While some of us have hit our stride after a few weeks of working from home, others are still struggling to adjust to the new routine. Having small children at home can make this adjustment much more difficult – while we all love our kids, little ones are the best/worst distractions. We asked the parents on our Enable Team to share their best tips for balancing working from home with taking care of and entertaining their kids, who are also adjusting to this new normal! Below, we’ve compiled a list of our top work from home tips for parents, as well as some excerpts of the real and raw experiences of the parents on our team. There are some hilarious and relatable tidbits in there. We hope all of the parents out there find this list helpful, inspiring, and if nothing else, comforting, because we are all just doing our best!
Top 10 Work From Home Tips For Parents
1. CREATE A LOOSE SCHEDULE
Give kids structure with a schedule, but leave room for some freedom. For example, give categories of activities for a certain time, but let your child pick the specific activity themselves.
2. VISUAL CUES
Set up a visual cue system so kids can tell when they can and cannot interrupt you. A red light/green light sign on the door is a great idea. Red means do not disturb, and green means you can come in if you need to.
3. TAKE BREAKS
Make it a point to unplug at some point during the day and dedicate that time to being with your kids. Depending on the age of the kids, you could schedule in an activity with them on your lunch break, or maybe work for one hour, play for 10 minutes. Set a timer so that the kids (and you) know when it’s time for you to go back to work.
4. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Don’t forget to move! It’s important for both you and your kids! Take a walk together around the block, have older kids set up a backyard obstacle course for you to do together, weed a section of the garden, or do a yoga/stretching routine together.
5. A SPACE OF THEIR OWN
Set up an “office” for your kids. Create a dedicated space for them to do school work and other activities, so they can feel like they’re “going to the office” too. Everyone has their own intentional space.
6. INCLUDE THEM
Help your kids schedule conference calls as part of their “work day”. They see you having important meetings, so giving them “important meetings” of their own could help them feel included. Have them set times to call a grandparent or friends who are also home from school/work.
If you have the bandwidth, prepare for the week with simple engaging activities that don’t require oversight. Examples: Give kids a writing prompt (write a review of the latest Fortnite update or write a summary of last night’s family movie), or a create a LEGO building challenge (NASA is building a new rocket and wants you to design it).
Set up a daily good attitude incentive… “If we complete our responsibilities today with good attitudes, we’ll read a book/bake cookies/extend bedtime/take a family walk/watch Frozen 2 tonight.” Giving kids something to look forward to that you can reference throughout the day can help them stay on task or feel a sense of purpose.
Set up a snack basket in the kitchen with parent-approved snacks so they can get them on their own when they get hungry without interrupting you every single time.
10. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that most people are in the same boat and are also facing the same challenges, and we’re all just doing our best.
Tips & Thoughts From Enable Parents
“My wife has an excellent method of distracting the kids when I have an important call. She does a ‘seek and find’ in the front yard using several different household items and toys. She sends them all out with a list, and they aren’t allowed to come back inside until they have completed their treasure hunt. It works great – don’t judge us.”
“Daily walks to the neighborhood park on lunch break. Lots of arts and crafts. Patience.”
“I have a red sign and a green sign that I put on my office door. The green one means it’s ok to come in or be loud in the house. The red sign means I’m not to be disturbed and please be quiet. It works wonders!”
“I had my oldest (5 years old) sit with me and pick out a STOP sign picture to print out. She then got to color it and I explained that ‘when the sign is on the door, Daddy is on a call and you cannot come in.’ Involving her in creating the sign has helped her understand what it means!”
“I get up early and start working when it’s still quiet. My middle son is always the next one up and I incorporate him in my work by showing him what I’m working on and explain it as best I can. He tends to have a better appreciation for my that I need to focus than the other ones because of this.”
“We do lots of very dramatic lip reading when I’m on a call. They will quietly walk in the room, I hold up my finger and in VERY dramatic miming they will try to tell me what they need without making a sound. It’s quite hilarious. We have also implemented a schedule and so far it’s going well. Caribu, Smarty Ants and Amazon Freetime has been so great for my youngest, and the other two have Google Classroom assignments from their teachers.
“We have a daily schedule that involves time to talk to friends, general cleaning of the house, time to read, etc. I check on them at 10:00, 12:00, 2:00, and 4:00, while my husband checks on them at 9:00, 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00. so every hour we are able share the responsibility of making sure they are on task. My kids are older so a big issue is limiting screen time to not all day – we give them two periods of time designated for texting, and this has really worked for us. We also require two separate times a day for them to go outside for at least 30 minutes. This is very similar to our typical summer routine, with the main adjustment being both myself and my husband are working from home right now.”
“We have a team at our church that is taking on the task of offering video conferencing for kids. They sign up to call at a specified time and check in on your kids while you are working. They can do an activity, like coloring together, play a game, or read a story. Grandparents could be ideal for this as well! It is a great option for elementary school aged kids who might not have school all day.”
“VidAngel is a great streaming company that filters Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. shows for kids. It mutes dialogue and removes the objectionable scenes, expanding the viewing possibilities for your little ones.”