You have a video conference call in ten minutes. You have barely gotten yourself dressed and managed to change your nearly two-year-olds diaper (toilet training is not going well). You have gotten most of their breakfast into their mouth, while the dog laps up whatever fell on the floor. Your toddler is sobbing, begging you to play dinosaurs with them. It is unlikely you can console them by the time the meeting starts. What do you do? Here are 10 work from home parenting tips that might help.
Many parents are finding themselves working from home for the first time, while at the same time, they seriously lack adequate child care services. Not only are parents expected to perform their jobs perfectly, but they must also juggle childcare and homeschooling at the same time.
“It is so hard,” Says Elina, 37, “We have three daughters and my husband all working from our apartment now. In one room, we have my oldest who is doing high school work. In another room my 8 year old is in 3rd grade, their dad uses our bedroom as his office, and I am in the living room trying to keep my three year old quiet all day. I am so stressed, I really don’t know how much longer we can all work like this,”
The reality is there is no end in sight. The only option is to try new coping strategies. Here are ten tips for when you work from home with a toddler.
1. Establish a Regular Schedule
Our most essential work from home parenting tips include establishing a routine. Establish a routine for your toddler or adjust the one you do have to fit your work schedule. Expect the first few days of the changed routine to be rough, with tantrums and some tears. With consistency, your child will adjust and become far more cooperative. Studies show that a schedule helps lower toddlers’ stress levels, boosts confidence, and engages them in daily tasks. By contrast, a disrupted schedule upsets them as they already spend so much effort trying to figure out what is going on!
2. Get Up VERY Early
An early start gives you two advantages. The first advantage is you can get some of your more critical tasks done right out of the gate before your child is awake. However, if you aren’t a morning person, you can use the time to plan out your day strategically over a cup of coffee. The second advantage of waking up earlier is when your child is ready to get up, you can take a break to attend to them without feeling guilty for leaving all the work you’re supposed to be doing.
3. Plan, Plan, Plan
Do not leave anything to chance. The key to keeping your life together is to plan. Try using your calendar to block out sections of time throughout the day. Here is an excellent post on how to do just this! Blocking out your time relieves stress because you always know what you’re going to be doing at any given time. Start by blocking out anything already scheduled, such as meetings and doctor’s appointments, then put in the various tasks you need to complete based on how long you think it will take. Make sure to leave time for unstructured playtime with your little one!
4. Expect Interruptions
Every day is not going to go as smoothly as you’d like. There will be days when no matter what, your child is not having any of your nonsense. When you’re on a conference call, hit the mute button so that your boss or coworkers don’t hear any unexpected yells of “Mommy!!” in the background. Additionally, sometimes giving in to the distraction can give you a few hours of peace in the long run. Giving your child a quick cuddle or helping them find a toy can satisfy them for the moment, and then you can get right back to work.
5. Create “Stations” For Different Activities
Young children can sometimes struggle with transitions from one task to another. Create stations where your child eats, sleeps, gets dressed and plays. You can say, “Ok, lets go to our lunch station,” and your child will know it is time to eat lunch. Stations can be a useful tool to help move them from one task to the next and reinforces the daily routine.
6. Create a Work Space
You likely have carved out some space in the house to work. Why not set up a similar set up near you for your child to “work” at too? While you are going through your email, your child can work on a craft project that can be put up on the fridge or sent to grandma. You can keep an eye on them, so nothing undesirable goes into their mouth, but also lets them feel that they are working with you throughout the day. You can even say, “Ok, let’s go work in our office!” when its time to transition into there.
7. Encourage Long Nap Times
Naptime is essential for your toddler’s development, but it is also critical for you. If you can encourage your little one to nap for a long time, 2-3 hours even, that is advantageous for you. Here is a guideline about how long naps can be for different age groups. Keeping this nap time consistent is the best way to keep your child on a consistent schedule for you to get work done.
8. Use Screen Time Effectively
One of our most important work from home parenting tips – use your screen time effectivly! You are not the only one that is praising Netflix for its Kids option on the login screen. It certainly is easy to set them down in front of their devices and let them watch whatever they want all day. However, setting clear guidelines about how much time you want your child to spend on their device is essential for you and your toddler. Include screen time on your daily routine, and when time is up, all devices must go away, and the TV shut off. Don’t beat yourself up if screen time runs a little longer from time to time. Your toddler likely won’t notice, and you can move on to their next activity for the day.
9. Support Independent Playtime
When you are coming up with your plan, consider some activities for your child to do on their own. Here is an excellent post about how to encourage independent playtime. The key is to be patient, sticking to the routine, and work on extending the length over time. Don’t expect them to be able to play for hours by themselves right off the bat. Give them time to get used to the idea and be fine playing on their own.
10. Give Your Toddler your Undivided Attention
When it is time to give your child attention, don’t divide it between a thousand other things. Put your phone down and make sure they know this is their time with you. This time can have a particular name, such as “Nora Time,” and when they interrupt you throughout the day, you can remind them it isn’t time yet. Continuously reinforcing the schedule helps them grasp the concept of time and teaches patients that they must sometimes wait.
The way to ease your child into you working from home starts with establishing a daily routine. Getting up early and planning out your days will help keep you calm and focused; however, expect interruptions. Create spaces where your child works and plays to allow for easier transitions between activities. Find time for yourself by encouraging longer nap times, using screen time effectively, and supporting independent playtime. Most importantly of all, make sure they get your regular undivided attention when the time comes. Don’t still be working when it is their time to spend with you.
Be patient with your child. Toddlers do not understand that a person is on the other end of the phone you are trying to hear, and they do not care if a stranger on the computer is talking. Be patient with them and try to understand they are trying to process this change the same as you are. This concludes our 10 work from home parenting tips! Contact our office if you are in need of support. We offer both in person, and online appointments.