How to Juggle Parenting and Working at Home During COVID-19

By Lisa Schainker, USU Extension assistant professor

As many of us find ourselves in new territory with the COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, we face major changes to our routines–including having our children out of school or childcare,and working from home. While many parents have had the occasional opportunity to work at home when a child is sick or on a snow day, the current situation may require us to accept this arrangement as standard operating procedure for many weeks to come. If this is a new situation for you, the following strategies may help you get your work done andmeet your children’s needs.

  • It can be difficult for younger children to see you as anything but their parent. They may not understand that even though you are at home, you aren’t going to be at their beck and call. You may need to start by explaining to them that you have important things to do while working at home. Tell them more about your job and explain why it is important.
  • Create a home office or designated workspace so children understand that when they see you there, it means you are doing work business.
  • Give children some uninterrupted time at various points throughout the day. Set up a daily schedule that includes breaks for snacks, brief physical activity and lunch. Go over the schedule for the day during breakfast and make sure they can always see the schedule. Try setting a timer so they know exactly when the next break and their time with you will be.
  • Give children a “job.” Provide tasks for them to complete while you work and tell them that you are both “going to work.” Set up a desk for them next to yours and give them work supplies such as markers, paper, scissors and a glue stick. Give younger children crayons and activities books. Try giving them assignments,such as certain items to draw for you. Older children will have their own school work to complete. If they finish assignments and need more to do, have them read a book and give you a review about what they liked and didn't like, or let them use a language learning app instead of just watching TV or playing video games.
  • When you need to have a meeting without interruptions, put a sign on your office door or on your desk that says “In a meeting.” Explain that the sign means not to disturb you unless there is an emergency. The visual cue will help remind them that you are at work.
  • If possible, try shifting your work hours to earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the kids are in bed or when another adult can help with childcare.
  • When you have younger children who cannot spend any time unsupervised, or children who struggle to entertain themselves, try asking a neighbor or another parent who also needs to work at home to take turns watching the kids. This allows you both to have time to get things done. Chances are that other people you know are in the same boat.

Tips to Help Remote-working K-12 Students

Callie Ward | Assistant Professor Garfield County
Mike Sarles | Rural Online Initiative Program Coordinator

#1 Dedicate a Place for Schoolwork

  • Set up a dedicated location for students to complete schoolwork. This could be a desk, kitchen corner or table in a room. This way your students will have their materials organized and can be focused on schoolwork when they are in this area.

#2 Maintain School Schedule and Routine

  • Get up, get dressed, and get ready as if it was any other school day.
  • Just as schools have a block system, incorporate this as needed.
  • If parents/guardians are not available, set a specific time for students to check in with them.
  • Remember to have breaks or recesses. Keep these structured: Every hour, have 5-10 minutes for a bathroom, snack or brain break.

#3 Be Flexible and Transparent

  • This process is new to teachers, parents/guardians and students! Everyone is learning and adapting. Let teachers know how it is working for you. Most teachers will be flexible with deadlines and will understand difficult circumstances, so be transparent as everyone adjusts.

#4 Practice Self-distancing,but Don’t Disconnect

  • Use current technology tools to work with other students, friends or family.
  • Since you can’t physically sit in a classroom or with a partner, video chat with them while you are working on the same assignment or project. Hang out virtually.

#5 Allow “Me” Time for Your Students

  • Give your students an option to have quiet time, listen to soft music or take a break if needed.
  • Designate non-screen time for them to unplug, get fresh air and recharge.