Working from home with kids and their “Continuity of Learning Plans” is surely challenging! I have three kids, ranging from elementary to high school ages, that have to practice distance learning while I have to work remotely. Although I am fortunate to be with my family more, it could get tough balancing daily tasks. From basic childcare, homework help, and boredom solutions, to virtual work meetings and deadlines, it can oftentimes become overwhelming trying to handle it all.
I have to say; the family dog is probably the only one not complaining. She loves having everyone home all day and surely benefits when we all need a break and we take our daily family walk! Luckily, there are many tips, tricks, and resources that have certainly helped me and can help millions of families balance their work and family needs.
1. Evaluate your surroundings and figure out a plan
Before jumping into anything, it is important to take a step back, figure out exactly what you are dealing with and what you have to do, and then choose the best course of action. Many parents end up planning one day at a time and attempt to work out family and work needs as they come. However, this will eventually become overwhelming and may lead to either over-work or failure to meet expectations.
Think about everything you know about your family and your job and plan out how you will tackle those scenarios. Do you need a quiet space to work because your family is often too loud? Is there a way to alternate childcare with a spouse? When are your busiest remote work times/days?
Do consider any help that your children may need in the process as well. For instance, my two older children have Chrome Books and a set schedule for online classes, but I still had to take time to become familiar with their applications, such as Google Classroom, Remind, and Zoom, to help them if needed. I also need to take time every day to assist my youngest with special needs logging into his classes, therapies, and other services.
2. Create a schedule and set boundaries
A schedule is a must for getting through remote-based work. This applies to not just you, but for your entire family. After evaluating your surroundings, jot down a schedule for you and your children to follow that best meets everyone’s needs. The best course of action for me has been starting my day earlier than usual and ending it later than usual to distribute tasks throughout the day without needing to overwhelmingly cram everything from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm. Also, taking breaks throughout the day is vital to check up on the kids and to have some quiet time for you.
Think about making a schedule for your children to make sure they stick to a routine. It may be difficult for children to understand the importance of having to stay at home and the fact that it is only temporary, so continuing a routine may be for the best. Wake them up the same time as before, and then set corresponding learning, eating, napping, and outdoor times as if they were still at school.
Especially if you do not have a dedicated home office, setting clear boundaries with your kids could be helpful. Some parents even rely on visual cues to prevent children from interrupting, such as a “stop sign” to show your kids that you cannot be bothered unless it is for emergencies when you have it up.
Lastly, consider letting the kids make some of their own choices to help build independence – let them choose lunch options, schoolwork options, and let them choose from a list of activities they can do during their free time.
3. Be upfront and communicate whenever needed
Communication is always important. But in unpredictable and unprecedented times like these, communication is everything. Make sure there is a two-way interaction between everyone in your life, whether that be work, your children, your children’s teachers, your spouse, and so forth. I typically use my breaks to check up on emails to keep lines of communication open. Do not forgo that it is also important to be upfront with your boss and coworkers of your home situation right now. Remind your team of the change in time commitment you are dealing with and figure out the best ways and times to communicate with one other.
Despite all the stress of this and abundance of it, the one good thing is that everyone is trying to be understanding of the unique situations in each household and allowing alternate deadlines, extra help, and assistance beyond the “norm.” Everyone’s health is the most important (physically & mentally) and I think we are all trying to stay focused on the positives, and especially relay that message to our kids- and each other!
Kimberly R. Roffi, CPA
Kim, who has been a member of the firm since 2001, has over 19 years of public accounting experience. Today, she is a partner of the firm and previously served as Director for the firm’s tax and business advisory practice and Director of Finance and Operations for the firm internally. Kim has written Practice Insights for Lexis Nexis’ tax research platform and has been published in Building Long Island magazine.