Anyone who tried to work from home with the kids knows what a challenging task it is. 🙂 Due to Corona outbreak, many parents are advised/obliged to work from home. Schools remain open however, children who show even mild flu symptoms are asked to stay home. The House of Representatives recently decided that it is up to the parents whether to keep their children at home without a penalty or fine. With all these new developments, I wanted to write about how to explain to children what Coronavirus is and how to manage to work from home together with the kids.
Let’s start with ‘HOW TO DO THE CORONA TALK WITH YOUR CHILDREN?’. Children at school age already heard it in school; no shaking hands any more with their teachers, lectures on how to wash hands etc. It is all familiar now especially for the kids in the Brabant region. Here are some additional tips for parents:
- Stay calm and do not show your anxiety to your children. Children, in the event of an unknown situation, take their parents as a reference point to understand and interpret the situation. Thus, the first thing to do is staying calm and not talking more than needed about the virus next to your child.
- Give developmentally appropriate information. Do not explain too many details to your child because it will only make them more confused. Focus on what they really need to know such as the importance of washing hands correctly and not touching face as much as possible. Also, explain about the virus and what needs to be done with concrete examples for children to visualize and understand better. For instance, little fun home experiments like pepper and soap can help kids understand the power of washing hands with soap.
- Be honest and stick to facts. Children get worried when their questions are not answered properly and when they feel some information is being held secretive. Give room to your child to ask questions and make sure to answer them with facts.
- Focus on what they have control over. Be solution-oriented and instead of focusing on the problem itself, how serious it is, how it can badly influence people etc., encourage your child to think about what keeps people safe such as washing hands and social distancing.
- Be reassuring. Children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, tend to be rather egocentric. It is likely that young children might be worried about how they themselves might get affected by the virus. Again, explain with facts that it is not very likely for children to get sick badly from Corona.
- Be watchful for cultural discrimination in your explanations. This virus can affect anybody regardless of how they look and where they are from. Do not talk with your kids in a discriminatory way. For instance, try not to share with your child your thoughts on why you do not want to eat at an Asian restaurant today. This kind of talk does not bring any valuable outcome to your child or others.
- If children cannot go to school for some time, make sure to explain them why (it is not a holiday, we are trying to make sure the virus stops spreading around) and have some regularity at home. Stick to fruit and lunchtimes, outside play, meeting up with friends for playdates etc.
Now, HOW ABOUT WORKING FROM HOME WHILE KIDS ARE AT HOME?
- First, I advise you to have a family meeting to discuss how to handle being at home for 2 weeks, what each other’s expectations and needs are, how you can help each other, how the physical space will be used etc. If both parents are working, first thing in the morning, check-in with each other to see who has a conference call and what time etc. and come up with a plan for the day.
- Working from home gives you the motivation to really focus, get done with more in less time, and to think about what is the priority and definitely needs to be done.
- Have a structure that is similar to school schedule (breakfast, snack time, lunch). Make sure you schedule quality time periods with your children. These don’t need to be too long, a 20-minute break is good for your work motivation and also to keep your child entertained.
- Take turns with your partner to spend quality time with your child while the other one focuses on work.
- Set up preferably virtual play dates with your child’s friend. Have a Whatsapp call with your child’s best friend’s parent and let the kids talk for some time while you get things done.
- Use technology wisely. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Explain why you are more flexible than usual about screen time. Make sure your kids take a break from the screen after an hour max. Check my earlier article about screen time for more tips. For preschoolers and school-aged children, you can use Squla, Khan Academy, Crash Course kind of tools and educational Youtube channels to keep up with the education while having fun and killing time staying indoors.
- Communicate with other parents to help each other out. All parents and children are in the same boat. You can arrange a system of help with your neighbors or close friends which would allow you time to get things done. There are also Coronahulp Facebook groups. Try to limit your interaction to a very small social network.
- Practice independence of your child. Children need to learn when parents really mean it when they say they are busy. Teach your children your boundaries. Practice (with pretend play) that you are on a Skype meeting and give them options of activities to do while you are busy. Also, develop a routine of how they could get your attention without shouting or crying; for instance, standing in front of your computer without talking or bringing a Lego piece next to your laptop. Do not respond while you are busy unless there is a life-threatening situation. With some practice, children can easily learn not to disturb parents when they are busy.
- Use concrete materials to help your child visualize your words. For example, if you have a study room, tie a scarf around the door handle outside which means you are busy and kids cannot come in. Adjust to your physical conditions at home.
- Provide your child with age-appropriate materials (arts and crafts materials, smart games, puzzles, books etc.) they can use on their own and ask them to prepare a surprise for you while you are busy working.
- Rotate your child’s toys. Have only some toys available to play for your child and keep others away. Switch the toys when your child starts getting bored with the toys currently in rotation. Do not let your child have access to all the toys at all times.
- Use a headset and some music to block out the noise of your children. It is easier than telling them every 15 mins to keep quiet.
- Take breaks to go out even if for a short time. A walk in the woods close by or a bike ride around the house is refreshing both for your child and yourself.
- Rearrange your work/sleep schedule. You may want to consider waking up a bit earlier or working after your child’s sleep time. Also, make use of your child’s nap time, if applicable.
- This extraordinary situation is temporary. Employers, managers, and employees should all be aware of it and show understanding to inconveniences. Have a conversation with your manager about your working hours/schedule if you feel the need.
I would like to finish this article with my favourite video of all times to keep things realistic. Stay safe and healthy!
Resource: BBC News Youtube channel
For Eindhoven News: Elif Durgel
*Elif Durgel is a parenting coach and psychologist who specializes in expat parenting and child development in multicultural contexts. She is running Roots and Wings Academy.
*Updated on 15 March 2020.