Staying Sane While Working From Home With Kids

By Joannie DeBrito, Ph.D., LCSW, LMFT
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Mom working at home with kids
These eight tips can help create a successful and less stressful environment for you and your kids while you are working from home.

Working from home comes with its own set of challenges. It’s important to have a quiet space where you can work, minimize distractions, set a routine, and focus on your goals for the day. Working from home with kids can add a new dynamic to your job. When our kids are on extended breaks from school and are sharing the same space, distractions can come more easily which can impact our productiveness.

When you are working from home, you may have goals that you need to accomplish that day. However, it’s unrealistic to think that your kids will comply with the goals you have. So how do you find that sweet spot, where you are able to reach your goals and still respond well to your kids?

Here are eight tips for staying sane and keeping your kids happy while working at home:

1. Schedules

Think about your kids’ schedules. When are they likely to need your attention the most? Plan your day to work when they don’t need you as much. If they are too young to keep themselves busy while you’re working, you may need to plan to work around their routine. You may need to plan to work before your kids wake up, then take a break during the most active hours of the day and return to work after they go to bed.

2. Make a Plan

Plan out what each day’s schedule should look like. Communicate this plan to your children and tell them that you will have to work together as a family to keep on schedule, so that you can get your work done and they can stay on task with their schoolwork. Write down the schedule. You may even want to have your kids help you decorate it. Post the schedule where it can easily be seen and follow it as closely as possible.

3. Regular Breaks

Tell your kids that you’re going to take regular breaks each hour and stick to them. During break times, turn your attention to your children. Engage with them and, at the end of the break, remind them that you’ll be going back to work for just a little while and will join them again next hour. This may sound like a difficult thing to do, but kids who are old enough to work independently can usually focus for about 45 minutes at a time. If not, your kids should be able to work alone for a half hour. Try one of these two schedules throughout the day:

  • 45 minutes of work with a 15 minute break or
  • 30 minutes of work with a 5-7 minute break.

Using a timer might help kids keep track of when you’re working and when you’ll be taking a break.

4. Remember Recess

Remember that for elementary age kids, recess is a regular and necessary part of the schedule. The kids are not expected to be in the books all day. Give them permission to go outside or engage in some vigorous indoor activities. Do the same for your older kids. They also need time to release the energy that builds up when they’ve been sitting for long periods of time. Remember that you need to get away from your desk too! Working from home with kids provides a great opportunity to join them! Play is a great way to bond with your children and get the blood flowing. Recess is a great thing to do during the times of day when you tend to be least productive. Recognize that you’re not going to get much quality work done during that time and use the time to get some exercise instead.

5. Rewards

Kids who are ages 9-18 are old enough to understand the principle of delayed gratification: that working and planning now will have benefits later. Talk with your kids about the importance of sticking to a schedule to get a reward later on. Then, plan a surprise they aren’t expecting and spring it on them sometime during the week when they’re least expecting it.  

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6. Teach Personal Discipline

Older kids can also understand the need to set limits on themselves. If you find that they are interrupting your work too often, you can tell them that they are only allowed to ask you a certain number of questions per day. Through this, they can learn some personal discipline by deciding which questions they really need to ask and which ones can wait until later.

7. Encourage Rest

Naps are good for kids and parents as well. Don’t hesitate to encourage some nap time for your kids. As preteens and teens grow through adolescence, they tire easily. Your older kids will probably reject the idea of a nap but might respond well if you say something like, “You look tired. You might just want to lie down for awhile.” When I used to tell my teens to do this and they took my suggestion, I’d check on them five minutes later and they’d be fast asleep. Getting enough rest is a great way to improve your focus and productivity and to reduce stress. 

8. Reinforce the Positives

Remember to point out when your children are doing a good job of sticking to the schedule and some of the limits that you’ve set. Be sure to thank them for the help!

With these eight tips, you can create a successful and less stressful environment for you and your kids while you are working from home. Times when your kids are on extended breaks from school can be excellent opportunities to teach them teamwork in keeping the schedule. Working from home can also be a great time for you to connect to your kids in new ways.

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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About the Author

Joannie DeBrito, Ph.D., LCSW, LMFT

As the current Director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family, Joannie DeBrito draws from over 30 years of diverse experience as a parent educator, family life educator, school social worker, administrator and licensed mental health professional.

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