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How to work from home with kids

Many kids and parents are stuck indoors due to coronavirus prevention measures. Here’s how to maintain family harmony—and still get your work done.

We’re all doing our part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and for many families, that means staying at home. Many parents have been asked to work remotely, and many children have been given school assignments to complete at home or online. The resulting confinement creates a stressful, close-quarters situation—imagine a relaxing staycation, and then imagine the exact opposite, and you’ve pretty much got the idea.

What does that mean for your family? How do you balance parenting, working, helping your children with their schoolwork, managing younger children who might need a lot of attention or assistance and keeping up with everyday household duties like cooking and cleaning? How can everyone in the household get their work done and their needs met, keep up with the latest developments in the ongoing crisis, while still making time to enjoy each other’s company?

Here are our tips, with additional insight from a family therapist and a Haven Life team member who is currently balancing in the trenches himself.

Create a routine

As tempting as it may be to relax your typical household routine — especially now that you no longer have to set alarms or do the morning rush — establishing a new routine as quickly as possible is a good way to help your children feel safe and cared for.

“Creating a constant routine for your child will be of huge importance in order to manage a child’s anxiety during a time when their normal routine has been thrown off,” explains Kim Egel, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego. “Having consistent times for meals, education, play, etc., is an important way to set up structure in order to relieve anxiety in a time of high fear.”

This means that, while you might want to incorporate fun, not-so-everyday activities into your shared time together — like pancake breakfasts or pajama days — you also want to create a sense of structure and predictability. Kids should know when it’s time to eat, when it’s time to do schoolwork, when it’s time to play and when it’s time to let Mommy or Daddy get their work done.

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Divide the duties

If both parents are working from home, it’s time to divide the duties. You’ll be in charge of the kids from breakfast to lunch, for example, and your partner will take over between lunch and dinner. During the hours when you’re not actively parenting, you can focus on whatever remote work needs to get done.

If only one parent is working from home, it’s still important to divvy up the work. Adam Weinberg, Brand Director at Haven Life, is currently taking on extra domestic duties to help his wife, a teacher, who is taking the lead on watching the kids while Weinberg works.

“It’s important to realize that part of your daily job responsibilities may expand,” Weinberg told us. “My wife is working hard with the kids during the day, so in the evening, after my workday ends, I try to prepare dinner, clean the house, etc. Teamwork is essential.”

Weinberg also notes that it can be difficult to stick to the division of labor. “When you can hear your partner struggling with the kids in the other room, it’s a tough decision between focusing on your work-work and getting up to lend a hand with the little ones.” Ultimately, it comes down to what needs to be prioritized in the moment — so try to stay flexible.

Know what to prioritize

On the subject of priorities: You’re probably going to be a little less productive than usual. Your kids might get a little more screen time and a few extra snacks. It’s time to figure out where you need to focus your efforts, and where you can let go. If you’re working from home, for example, Weinberg suggests asking yourself “What is the most valuable work I can be working on right now?”

It’s also important to understand other family members’ priorities. Maybe your partner has a work deadline and needs you to do your best to keep the kids occupied. Maybe one of your kids is having a rough day and needs a listening ear (or some snuggles). “Having respect for what another’s top priorities are, while balancing those priorities with the element of compromise, can greatly impact the overall positive flow of a family unit,” Egel explains.

In other words: now is the time to work together, as a family, to make sure what really matters gets done.

Plan calming activities

It’s also important to build moments of calm into your family’s day. While you might be tempted to set the kids up with piles of crafts, games, flashcards and other educationally stimulating activities, you should also try to set aside some time for everyone in the family to relax together.

“Be mindful of activities that you can engage in to help create inner calm,” Egel advises. This could be anything from a family movie night to a family yoga practice, depending on your kids’ ages and interests. Reading aloud is always a good option, especially as a way to wind down before bed. Weather permitting, get outside. Enjoy your yard or patio, if you have one, or take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood (while maintaining appropriate social distance from anyone you encounter).

Remember that your kids look to you as an example of how to behave. As Egel puts it: “You are their major role model for how to cope when things get stressful.” If you navigate this period of uncertainty as calmly as possible, your children may follow your lead.

Enjoy the moments

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the moments. Parents often wish they could spend more time with their children, so take advantage of it — have the pillow fight, break out the bubble wands, and take some time every day to both enjoy and appreciate your family.

We’re all hoping that life will go back to normal soon. Until then, try to treat this time together as special.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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