Tips for working at home with your kids around
Ok, I know this has been going on for a year now, so you're probably all experts at this by now hey? Well, if the conversations at the school gates are anything to go by, that is far from true.
And hey, I'm no expert either. But I have learnt some tricks and done lots of research, and we got into a great rhythm this last 3 months.
Here are my top tips for working from home with the kids around.
1) Invest in some quality time with them early on in the day.
By doing this, you will have banked some really good one-on-one time with each of your kids, and they will feel more confident and comfortable playing apart from you later in the day when you need time to focus on your work. This even works with very small children - spend a good 20 minutes giving them your all. Your full attention, eye contact, physical touch, reading books with them, playing a board game or their favourite game outside. Listen to them, and just play. Just be with them. No distractions. No phones, or other screens. By spending this time with them, you are effectively filling their 'cup'. Ok, back up. Imagine everyone has a 'cup' that needs filling every day. When it's full, we feel loved, secure and content. When it's empty, we feel ignored, detached from people, and are insecure. When our cups are full, we are happier to go exploring, and playing independently. That's the time we feel safe and happy, confident to go and do things by ourselves. Like when you've just had a great time with a friend, or had a great chat with your mum and then feel totally brilliant walking around the park by yourself just taking stuff in, you know? I'd normally feel all self-conscious walking through our local park, thinking, who is here, what do I look like, how am I walking, etc. etc. etc. That might just be me though 😂 Anyway, you get the point. Fill their cup, so they're happy and confident to play alone later in the day.
2) Include your kids in the plan for the day and give them expectations.
Give them some kind of structure to cling on to. Now, I don't mean schedule their day down to the last minute. Grab a piece of paper, and talk about what you're going to do that day. Ask them what they would like to do. I have a set of Daily Rhythm cards which is great for this.
You can choose the activities/chores that you will do that day, and then let your kids be involved in choosing when you do them.
Explain that there will be some 'mummy and daddy work time' during the day, so they know to expect that, and lay down very clearly what you expect of them at that time. Maybe make that part of the day the screen time bit?
The rule that worked well in our house is this; when you've done all these things, AND we've had lunch, THEN you can watch screens or play computer games.
That was during home-school time, and after a couple of days of the kids continuously asking about the TV and computer games, they realised what was going on. Once my oldest had done all his school work, they'd played outside, done something creative, tidied up or whatever chores they needed to do that day, they could play computer games. That might not work for you, but it's just an idea, and you can make your day look however you want.
Last tip with this one - put a really fun activity that they will really look forward to at the end of the day, once you're done working. For my kid this would be baking!
3) Be realistic, and kind to yourself.
These are crazy times we're living through right now. We need to give ourselves a break and see the big picture. The best parenting advice I've ever heard was this;
"Do what you need to do to stay sane."
Simple as that. Do what you need to do to stay sane. If that means staying in your PJs all day, letting your kids run around naked or in PJs, sticking the kids in front of Peppa Pig and the Square AuPair for hours a day so you can get your job done and have some space, then that's ok. It's the time of connection that you do have with your kids that matters. How you are with them when you are really WITH them. Give them cuddles, spend time with them and put your phone down (I'm so bad at this!). Even if you have a tiny bit of time to really play with your kids before work starts, and at meal times, make that time count. Give them the best of you.
4) Have a round-up meeting at dinner time.
Even though you've spent the day together, you've still had different experiences, and you'll have different opinions and views of even the stuff you did together. We tend to do an exercise every day at the dinner table, when we try to talk about the day. But hey, I'm sure you've heard the tumbleweeds roll after the question 'so, how was your day?' is asked right? So try something different. Ask this question -
"What was your good thing, bad thing, funny thing?"
'Good thing, bad thing, funny thing' is something we have done in our house pretty much all the way through lockdown, and I manage to find out all sorts of things from my kids that they would never voluntarily share. The idea is that they get to share one good thing from their day, one bad thing, and one funny thing. We all do this, grownups too. It's so brilliant, and helps me to look back over the day, and to actively look for positives, to acknowledge the bad bits (and them let them go), and to search for something funny that we can all have a giggle about. Be honest about the bad thing in your day. Kids need to learn that it's ok to have stuff happen that doesn't feel nice; that things don't always work out how you planned; people can be unkind, and feelings get hurt. If you are open and honest with your kids, and talk about how you dealt with the situation (even if you dealt badly with it, admit that you made a mistake and how you would do things differently), you will be teaching your children such an important skill.
So, to summarise, here are my 4 tips for a smoother working for home day with the kids around;
1) fill their cup early in the day
2) make a visual plan for the day and set expectations. Involve them in this process
3) be realistic, and be kind to yourself
4) 'good thing, bad thing, funny thing' chat at the end of the day
I really hope this has been helpful. If you're interested in getting a set of your own Daily Rhythm cards, you can find them here. It's a digital download, so you just buy, download, print at home and go!