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Staying Sane While Working From Home With Children

by Joannie Debrito

Working from home comes with its own set of challenges. It’s important to have a quiet space where you can work, minimise distractions, set a routine, and focus on your goals for the day. Working from home with children can add a new dynamic to your job. When our children are on extended breaks from school and are sharing the same space, distractions can come more easily which can impact our productiveness.

When you are working from home, you may have goals that you need to accomplish that day. However, it’s unrealistic to think that your children will comply with the goals you have. So how do you find that sweet spot, where you are able to reach your goals and still respond well to your children?

Here are eight tips for staying sane and keeping your children happy while working at home:

1. Think about Schedules

Think about your children’s schedules. When are they likely to need your attention the most? Plan your day to work when they don’t need you as much. If they are too young to keep themselves busy while you’re working, you may need to plan to work around their routine. You may need to plan to work before your children wake up, then take a break during the most active hours of the day and return to work after they go to bed.

2. Make a Plan

Plan out what each day’s schedule should look like. Communicate this plan to your children and tell them that you will have to work together as a family to keep on schedule, so that you can get your work done and they can stay on task with their schoolwork. Write down the schedule. You may even want to have your children help you decorate it. Post the schedule where it can easily be seen and follow it as closely as possible.

3. Take Regular Breaks

Tell your children that you’re going to take regular breaks each hour and stick to them. During break times, turn your attention to your them. Engage with them and, at the end of the break, remind them that you’ll be going back to work for just a little while and will join them again next hour. This may sound like a difficult thing to do, but children who are old enough to work independently can usually focus for about 45 minutes at a time. If not, they should be able to work alone for a half hour. Try one of these two schedules throughout the day:

  • 45 minutes of work with a 15 minute break or
  • 30 minutes of work with a 5-7 minute break.

Using a timer might help them keep track of when you’re working and when you’ll be taking a break.

4. Remember Recess or “Rehat”

Remember that for primary school children, recess or “waktu rehat” is a regular and necessary part of the schedule. The children are not expected to be in the books all day. Give them permission to go outside or engage in some vigorous indoor activities. Do the same for your older children. They also need time to release the energy that builds up when they’ve been sitting for long periods of time. Remember that you need to get away from your desk too! Working from home with children provides a great opportunity to join them! Play is a great way to bond with your children and get the blood flowing. Recess is a great thing to do during the times of day when you tend to be least productive. Recognise that you’re not going to get much quality work done during that time and use the time to get some exercise instead.

5. Give Rewards

Children who are ages 9-18 are old enough to understand the principle of delayed gratification: that working and planning now will have benefits later. Talk with your children about the importance of sticking to a schedule to get a reward later on. Then, plan a surprise they aren’t expecting and spring it on them sometime during the week when they’re least expecting it. 

6. Teach Personal Discipline

Older children can also understand the need to set limits on themselves. If you find that they are interrupting your work too often, you can tell them that they are only allowed to ask you a certain number of questions per day. Through this, they can learn some personal discipline by deciding which questions they really need to ask and which ones can wait until later.

7. Encourage Rest

Naps are good for children and parents as well. Don’t hesitate to encourage some nap time for your children. As preteens and teens grow through adolescence, they tire easily. Your older children will probably reject the idea of a nap but might respond well if you say something like, “You look tired. You might just want to lie down for awhile.” When I used to tell my teens to do this and they took my suggestion, I’d check on them five minutes later and they’d be fast asleep. Getting enough rest is a great way to improve your focus and productivity and to reduce stress. 

8. Reinforce the Positives

Remember to point out when your children are doing a good job of sticking to the schedule and some of the limits that you’ve set. Be sure to thank them for the help!

With these eight tips, you can create a successful and less stressful environment for you and your children while you are working from home. Times when your children are on extended breaks from school can be excellent opportunities to teach them teamwork in keeping the schedule. Working from home can also be a great time for you to connect to your children in new ways.

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.

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