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Helping Children While Working from Home

Published in Behavioral Health Services, Pediatrics, For the Health of It

The term “juggling act” has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020. You are working from home. Your children are distance learning. Household chores are piling up. And the number of COVID-19 cases remains concerning.

OK, time to take a deep breath. Exhale. One more time. Feel any better?

You are not alone if you feel like you are running in quicksand. But I do have some ideas to help you stay on solid ground.

Stick to a routine.

Try to replicate the structure and predictability children would experience at school. The key word is “try.” If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to be flexible.

  1. Have clear and realistic expectations. Remember that you are not a teacher and that the schools are not expecting the same performance or learning from children during these times.
  2. If your child has special needs, reach out to the school for guidance on how to help them.
  3. Sit down with your children and make a schedule for the day (use pictures with younger children).
  4. For children older than 7, have a checklist of things to complete. When done, they can have “choice time.”
  5. Post the schedule on the refrigerator.
  6. Break the schedule into 30-minute blocks of time.
  7. Keep bedtime the same as when children were physically going to school.

Remember the three Ms.

  1. Move: Mix gross and fine motor activities.
  2. Meet: Stay in touch with friends and relatives online. For younger children, you can schedule virtual play dates.
  3. Make: Be constructive and creative. This could be anything from art to cookies to a snowman.

Schedule time for you to do fun things with your children.

Embrace technology.

Children will get more screen time than normal — it’s not the end of the world. Have limits for how long they can have screen time.

Look for online materials that match your child’s interests:

  1. Live cams at Monterey Aquarium
  2. Cosmic Kids Yoga
  3. Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari
  4. Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
  5. Art for Kids Hub
  6. Story Time from Space
  7. Khan Academy
  8. Camp Broadway
  9. American Museums of Natural History

Be mindful of how you talk to your children about COVID-19.

  1. Be serious without being scary.
  2. How you say it is as important as what you say.
  3. Remember that your children are listening even when you are not talking to them.
  4. Use age appropriate language and do not use euphemisms.
  5. Begin the conversation by asking the child what he/she understands about what is happening.
  6. Talk about all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy.
  7. Monitor what news they are seeing on television or the computer.
  8. Point them to reliable sources of information such the Minnesota Department of Health.

Learn more about talking to your children about the pandemic.

Look out for signs of anxiety and depression in your children.

Check in with your children periodically. Give them a chance to process how they are feeling and thinking. Respond to your children’s outbursts in a calm, consistent, comforting manner.

  1. Increased fighting or defiance
  2. Unexplained aches and pains
  3. Regressed behavior
  4. Increased irritability and crying
  5. Substance abuse

Manage your own anxiety and mood.

  1. Limit how much news you are consuming.
  2. Watch out for any catastrophic thinking you may be having.
  3. Stay in touch with others virtually.
  4. Make plans about the near future — plan fun events.
  5. Keep a positive attitude.

Be kind to yourself and reasonable about your expectations.

Reduce your own perfectionistic and unrealistic expectations. Cut your to-do list in half and then cut that in half again. Don’t expect to get more than five things done each day. Remind yourself that:

  1. Some days will be worse than others.
  2. Anxiety, stress, boredom, loneliness and fear are normal reactions.
  3. Everyone will not be functioning at their optimum because everyone is out of their normal routine.

Ask for help and accept it.

  1. Trade off duties with your partner.
  2. Have your children help you.
  3. Work as a team.

Be gentle with yourself — you’re doing the best you can!