Suddenly your home is a circus, housing school and office under one roof. With this new situation comes new challenges, trying to work from home, care for your children and navigate it all. Lucky for you, Seattle’s own Sproutable team is here to share tips that get you on track and shift your perspective from chaos to opportunity. Read on to tame the circus.
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1. Redefine the Environment
Be flexible and willing to re-organize your space. Brainstorm solutions together, and physically move things around to create your co-working spaces (remember to consider everyone’s needs--this means you too, parents). Designate a room for important calls or high-level work that needs quiet, and put a sign on the door so kids know when you are absolutely off limits. Learning does not have to happen only at a desk. Consider “stations” for children that keep activities contained and allow them to move from station to station. Take assessment of your outdoor options (think: back or front yard or porches), and look for ways kids can take brain breaks to move their body and increase right and left brain connections. By changing rooms, just like changing classes, kids can find new interests to sustain attention, and grown ups get a boost of sanity.
Parent Tip: Shift your mindset from supervision to cooperation and connection.
Toddler Tip: Set up yoga mats or blankets with a different activity on each (puzzles, books, arts and crafts, old computer that doesn't work, audio book station with headphones) in the room where you are working so you can keep an eye on them and physically help them when needed.
School-Age Kid Tip: Let them decorate their “office” and take stock of supplies that they might need. Let them pick a room or place for each class or subject they are working on, depending on their need for extra help from you.
2. Create Story Boards & Visual Routines
Get old school with poster board or construction paper. Let your kids take the lead and design their own daily schedule. Routines bring safety and predictability for children, and for grown ups too! Step back and be their guide by asking questions from a true place of curiosity like, “what’s missing in your routine?”, “Do you think that’s enough time for math?” or “Is there anything you would be doing at school that you want to add here?” Toddlers love to emulate adults, so a fun addition can be workout time. Set up a towel or mat and have them stretch and dance. Make that your workout time as well so you can share the healthy hour with them.
Parent Tip: Shift your mindset from drill sergeant to independence.
Toddler Tip: Take Polaroid pictures of the different parts of their day to add to their visual routine. Ask questions like, "what is next in your routine?” to help with the transitions. Include time for fresh air and let them pretend to be different animals out for a walk.
School-Age Kid Tip: Include a time when they can be the expert and teach other family members their skill of choice, like juggling or how to make slime.
3. Assign Roles
Don’t assume anything! Instead of guessing who is in charge of what, get as clear as possible and designate roles. Make it fun by choosing titles like Chief Pajama Engineer or Shoe Fairy. Decide in advance the division of responsibilities since some of the work may have shifted. Laundry, meals, and even who is helping with bath time can all lead to resentment if roles are not clarified. Just like work meetings, your family’s success will be contingent on communication and a tight calendar. Take turns being the point person with younger children to give each other breaks so kids know who to get help from, instead of interrupting during important work time. Assigning an adult to a child can also be helpful to decrease the mental load when managing school and activity emails with multiple children. This is a chance to model for your children respectful and assertive communication, along with equity among all.
Parent Tip: Shift your mindset from resentment to collaboration and contribution.
Toddler Tip: Take time for training. Teach contributions like putting books into a bin, wiping down door knobs and light switches, sorting silverware and unloading groceries.
School-Age Kid Tip: Stay curious when you check plans for the next day, within their routine. Ask questions like, “What is your plan for non-fiction reading?" and "Do you have enough magazines to choose from?”
4. Embrace Your Child for Who They Are
Love the one you got. No matter how much you wish your child was the independent, quiet workaholic right about now, there are no changing personalities. Observe how your kiddos learn best and find small ways to adjust for them. All kids crave connection but settle for attention, so this is a chance to focus on the quality of your interactions versus the quantity. How can you reframe your labels to show their strengths? Hyper can also be passionate and creative; willful can be confident and assertive; needy can also be loving and social. Use their strengths to personalize your family systems, and stay solution-focused, without blame.
