How to set boundaries with kids when you work from home
Ever since COVID 19 made its appearance, working from home (or remote work) is now the norm. A lot of people and especially parents have realised that working from home is not all as easy as once thought to be. For parents, having to work from home is truly a testament of their tolerance, patience and multi-tasking skills. In fact the entire situation has added a deeper meaning to the statement ‘work-home balance’ as parents juggle and try to get work done by setting boundaries with their kids.
There are so many leading parenting advice sites out there who are offering advice around how to work from home and deal with kids at the same time. So we spent some time collating all the advice out there and coming up with the top 5 tips that actually work!
Why do we need to set boundaries with kids
Recently I came across an Instagram post where Kim Kardashian was asking her child to give her a little space so that she could just finish filming her tutorial.
While that was cute, consider this scenario- you are on an important work call and your 2 year old interrupts your call saying they are hungry or worse needs a change of diaper. True story! There is nothing more embarrassing than having your boss hear the word “potty” while on a conference call with you. And there are many such instances happening all over the globe.
When you work from home, the lines between your ‘work-work’ and ‘home-work’ tends to get blurred, unlike in an office where the two are extremely different. And now you have to juggle homeschooling, meal prep, nap times and play time along with your regular office work-load. Needless to say your work productivity takes a hit, as does your mental state.
The only possible solution that enables you to work efficiently from home as a parent is by setting boundaries with your kids.
Setting boundaries with kids – Tips when working from home
Any parent with experience working from home with their children will tell you that the best way to establish boundaries with your kids is to get them involved in the process.
Here are 5 ways by which you can do that:
Tip 1: Talk to your child
For children, ‘parents at work’ is synonymous with working away from home. The current situation might confuse them, as children might mistake your presence at home as being on ‘vacation mode’; and might expect you to play with them all day long.
Therefore the first step to setting boundaries with kids is to talk to them and help them understand the change in routine. Inform them that your workplace has shifted from an external location to their home, similar to their online learning program.
Talk to them regarding your work hours and tell them that during these specific periods of time or hours, you might be busy and unable to play with them.
Tip 2: State your expectations
Clearly tell your children how you would like them to behave during your work timings, such as keeping voices down, playing games on their own, knocking or asking for permission before entering your home-office space and not interrupting you when you are on call.
By clearly stating your expectations you can help children self-regulate and exhibit the correct behavior in turn allowing you to work efficiently.
Tip 3: Get them on board
Include your children in the planning process. Children are more likely to remember and follow rules which they too have made. Here are some ways by which you can involve the kids:
- Ask the kids to come up with a signal to indicate your availability. For example kids can create a ‘green for go and a red for stop’ sign to hang on the door; print an open and close sign board to place on the table where you are working; or create interpretations meaning headphones = on call.
- Come up with hand signals to indicate needs, for example a sign for toilet needs, hunger or requiring assistance.
- Prepare a work chart. Using a chalkboard or a dry erase board, create a timeline for the day, noting in advance your working timings and your break time. Children can be allowed to fill in this timeline, choosing the time for play, study, meals and naps.
- Setting up a mini workspace for the kids to work at while you are also at work. Use a timer to signal work time and breaks. Your children can act as your colleagues interacting with you during breaks
Tip 4: Prepare
Prepare your children before any meetings or conference calls. Try to:
- Inform them in advance about the scheduled call. Mark it down in your work timeline or calendar in bold and remind them a few minutes before the start of the meeting.
- Use a ‘in a meeting’ signboard, to remind children to avoid interrupting or disturbing you.
- Give kids a snack and take a trip to the bathroom prior to the start of your meeting. This can reduce the probability of interruptions in between your calls.
Tip 5: Create a junior work schedule
Plan for activities that can keep children engaged while you are working. For instance, older children can be asked to complete their school work at the same time as your work schedule and take breaks along with you. Younger children can be encouraged to engage in creative work like clay play, coloring and making crafts.
Having to work from home will not be a stressful affair if you have set proper boundaries with your kids.
Sometimes you can have bad days filled with unpredictable situations like children falling sick, getting hurt or having fights. Take these in your stride just as you would have to when you worked at an office or external location. Remember kids are kids and will often need to be reminded of the boundaries and rules you have set. By doing this effectively you will be both efficient and productive at work whilst at the same time enjoying quality time with your children.