As of today, children across the UK will be at home with their parents, after the government asked schools to shut their gates.
In an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak, children will now be at home with family, provided they are not the children of key workers.
While many of you may be initially excited to have more face time with your children, is it so bizarre to assume you might become a little overwhelmed, trying to do your job and look after your kids at the same time? We don;t think so.
Below, we’ve highlighted a few tips on how to keep your children occupied while you work – and a few tips on how to maintain your productivity!
Wait for them to get bored
During a typical weekend, children can generally find things to do of their own accord. With today being the first day having them at home, you might find that they can keep themselves occupied – which leaves you plenty of time to crack on with work.
However, if you do have a younger child, you may still need to engage them. Try putting their favourite cartoons on the television,or iPad. If they’re the type that moves around alot, then putting some music on for them to dance to might keep them busy. For slightly older children, Lego is a big winner for times like this – pile it out in the living room and leave them to it (to an extent).
If your children are 11 years and older, they might be more interested in watching TV, listening to their own music, or chatting to their friends, whether that’s online, or on the phone.
Give your children screen time
Although you might not want your child to have too much screen time, situations like this may need you to reevaluate these decisions. To keep them occupied for a couple of hours, allow your children to watch their favourite shows, or play games on your iPad etc. There are alot of learning resources and online games available – they could be learning as they play.
Older children will probably be looking to socialise with pals online – while it is important for them to stay in touch with friends, don’t allow them to develop an unhealthy over-reliance on it. Set some rules on how long they can use their phone, or device for, and then encourage them to do something else, like exercise, reading books or learning a new skill.
Find a quiet room for meetings
If you have young children, this probably isn’t going to happen – but we’re sure that in this event your employer will understand that you can’t really expect your children to be quiet if you’re on the phone or on video calls throughout the day.
If you do have older children at home with you though, finding a quiet room for meetings is a great way to eliminate distractions. You’ll likely still need to keep an eye on your kids, but if you’re confident they can be left alone for half an hour, or you have another half at home who can help, being alone means you can get fully involved in your meeting without interruptions,
Pragya Agarwal is a behavioural and data scientist based in the UK. She wrote an article about working from home with children, suggesting remote workers need to prioritise their day more than ever. You’ll need time away from your desk to check on your child at different points of the day, to feed them, play with them and more. Work on the most important tasks in the morning, and when your children begin to get bored or more unsettled in the afternoon, you can rest easy knowing you got the top of the list jobs done.
Give them flexibility
Since we don’t yet know when our children will be heading back to school, you have to make time at home enjoyable for them. Instead of setting a strict routine, give them the flexibility to make decisions on what they would like to do – you might end up surprised at what they decide to do – they might like to catch up on some work, or learn a new skill.
Since they won’t be out playing with their friends, encourage your children to be active as possible. It’s essential for their wellbeing. Younger children might be happy to dance around their TV to their favourite shows, but after this, a bit of time spent in the back garden to run or walk around is beneficial – don’t forget to do this for yourself too.
Currently, we’re allowed to step foot outside of home for exercise, for example walking the dog – this is something your family could enjoy together. Just remember to keep your distance between each other, and don’t spend too long away from the house. Keep an eye on the news too – this could change soon.
Every day at home doesn’t have to be Groundhog Day. Find something new for them to do, like learning a new skill that they enjoy. Explore new opportunities like drawing, painting, asking them to help you cook, or reading.
Ensure learning is still happening
Don’t forget to make time for your child to continue learning. A lot of teachers have set up online classes for their pupils, so if this is available, it’s important that they take part. Devices like Amazon Echo dots have lots of learning games and quizzes available for your children to make use of too, if a class isn’t available.
Other options might be to order books to the house so they can continue to improve their reading skills – check with your teacher what they have been reading in class so you can make sure they are getting a book that is challenging them.
Make the most of outdoor space
Being outdoors is important for the whole family to maintain positive wellbeing. Make time for your daily intake of natural vitamin D, and get your family outdoors (preferably in your garden) to enjoy the fresh air.
This will be a very confusing time for your children. They have just changed their daily routine, and some of them may not adapt as well as others. Listen to them, and try to connect with how they’re feeling to ensure they don’t end up feeling unhappy about being isolated.
Your children will miss their friends, so you could try to set up video calls with other parent’s phones so they can see their pals regularly. A simple phone call will likely help too. They might even agree to writing a letter. Emily Proffitt suggests: “It’s vital that children get downtime to be independent and relax. We are encouraging our pupils to write to each other, giving them a purpose but also helping them feel less isolated.”
Be available for advice on how your child is feeling, so you can help them get through what could be a difficult time and a very limited environment for them.
Talk to your children
Similar to the point above, you may find that your child has a lot of questions about what’s going on. Be as clear as you can with them about why it’s important they do not leave the house, and let them know that everyone else has to do the same.
The most important thing is to keep your child safe, but they have to understand why they can’t just go and see their friends, or go to school, so continue to communicate with them so they can get to grips with the transition. Also, don’t forget to implement the most important steps to keep them safe – social distancing, washing their hands and not touching their face.
Look after yourself
While your children and your job will likely be front of mind right now, your mental health and wellbeing is vital too. Prioritise time for yourself during the day, which might include enjoying some time with your children, or taking time for yourself, like having a bath or enjoying your favourite podcast. Whatever it is you’re interested in, it’s essential that you are happy, so you can ensure every other aspect of your life is too, particularly during such a frustrating time with no current end goal. You might also find these tips for work-life balance helpful.
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