. This mentality will serve them well later in life, so now is the perfect time to instill it within them.
In order to ensure your children retain what they’re learning, you need to provide them an audience that shows interest in their studies. Talking to them about their lessons and allowing them to demonstrate their knowledge is good, but if possible, use zoom calls with friends and family as well. Not only does this keep them in contact with loved ones and provide the safest form of socialization they can get during these times, but having them talk about what they’ve learned or worked on that day, as well as teaching them to congratulate others for their respective efforts and accomplishments, will be essential to developing their self-confidence and personality.
This pandemic is scary and stressful for everyone, including your children, primarily because they don’t fully understand it. Try to carefully explain the situation and think about what answers you give to their questions. Try to keep them from getting too upset, be wary of what sort of information they’re being exposed to, and do your best to keep their spirits up.