Parent Tip: Shift your mindset to inclusivity.
Toddler Tip: Embrace their active stage and include them in your exercise routine at home to multi-task your workout and get their wiggles out at the same time.
School-Age Kid Tip: Stay flexible to their best learning mode, and fit any academic requirements to those times; they can even listen to audio books while jumping on a trampoline! Some kids are most focused in the morning and some in the afternoon or evening.
5. No Rewards, Just Motivation
Don’t give a happy kid ice cream. As tempting as rewards are, avoid the extrinsic motivators. This is an opportunity to teach intrinsic motivation, and to build that sense of initiative so kids don’t give up when challenges arise. Instead, offer encouragement, validate their feelings and stay in the present moment. Stay connected and firm to allow them to build resiliency and embrace big feelings and hard work. The pros at Sproutable love any chance to foster a growth mindset in kids.
Parent Tip: Shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.
Toddler Tip: Follow this example to show off your pro parent skills: “You want to read one more book and we already read our three before nap time. It is ok to be disappointed. You are growing your brain by waiting. Where should we put it so we remember to read it this afternoon?”
School-Age Kid Tip: Here's another example to add to your toolbox: “I am sorry you are having such a hard time with this last part. It looks challenging and I know you can work through it. Do you want to sit next to me while you finish it up?”
6. Get the Job Done
Take the stress out of working from home when you post your own schedule so the family can see how packed your day is. Share your plan for work, and bring them into your world to describe the different parts of your day, including important meetings. Motivation research tells parents that children need relevance, or the why, for them to be motivated to change their behavior. Explaining why a certain phone call or meeting is important can go a long way. Role play having Zoom meetings or conference calls and swap roles to practice and plan for what kids can do when you absolutely have to be 100% focused on work. Then put on those noise cancelling headphones and be the boss know you are. Take ten minutes (it doesn't take much) for yourself once the kids are asleep each night to take a couple deep breaths, get some space, clear your mind and reset for the next day.
Parent Tip: Shift your communication to solution-focused.
Toddler Tip: File this example in you parenting database: “When you come out of your room during quiet time it is not helpful for your brain, your body, or for my quiet time. Let’s practice how to stay in your bed and what you can do to rest your body if you can’t sleep.”
School-Age Kid Tip: Here's another to add to your collection: “I appreciate you making your own lunch, and I notice the dishes are still on the counter. What will you need tomorrow to remind yourself to clean up after since I will be in meetings all day?”
7. Create Your Family Compass
As intense as this time may be, it's also a chance for parents to slow down and reflect on what is important to their family. Regardless of the age of your children, make a list of those qualities or characteristics and life skills that you hope they will have when they are grown up. When you imagine your child at 25, what life skills do you hope they will have? Maybe it's creativity, compassion, financial skills, or even better, a sense of humor! When you look back on this extended time at home together, what will you remember? What will your children remember? The pros at Sproutable say that real moments are learning moments.
Whole Family Tip: Create a family charter together. Begin by writing how you want to feel as a family and what is important to you, then list the ways you will act with each other to grow those feelings and values. Check on them weekly through family meetings.
Sproutable co-founders, Alanna and Julietta, met as neighbors sharing a fence, with a passion for helping parents. With Alanna’s background in public health, early learning communications and equity policy development, and Julietta’s background as a school psychologist and school counselor they combined their early childhood expertise to create Sproutable. They offer online classes and private virtual coaching based on Positive Discipline, Adlerian Psychology and the latest trauma-informed research in child development. All expert answers, tips and tools are parent-tested and kiddo approved. Red Tricycle readers can get a special 30% off (with code THIRTYOFF) when the sign up for the self-paced online series, How to Grow Remarkable Kids.
Psst... Still have questions that need answers? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents can also watch the latest Q&A and how-to videos on Sproutable's YouTube channel.
featured image: iStock