In an effort to help you stay productive and sane(ish) during the coronavirus pandemic, here are a few playful tips that will make working from home with your kids just a little bit less stressful.

By Dina Gachman
March 31, 2020
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For weeks, you've been cooped up at home juggling the roles of parent, teacher, and employee because of the coronavirus pandemic. You've met deadlines (barely), you've joined conference calls, and you've managed to keep it together and do your job (also, barely).

But if you, like many sheltered-at-home working parents, begin every Zoom "happy hour" by crying into your makeshift mojito because you don't know how much longer you can take this insanity, it's time for a new approach. It's time to go a little easier on yourself while also keeping up with your job, or jobs, since you're most likely doing 15 things at once at any given time, day or night.

Here are six playful tips that will make working from home with your kids just a little bit less stressful—and keep you sane(ish).

Unschedule Your Schedule

Let's say you tried to make working from home with kids more tolerable by creating a color-coded schedule for everyone to follow. But then let's say that schedule worked beautifully for about 26 minutes before it all went to hell and you wound up on the floor in your robe watching Bubble Guppies with your toddler.

If a strict schedule is adding more stress and pressure to an already tough situation, let it go for a while. Allow yourself (and your kids) the freedom to just be, and you might just find that you emerge from your unstructured time a lot more productive and refreshed, ready to tackle the next task. Or not. It's fine.

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Learn the Art of Delegation—Even to Toddlers

Creating boundaries with older kids might actually work, telling them that from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. you need to be in your "office" taking calls or writing reports. Try telling that to any child under, say, 5 years old, and you might be met with screams, tantrums, or Welch's Fruit Snacks hurled at your face.

One of the cardinal rules of juggling a heavy workload is learning to delegate, right? So when you need to get some work done, try delegating important tasks, like hiding Legos throughout the house and asking your toddler to go find and collect all the Legos (this might buy you some time), or asking your older kid to go into the yard and complete the very important task of putting all of the acorns in the yard into a bucket (also buying yourself some time). Or maybe you hire them as your assistant, and task them with the crucial job of drawing pictures for 25 minutes (you can set a kitchen timer, making it more fun for them).

Lastly, if you have a spouse or partner, you can delegate to them too, telling them to watch the kids for a few hours so you can get some work done. (You can also take turns doing this if both of you work!)

Send Them on (Virtual) Field Trips

Many museums and zoos have virtual tours set up online, so you can feel less guilt about all the screen time your kids are getting because these tours are educational. They can learn about animals at the San Diego Zoo, visit the Georgia Aquarium (the jellyfish cam is oddly very relaxing and it might just inspire your child to nap!), or check out virtual exhibits at the Smithsonian. You can go to the Louvre or Mars (yes, the planet). You can even designate a certain time each day (when you need to work) as "Field Trip Time," creating a semblance of a schedule and giving your kids something to look forward to during the day.

Create a Bonus Structure

What is a work environment without bonuses and incentives (some may call them bribes)? If you're getting truly desperate for some quality work time, it's perfectly fine to resort to desperate measures, like adding something to your daily schedule along the lines of "Ice Cream Hour." If your kids are good and quiet from, say, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. each day, they can partake in that special hour starting at 3:05 p.m. (again you might want to use a kitchen timer for this). Incentives can work—and there is no shame in implementing them in your home/office at a time like this.

Welcome to Your Bathroom Office

If your kids love baths or showers, make their bath time a chance for you to get a little work done. Even if it's in 10 minute spurts, work is work, so bring your laptop into the bathroom, and let them splash around in the bath for much longer than they normally would. What else do they have to do? Pester you? Use this time wisely, and if you get a few emails sent or pages read, consider it a win.

Promote Yourself

Maybe you had to push a few deadlines, or you missed a call because your baby had a blowout so intense you completely lost track of time. It's time to promote yourself! Seriously, working from home with kids is hard, so cut yourself some slack and maybe even give yourself a (mental) promotion. You're killing it out there, even if you just got desperate and added two "Ice Cream Hours" to your kids' daily schedule. You're doing great, so consider yourself Employee of the Year.

Dina Gachman is the author of Brokenomics, a book of humor essays about money, and she writes about pop culture, parenting, and entertainment. You can find her on Twitter @TheElf26.

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