Remote Work While Parenting and Teaching Kids
7 Tips for Remote Work Success + Kid Activity Ideas
Can you relate to this remote work scenario?
It was about three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and I was engaged in another Zoom video conference related to COVID-19 planning for our business. My office is in the back of the house away from the main traffic areas and is usually pretty quiet–ideal for video conferencing.
However, a crouched figure suddenly appeared at the side of my office chair with pleading eyes looking upward. This time it was my daughter, and it was the third time this afternoon that one of my two children had crawled into the office to avoid being seen on webcam, and in an effort to whisper-shout something to me.
This time took the cake though. To my chagrin (but also to my glee at her inner resourcefulness), my daughter was holding a small dry erase board with an important question for my consideration:
“Can I play FIFA Soccer [on Nintendo]?”
I’m sure all of you who are fortunate enough to still be working…and doing so 100% from home…can relate to my story. If you are a stay-at-home parent or caregiver, right about now you are also likely open to new ways to keep kids occupied while sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
I’m blessed with the opportunity to be safe and spending time with my family in a way that unfortunately has faded in recent years due to over-scheduling. Nevertheless, we all need some creative ways to balance remote work with helping to tutor and care for children at home during the work day.
In this blog, I’ll share seven tips on how to cope with the challenge before us, as well as kid activities I’ve been curating from friends, Facebook groups and word-of-mouth.
1 – Create structure
With so much chaos in the world right now, we all (not just our kids) need some stability in our lives. School-aged kids are used to the assuring rigors of the school day including a predictable schedule of different classes and activities. While e-learning coursework fills some of this gap (when your kids aren’t on a break), it doesn’t mean that they are busy for the equivalent of your eight-hour work day.
Every morning I create a list of activities that my two kids can do during the day. I might assign a time span to some activities, or schedule certain tasks for a specific time of day (e.g. let’s all go outside at noon and play soccer in the yard).
Part of this schedule may instruct them to do specific activities that don’t require my supervision during the times of day that I might need to be on a conference call for work. Having a schedule…or even just a list of to-dos…helps you handle boredom angst with a plan of action before you find yourself in the thick of it!
- Watch scheduled Facebook live events being offered by local art studios, science centers and restaurants.
- Options might include Brightly Art Studio or Virtual Marine Biology Camp.
2 – Empower with control
Our current reality is one in which we have less control over our daily lives than normal. In Indiana, we are currently under “shelter in place” restrictions from our state government and so the freedom we have to travel to certain destinations and connect in-person with others is impeded–even if remote work is now offering more flexibility. A lack of control can be frustrating and isolating.
The same is true for your kids. Help them realize a certain degree of control in their lives by letting them pick from a variety of activity options. For example, with the schedule I mentioned above, let them choose an option from different categories, or ask them to choose any three activities from a list of five.
Another way of offering them more control is to allow them to earn rewards by completing different tasks. On a daily basis, I ask my kids to complete a couple of chores, do some reading, practice their typing and get exercise (just to name a few things) before I allow them to play video games. The Nintendo time slot in the late afternoon is their delayed gratification reward for doing well throughout the day. It also nicely coincides with the time of day I tend to have video calls.
Allow kids to choose from a variety of tasks:
- Have a celebrity read a story to you using Storybook Online
- Practice your soccer skill moves
- Make a mixed media art collage
- Do a free activity from the Kennedy Space Center or Disney
3 – Be flexible
Before you accuse me of talking out of both sides of my mouth, while you should have structure and offer control, you have to be a little flexible, too. But, how?
Consider the schedule a fluid priority list. It’s not critical that some of the tasks happen at a specific time, but perhaps just that they happen that week. If you’re working from home, you already know that flexibility is essential to accommodate feeding your kids lunch during the day and addressing their occasional skirmishes with each other. The good news is that many employers are offering more flexibility and understanding than ever before. So, my co-workers are well aware of my kids sneaking into my office while I’m on a video chat.
Also, don’t forget the physical interpretation of flexibility, too. Make sure you’re creating opportunities for your children (and you!) to exercise and move around.
- Try some active dance routines at GoNoodle.com
- Work on your scout organizations’ badges / skills / requirements
- Try to get to the next level on Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure (our family favorite!)
4 – Be forgiving
It’s not a time for our normal standards; we’re still in transition to a potential new normal. Tensions are high because we’re all under more stress than usual; therefore, grace toward others should be a priority. Don’t judge, support.
That means you shouldn’t stress or have “mom or dad guilt” because your kids are getting more screen time than you’d normally prefer. We’re doing the best we can. Make it work by helping to provide options for “quality” screen time that might teach your kids something worthwhile.
- Do lessons on Khan Academy
- Do some coding on Code.org
- Practice typing with Nitro Type
5 – Foster social connection; albeit distantly
For the sake of our sanity, social distancing can’t also mean social disconnection. While we all need to be doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, we should absolutely be creative about using technology to connect our kids with friends and loved ones who can help us while we work at home.
My son and a friend have a virtual playdate scheduled for today to play Battleship. They each have the game at home, so it will be easy for them to play via video conference.
- Plan a Zoom video call with your baseball team or Brownie troop
- Shoot a video skit to share with your friends and ask them to return the favor
- Have a grandparent read a story via video conference
6 – Celebrate iteration
Because the ExactHire team is a software company, one of our internal mindsets is to iterate and improve on initial experiments…whether they be in development, marketing, sales, client service or even remote work. The idea behind iteration is that it doesn’t cause us to delay launching a concept in an effort to make sure it’s 100% perfect first. Instead, we launch a promising idea, product or service, and then constantly improve upon it as we go–after all, we can’t predict the future to know what will work perfectly the first time.
How can you instill that fearlessness to innovate in your own children? Now’s the time to talk to them more regularly about the types of things you do for work since they have a front row stage to your work habits. Additionally, there are activities you can share with them that will help them explore new skills and experiment with unique ways of doing things.
Stretch their imaginations:
- Virtually explore museums from around the world
- Make your name in crystals
- Practice your brick master builder skills
- Create a sidewalk chalk masterpiece
7 – Remember mindfulness
Above all else, as challenging as times may get, don’t forget to be grateful for what you still have and mindful of your mental state’s impact on others. If you are anxious, then your kids will be anxious, too.
What can you do together and/or provide to them to promote relaxation, appreciation and a mind-spirit-body connection?
Be mindful together:
- Do some Cosmic Kids Yoga
- Create an adventure story with an illustration about what happens when school is out
- Attend a virtual Kindness 101 Class
There are many things I would change about the current situation and my hearts go out to everyone for this unanticipated hurdle we are banding together to overcome. However, I do recognize now as an opportunity to nurture the resilience of my children, and to be a family with ever stronger values around how we spend our time.