How To Work From Home With Kids (And Stay Sane)

With all the rapid changes happening now, many parents are taking on multiple roles of managing the home and childminding while working from home. Here are some tips to help parents cope. — Contributed by 

As part of Singapore’s additional efforts to support safe distancing, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has announced all primary and secondary schools, junior colleges, and the centralised institutions to start home-based learning starting 1 April; forcing all kids to stay home.

With families trying to balance their work and life in close quarters, parents are doing their best to keep their kids busy while doing their jobs and staying sane. So, how can they make this work?

Set realistic expectations

There is no benefit in assuming things will be normal. This work from home with kids situation can be better managed if you are upfront with your boss and co-workers about your home situation. When you are open and honest from the get-go, it can help them better manage their expectations.

Talk it out with empathy and understanding

While working from home with kids for an unknown period is uncharted territory for many, parents need to talk to their kids about what is happening.

Parents need to explain the situation at an age-appropriate level as some may not understand what is going on and only see that you are unreasonably limiting them. For instance, trying using Elsa and Anna of Disney’s Frozen movie to describe social distancing and how it can keep people safe!

Make a schedule of office hours

Let your kids know when you will be working and when you will have time to spend with them. Set and communicate your expectations to them. You can write up a deal where if they keep their end of the bargain, you will stop working at the designated time and do something with them later.

Have a dedicated home office

Ideally, your work station should be in a quiet area with some privacy. This is important when you have to be on the phone or go on conference calls frequently.

If your home office has a door, keep it shut to signify “Do not disturb”. You do not want to be caught in the middle of an important call with your kids running around and making a scene. If feasible, try to schedule important calls during the naptime of your kids.

Establish a routine early and stick to it

While some parents are looking to engage their kids with electronics the first thing in the morning, others look to start with a “care plan”. Keep them in the school mindset by getting them dressed in the morning, have breakfast and bring them outside for a bit.

Progress to the “work plan” which includes school work and various supplemental activities like educational documentaries. If there is no school work, google for online worksheets and assignments. If you have big kids, assign them on a rotation watch duty with the little ones.

Divide and get by

With your partner working from home as well, it is time to divide and conquer! Plan and divide up kid-duty based on your work schedules and stick to it. Should your house be limited in space, come to a consensus as to who will take the work station and rotate from time to time. You can also motivate your kids to help out around the house with the chores by rewarding them screen time later in the evening.

Seek help if needed

As long as you and your family are not under compulsory self-quarantine, get help if need be. Hire a teenager to watch your kids. Should budget be an issue, gather some of the moms, pool the resources, and hire a babysitter to watch all of the children. However, keep in mind that during a pandemic outbreak, it is best to reduce exposure to external people to minimise the spread of the communicable disease!

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