The past week has seen unprecedented changes in our world as schools have closed indefinitely, workplaces are limiting which employees can come in, and more and more of us are working from home. The short notice means you haven’t had time to find a babysitter and you’re left trying to entertain your children, teach them something, manage the chaos of your house, and still get your work done.
It sounds impossible, but a little bit of preparation and flexibility go a long way to making this situation very doable. By the time this is over you might even be sad to see your kids go back to school!
Teaching your kids
Many schools are offering their curriculum online so students can continue learning at home. If that’s not the case for you, there are online resources you can use to keep your kids learning. Khan Academy offers free courses for all grades, including videos and tests. Right now they offer a free daily schedule for kids ages 4-18, keeping your kids learning and hopefully giving you some space to get work done. If your kids have been struggling with a concept, Khan Academy can help them master it before school starts again.
Give them the gift of audiobooks
If your kids haven’t yet discovered the joy of audiobooks, now is the time to introduce them! Audible has plenty of books for all ages, and you may even be able to check out books online from your local library. Librovox is also a free service where volunteers read books that are no longer under copyright, and they have some wonderful readers and lots of classic stories by authors like Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carroll. It’s available on their website as well as through an app.
Audiobooks work well for kids when their hands are busy and their mind can focus on the words. Playing with playdough, coloring, and building with Lego sets are great ways to keep them engaged. They will probably listen longer than you think!
Find a temporary nanny
If daycares in your area have shut down, you may be able to get lucky and snag one of these workers who could come work for you. You probably have friends or family who can’t go to work; they might be a great option as well. Even a few hours a day would give you a chance to have a string of uninterrupted time to get work done and make phone calls in peace.
Let your kids help you
Your kids are probably willing and able to do more around the house than both of you think. Spend a weekend teaching some cooking basics, and see if they can’t rustle up some grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch or chocolate chip cookies for dessert.Youtube also has some great kids cooking channels, and older kids might even enjoy learning from cooking masters like Alton Brown. Cooking teaches them life skills, it gives them something new to do, it saves you time, and they will appreciate having some autonomy in the kitchen.
Your kids are probably making more messes now that they’re home all the time, and they can clean them up! If they don’t already have chores, a quick Google search will help you find age-appropriate chores that they are fully capable of doing. Again, these are life lessons that they need to learn anyway, so you may as well start now!
Keeping them busy will keep them happy and out of your hair. Sweeten the pot by paying them for their chores and they might be even more willing to go the extra mile.
If it is in your power at all, try to keep flexible work hours. Even with preparation and the best of intentions, working while having your children home is not going to be easy. If you can, plan to work in chunks throughout the day. A couple of hours before they are out of bed, a few hours in the late morning, and a few more hours in the afternoon might work well. It gives you a chance to check in with your kids, hang out with them for a while, and direct them to a new activity while you go back to work.
Working from home can be tough, and working from home with kids can be even more difficult. This new normal won’t last forever, so make the best of it by spending some extra time with your kids and teaching them a few things they may not have learned otherwise.