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8 Tips for Working From Home With Kids During COVID-19
Strategies for managing home life in the time of social distancing and self-quarantine
In times of complete lockdown, parents are concerned about trying to balance their responsibilities as working adults with this complete upheaval in the lives of their children. Although there is no “magic bullet” to balancing everything, experts suggest replicating the structure and predictability that your child would experience at school as much as possible. Parents should work on giving them a routine, as well as clear and predictable expectations that will offer them a sense of control and comfort. Experts offered the following tips for establishing routines and healthy habits—and advice for how to talk to your children about COVID-19.
Create a schedule
Sit down with your child each morning and make a schedule of what the day is going to look like. If your child is young, it can be a pictorial sequence you can draw and put on the fridge. This works for children preschool through high school. It can be that breakfast is at 7:30 a.m. followed by clean-up time from 8:05 to 8:10 a.m. The goal is not to re-create the school day exactly as that is impossible, but to build a new routine for doing schoolwork at home. For most ages, 30-minute blocks are best for specific academic tasks.
Parents, of course, will want to make sure their child’s schedule matches what they need to do that day. If you have a conference call at 10 am, maybe that is when the hour of educational games and videos happen.
Get up and move
It’s helpful to mix in gross motor movement and quiet time. Maybe it’s an hour of educational games from 8 to 9 am, then 30 minutes of dancing, followed by an hour of enrichment activities. This could be items your child’s school provided or online activities about writing, multiplication, or other topics.
For gross motor activities – if you do not have an outdoor area – experts suggest fort-building, indoor hopscotch, or using hula hoops.
The goals are to avoid a “vacuum of time” and also to reduce conflict by coming up with a schedule and displaying it in a prominent place where everyone sees it and you and your kids can refer to it throughout the day.
Parents and children could plan that routine together, and perhaps that will allow everyone to feel a bit of control over a challenging situation.
Schedule time to be with your kids
Even if the family is in the same house together all day, that doesn’t mean kids are getting the level of interaction they crave from adults. Schedule time for when kids know they have access to mom or dad. Maybe that’s preparing lunch together.
Kids are social creatures, and there are many technological tools that allow people to stay in touch today, from FaceTime to playing games together online. You can call upon grandma to spend 30 minutes reading a book to your child on FaceTime or have an aunt do math facts from her home. You can include online interactions with friends and family into your schedule. Make a digital village.
Be mindful of how you talk to kids about COVID-19
You want to talk in a way that is factual and not panicky. Also, remember that children are listening even when you are not talking to them. In other words, don’t tell them everything is fine, but then have a conversation with a friend or your spouse they can hear in which you discuss worrying news developments.
In general, provide clear information that is age-appropriate. Don’t use euphemisms. Start with asking your child what they understand about what is happening. Their answers can help guide you in the terms they use. Maybe there is misleading information you can correct.
It’s also wise to give kids context when talking about the virus. Also, you should monitor what they are exposed to in terms of TV and the computer when it comes to news. Point them toward more reliable information and be honest about what you know and don’t know. Tell them grownups are working very hard right now to keep us safe.
Be on the lookout for anxiety
If your child is acting out, know that many of these behaviours could be related to anxiety over the current situation. They may be more whiny or irritable or have more temper tantrums. But instead of getting angry, upset, or annoyed with them, take a breath and ask what is on their mind.
Look for silver linings
Although it may seem difficult to see the benefits of social distancing and such disruption to everyday lives – at least right now – there are some.
Families are spending more time together and, eventually, I think we will look back on this time and know that we got through something difficult.
The experience can also teach children how to deal with disappointment and be more flexible, which is a vital life skill and one that parents can model as they work to get through this, too.