How many mornings have you shut off the alarm, wishing you could just work from home in your comfy clothes? Well, if you’re like millions of Americans, your wish has suddenly come true thanks to COVID-19 as you’re probably working from home.
While in theory working from home may seem ideal, the reality for many of us is that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Especially if you have young children home from school that you now have to teach while still keeping productive with work. Or attending meetings with clients or co-workers or bosses virtually.
The fact is, this sudden and unexpected disruption to our daily lives has many us feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, angry, irritated, and in some cases hopeless.
Here are 4 ways to cope with working from home with kids
1. Get your space right
If you don’t have a dedicated home office, you’ll want to figure something out ASAP. Having the right space at home will help you focus on the tasks at hand. It will automatically set boundaries with family (save for small children of course). Do you have a spare room you can use? Is there an area in your basement that would work? Don’t be afraid to be creative.
If all else fails, clear off the dining table and set up there. Avoid doing it in your bedroom if you can. Mixing work with where you sleep is a sure-fire recipe for inducing insomnia and restless nights.
2. Keep your regular schedule
You may want to treat the next few weeks or months as sort of a family vacation. However, it’s best if you and the kids stick to your regular routines. That means getting up and going to bed at the same time. Be sure to shower, get dressed and have breakfast as you normally would. Straying from routines will demotivate you to complete the work that needs to be done. It will also confuse the kids (and create behavior issues) as children thrive on structure and routine because it creates a sense of safety and comfort.
3. Take advantage of the flexibility
While it’s important to keep your routines, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of having more time on your hands. Instead of spending an hour or more commuting each day, you could use that time to catch up on home projects that have been on your to-do lists for a while. The extra time is also a great opportunity to reconnect with your family in a fun way. Avoid using the extra time to sit in front of the TV or worse, doomscroll on social media and the news. This is a sure-fire recipe to induce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
4. Give your kids structure
As previously mentioned, kids need structure. Especially young children. When children know what to expect, it creates a sense of safety and comfort. Shake things up and watch the behavioral issues increase.
This could mean giving them three options for how to spend the afternoon: playing with Legos in the playroom, work on arts and crafts at the kitchen table, or quiet reading in their room. Be sure to take a break from work every couple hours (or more depending on their age) to check in with your kids to answer any questions they may have. Because lord knows, that ALWAYS do!
5. Get some virtual babysitters
On those days when you have to attend or hold many meetings and get a lot done, consider reaching to family and friends to arrange virtual playdates with the kids. Facetiming with grandparents can be a godsend. They can read, play games and interact with the kids while you get important work done.
Working from home can be a great thing for many of us. Introverts tend to do better than extroverts. However, it’s not for everybody. Doing it while homeschooling or caring for small children is no picnic. Give yourself a break and mind your expectations, of both yourself and the little ones.
If you find yourself unable to unwind or are constantly overwhelmed, angry, irritable, sad, or anxious, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you navigate these challenging times.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.