How to work from home with kids during COVID-19

By Kimberly Blaker, May 2020 Issue.

As COVID-19 sweeps

the planet and country and shelter in place orders and precautions are taken to

protect our health, Americans are trying to adjust to a new normal. School and

work closures have families staying home except for essential needs. Kids are already

feeling stuck and miss their friends, activities, and routines. Many parents,

however, are learning how to work from home while juggling educating and caring

for their kids.

This new family dynamic, coupled with the

anxiety and stress from what’s happening in the world, may make it seem

impossible to get anything done. So follow these tips to develop a routine and

environment that works best for you and your family.

Create and

Follow Routines

Kids thrive on

consistent routines like those they have at school. So make a list of what your

family needs to get done throughout the day — work calls, completing tasks,

school Zoom meetings, schoolwork, meals, chores, and anything else. Be sure to

include  some time for fun, as well!

Now, start filling in a schedule with the

activities that occur at set times and work in other responsibilities and

activities to create a family schedule. Include your kids in the planning, so

they feel involved and more willing to follow the routine. Then, post the

schedule where the whole family can see it. Also, be sure to adjust the design

of the schedule for the age of your kids. Younger children benefit from

straightforward visuals using bright colors, precise times, and pictures to

make the schedule clear.

Set Clear


Kids and adults tend to do better when there are clear expectations set

beforehand. Agree on a set of rules and expectations for the day regarding your

work time and their school time. With older kids, sit down and make a written

contract. If you have younger kids, work together to create a poster with

visuals. To make it clear, talk about what different parts of your schedule,

especially your work time, look and sound like, and what everyone should and

shouldn’t be doing.

This will probably be a difficult

adjustment at first. It can help to set up a visual reminder to let your kids

know when you cannot be disturbed except for emergencies. Create a sign outside

your workspace that clearly states the beginning and ending time of your work

hours. This can help kids to be more patient. For younger kids, use a countdown

clock so they can anticipate the end time.

Designate a


Having a particular

place in which you work can help set you up for success. If you’re not used to

working from home, recreating a space that feels like going to a workplace can

get you into a better routine and improve your focus. Try to create your

workplace away from the main areas of your home and, if possible, with a door

you can close. These tricks will also help remind your kids not to disturb you

when you’re in your workspace. Make your workspace as similar to the one at

your job as possible. You can also play music or wear noise-canceling

headphones to reduce distractions if another adult or older child is there to

care for the younger ones. Once you do arrive at your workspace, reset to

adjust your mind from home life to work life.

Ask for


This isn’t the time to try to do everything yourself. If you have a

partner at home, take turns spending time with the kids so you can each have

uninterrupted time to focus on work or time to yourself to recharge. If you’re

feeling overwhelmed or are struggling to get something done for work, talk to

your boss or team about the situation before things become too difficult.

Everyone is affected in some way by the COVID-19 outbreak and therefore, will

likely understand. If you’re struggling to balance work and being home with the

kids, try talking to them at their level. Kids are more aware and understanding

than we often realize. So an open conversation with them may help.

Be Flexible

No one knows how

long this is going to last, and everything about sheltering in place is new. So

realize it will take time to adjust. Even if a strategy works one day, it may

not work the next. This is a difficult time for kids as well, who may not fully

understand what’s going on or be able to handle it emotionally. Unexpected

things will come up in your work, with your kids, or any other aspect of your

life. So, try to build in some wiggle room because you’ll likely need to make

changes as you go. For example, if the day is going really smoothly, perhaps

work a little longer to accomplish a bit more in case things don’t go smoothly

on another day.



Focus on the positive aspects of being home with your kids, even while trying to work and adapt to this new and unusual situation. Remember, the circumstance is only temporary. Things will eventually get done, and everyone is trying their best to manage right now with their own set of challenges and obstacles. Try to balance work and quality time with your family while you’re all stuck at home. The effort you make to do so can help your family bond and turn a tumultuous time into one filled with good memories.

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