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Suddenly working from home with the whole family? Here’s help!

Step 1 – Get everyone on the same page

Set expectations by explaining things are different right now, but eventually things will get back to normal. Let family members know that during this time, we still need to keep up with our work as best as we can.

Step 2 – Engage all family members in creating a plan to address the new situation

This is a critical step for success, don’t skip it! Kids of all ages respond very positively to being given responsibility, especially when they see their help is truly needed.  By engaging your kids in this planning discussion and asking for their input, you will find them wanting to help, which means they’re also more likely to stay busy longer!  Treating this discussion as a professional business meeting will go a long way. It will grab your children’s attention, and it will also convey that you place high value on their input.  It can be especially helpful to have a piece of paper or white board to write down notes and ideas that family members share.  For many kids, visual information makes a bigger impact…when they can see why their help is needed, they’re more likely to be supportive. Here are some questions that can engage everyone in the family and build a case for why everyone’s help is needed:

  • How many hours per day do adults in the family need to set aside for work activities?
  • How many hours per day do kids need to get their school work done from home?
  • How many hours per day are needed to help with housework & chores?  Who can help?
  • How many hours per day are needed for making meals?  Who can help?
  • How many hours should we be setting aside for daily fun activities? (movies, games, etc)
  • How many hours should we focus on exercise or outdoor activities?
  • How much time do we all need for “down time” or independent activities? (reading, electronic devices, etc.)

Step 3 – Create a weekly family schedule that shows what each family member will be working on at what time.

Keep in mind the age of your children and their tolerance for independent activity.  Tips:

  • Include tasks & activities to keep kids busy (check the “staying busy” section here for a full list of activities)
  • Sprinkle in some “brain breaks” to give kids something to look forward to and develop their persistence to remain focused (see “brain breaks” list under “staying busy” section here)
  • Consider how adults, teenage children or neighborhood sitters can take shifts engaging with younger children to allow enough professional work hours

Step 4 – Have all family members create a sign to communicate to others when they shouldn’t be interrupted (such as during a phone call, or when focus time is needed)

Tip: Help younger kids to understand time or for how long your phone call will take by showing them how to use a clock, providing them a timer, or using the length of a tv show or video.

Step – 5 Keep it all in perspective!

Stick to the schedule as much as possible, to help kids know what to expect and grow their patience… an important life-long skill!

Also, expect that these plans your family has made will be impossible for everyone to uphold, every day.  It doesn’t mean the plan wasn’t good or that your kids aren’t doing their best. It just means the current circumstances are not ideal… which may be easy to forget at times, as we are all dealing with these unusual circumstances. 

Remember that you and your kids are doing the best you can. Then, take a minute to laugh and remember this is only temporary, and you can try again tomorrow!  Here’s some inspiration to carry you through those moments before they come!

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