Today will be the first day that thousands of children within the UK are stuck at home, while parents may also be working from home.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, schools have been asked to shut their gates and send children home, provided they are not the children of key workers.
Many of you might welcome the thought of having your children around more – but you might also be concerned that having them around is detrimental to your productivity while working from home.
Below, we’ve highlighted a few tips on how to keep your children occupied while you work – and a few tips on how to maintain your productivity!
Wait for them to get bored
When they’re at home, children can generally find things to do of their own accord. With today being the first day having them at home, you might find that they can keep themselves occupied for a good few hours – which leaves you plenty of time to get on with your job.
If your child is younger and usually needs you to engage them with something, try popping their favourite cartoons on the television, or iPad, or put on some music on for them to listen to. For slightly older children, Lego is a great way to keep them occupied for a couple of hours too. If your children are aged 11+, they might be more interested in watching TV, listening to their own music, or chatting to their friends online. Whatever their interests, the first day is a good indicator of how quickly they’re likely to get bored. So value this time before you have to get more creative.
Give your children screen time
Although many parents don’t like to encourage their children to have a lot of screen time, in circumstances like these, there are certain rules that need to be thrown out of the window (to an extent). Allow your children to watch their favourite shows, or play games on your iPad etc. There are alot of learning resources and online games available, so they could end up learning while they play.
Older children will likely be more interested in getting in touch with their friends online. While this is important for them to stay in touch with each other, don;t allow them to develop an unhealthy over-reliance on it. Set some rules on how long they can use it, and then try to give them some variety, like exercise, reading books or learning a new skill.
Find a quiet room for meetings
To be clear, if you have younger children who rely on you, this might not be possible – but we’re sure that in this event your employer will understand that you can’t really expect your children to be quiet if you’re on the phone or on video calls throughout the day.
If you do have older children at home with you though, finding a quiet room for meetings is a great way to eliminate distractions. Ideally, find somewhere that’s comfortable and quiet, where you can get fully involved. You may need to dip in and out if you’re worried about leaving your children for too long, just to check that they’re not getting up to any mischief!
Pragya Agarwal is a behavioural and data scientist based in the UK. In her article about working from home with children, she suggests that you can’t do everything, so prioritise. It’s even more important to prioritise which tasks will be completed, because you’ll need time away from your desk to check on your child, feed them, and potentially more. Work on the most important thing in the morning, and when your children begin to get bored or more unsettled in the afternoon, you can rest easy knowing you got the top of the list jobs done.
Give them flexibility
Since we don’t yet know when our children are safe to go back to school, make time at home enjoyable for them. Instead of setting a strict routine, give them the flexibility to make decisions on what they would like to do – you might end up very surprised when they want to catch up on some homework, or learn a new skill.
Since they won’t be out playing with their friends, making time for your children to be active is essential for their wellbeing. Younger children might be happy to dance around their TV to their favourite shows, but after this, a bit of time spent in the back garden to run or walk around is very important – don’t forget to do this for yourself too. Currently, we’re allowed to step foot outside of home for exercise, for example walking the dog – this is something your family could enjoy together. Just remember to keep your distance between each other, and don’t spend too long away from the house. Keep an eye on the news too – this could change soon.
Every day at home doesn’t have to be the same for your child. Learning a new skill that they enjoy could work out very well for you if they continue to be engaged with this hobby. So explore new opportunities like drawing, painting, asking them to help you cook, or reading.
Ensure learning is still happening
Don’t forget to make time for your child to continue learning. A lot of teachers have set up online classes for their pupils, so if this is available, it’s important that they take part. Devices like Amazon Echo dots have lots of learning games and quizzes available for your children to make use of too, if a class isn’t available.
Other options might be to order books to the house so they can improve their reading skills – check with your teacher what they have been reading in class so you can make sure they are getting a book that is challenging them.
Make the most of outdoor space
Being outdoors is important for the whole family to maintain positive wellbeing. Make time for your daily intake of natural vitamin D, and get your family outdoors (preferably in your garden) to enjoy the fresh air.
This will be a very confusing time for your children. They have just changed their daily routine, and some of them may not adapt as well as others. Listen to them, and try to connect with how they’re feeling to ensure they don’t end up feeling unhappy about being isolated.
Your children will miss their friends, so you could try to set up video calls with other parent’s phones so they can see their pals regularly. A simple phone call will likely help too. They might even agree to writing a letter. Emily Proffitt suggests: “It’s vital that children get downtime to be independent and relax. We are encouraging our pupils to write to each other, giving them a purpose but also helping them feel less isolated.”
Be available for advice on how your child is feeling, so you can help them get through what could be a difficult time and a very limited environment for them.
Talk to your children
Similar to the point above, you may find that your child has a lot of questions about what’s going on. Be as clear as you can with them about why it’s important they do not leave the house, and let them know that everyone else has to do the same.
The most important thing is to keep your child safe, but they have to understand why they can’t just go and see their friends, or go to school, so continue to communicate with them so they can get to grips with the transition. Also, don’t forget to implement the most important steps to keep them safe – social distancing, washing their hands and not touching their face.
Look after yourself
While your children and your job will likely be front of mind right now, your mental health and wellbeing is vital too. Prioritise time for yourself during the day, which might include enjoying some time with your children, or taking time for yourself, like having a bath or enjoying your favourite podcast. Whatever it is you’re interested in, it’s essential that you are happy, so you can ensure every other aspect of your life is too, particularly during such a frustrating time with no current end goal. You might also find these tips for work-life balance helpful.
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