9 Tips for Working from Home with Kids (Simple Hacks)

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Let’s face it, this is the year that whether you wanted to or not, you sure were seeing a lot more of your home. The same could be said about your kids (I have kids, so it’s okay that I say this). 

Working from home took a little getting used to but was fine, for the most part. It was almost fun, when you could send the kids off to school for the day and be able to get some work done in a quiet house. Now everyone is home, someone is always crying, and that person may or may not be you.

Not one thing or one routine will work for everyone that is working from home with tiny terrors. You are going to have to find what works best for your family. But you have to try.

Working from home with kids could be overwhelming if you aren’t used to it. Finding that balance of being a parent and getting your work done is a fine line. Let’s look at 9 tips for working from home with kids to help you from falling over the line face first.

Tactics for working from home with kids

1. Talk it through

Probably the most important thing is to sit everyone down and have a talk. Even if you think your kids are too young and may not understand, do it. Kids are pretty stinking smart and understand more than we give them credit for. I’m constantly amazed by what my kids grasp. 

Explain to your kids that even though you’ll be home all of the time, that you are working, and you can’t be asked to get them a drink every 3 minutes like normal. Explain to them what it means for you to work from home.

They get their parent home with them so they don’t have to go to a daycare or other place for childcare, but that they need to be respectful of your time. You have to get work done. If they are old enough, let them know that if you don’t get work done while at home you don’t paid, just like when you left the house to work.

2. Co-ordinate childcare with neighbors

This may seem like the simplest option, but not everyone can afford this. If you are able to pay someone to watch your children so that you can be in the next room and have hours of undisturbed time, that is the best option.

What if you can’t afford it? Then you cash in those favors. Call for help. Ask a neighbor to take turns for blocks of time with each other’s kids. That neighbor that has asked you 5 times if you want a break for a few hours? It’s time to call her back.

Hiring someone to come to your home for a few hours a day so you can get the majority of your work done would be ideal. If you can’t get a neighbor or family member to help you, there are also plenty of college students eager for some experience and a little extra money.

3. Good old fashioned setting a timer

If your kids are good with time and understanding of the whole concept, then setting a timer could be helpful. Explain to them that you need this amount of time for work, and when it goes off then you can do something together as a family. Or that then it’s time for them to ask you for 32 snacks.

I always set timers with my kids for everything. From their separate quiet time to how long they have to play nicely together as a group. I find letting them know they have a set time works better for them.

I do cheat sometimes and if they are still playing nicely. I turn the timer off and let them go until they complain that they swear the timer should have gone off.

Know your kids’ boundaries and how long they can usually play well together or be okay with a given task. It will help you focus and get work done without distractions knowing you only have so long.

4. Set up a room for activities

You need a designated workspace where your kids can’t enter. They need a room or part of a room where they can do their activities. If you give your kids an area where they can do what they want, they will be less likely to come into your space.

Give them a good set up. Don’t only turn the tv on and call it a day. Get them set up with multiple stations or games or activities that they know how to do themselves without your help. That way when they get bored with one thing they can go to the next without needing to ask you what to do.

If they have an area that they know they can do what they want in, they’ll be less likely to come into yours. I’m not saying they won’t, but they might stay in their own space for a minute or two longer.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

5. Make a schedule

Another one that might seem simple is to make a schedule. If you have a partner, you need to figure out who will be with the kids at what times and when work can get done. Drawing up a schedule and putting it where everyone can see can give everyone a better sense of how the day will go.

It might be a trial and error process of getting the routine working for everyone, but at least everyone will know the when and where of the day.

Now, if you are a single parent, you need to make the schedule more for your own sanity. If your kids can read then they can help keep you on track as well. Go ahead, write in your lunch time too. You know you’ll skip it if it’s not written down.

Honestly, kids work best with a schedule. If you can get everyone on a work/play time schedule, then they’ll get used to this or that time being for when they have to leave you alone.

6. Bribery works

Okay, hear me out first before you roll your eyes. I’m not saying give your kid a carton of ice cream if they leave you alone for 5 minutes. It could be extending their screen time or giving them a dessert after dinner if they normally wouldn’t get one.

It could be giving them extra alone time if their sibling is getting on their nerves, or making their sibling play Hungry Hungry Hippo for the 70th time.

Little rewards go a long way with children. Especially if they’ve had to be nice and quiet for you for a few hours. Let them play with that annoyingly loud toy you keep hiding. Give them a break too, they’ve been working hard to be good so you can get some work done.

If you do opt for a sweet bribe, make sure it’s sugar free. Those kids are hyper enough as it is.

7. Don’t beat yourself up about screen time

Listen, we grew up playing a million hours of Super Mario Bros and we are all okay. Saturday morning cartoons raised us. Your kid will be okay if you have to let them have some extra time in front of a device so you can get your work done.

There are so many, and I mean so many (seriously, Google it) good programs and shows and videos out there that will actually teach your kids stuff as well as keep them busy. I used to hate with a capital H screen time until I found educational shows that they like and that I like. They are out there.

Or, use this time to let your kid watch Boss Baby for the 394th time this month. You don’t want to sit through it again anyway right?

8. Talk with your work

Working from home may have caused you to periodically forget that you do still technically work with other people. Who are also possibly home with tiny humans and frustrated that they didn’t manage to get their work done for the day.

Send them an email or a message and be honest. If you always get your work in on time, then asking for an extension every once in awhile is fine.

Or if you are supposed to be available at a certain time, ask if you can shift it by a few hours so you can get work done before the kids get up. I couldn’t do that because I love sleep, but if you are an early riser, use that to your advantage.

Your work will understand if you are upfront and explain the situation. We are all people trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got. Don’t lie, and don’t abuse the situation, but don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed when a conversation with your boss can do wonders.

9. Don’t cry when it all goes horribly wrong

For real, don’t cry. Because it will, undoubtedly all go to crap. There will be days when the schedule did not happen and now it’s dinner time. Then you have to clean up from dinner and now the bedtime routine is in effect. Great, it’s late and you didn’t come anywhere near the amount of work you wanted to get done.

That’s okay. Pour yourself a drink and finish up your work while all of the kids are asleep. Don’t make it a huge habit though. That ‘after kid in bed time’ is supposed to be for you to relax, not to always catch up on your work.

Working from home can be a great thing. You can see your kids every day. You don’t have to worry about childcare. You can be there for big milestones that you would have otherwise missed if they were somewhere else. You don’t have to wear pants to work.

Working from home with kids though can bring a whole new level of stress if you let it. Remember that having a schedule is great as long as you know that you will probably have to rewrite that schedule a few times.

But as a parent, you already know that things don’t work according to plan, like, ever. You know you’ll have to be flexible with your time and routine. But the benefits your kids will have at getting to see you more will outweigh all of the other stuff.

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