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How to survive working from home with kids

Pathfinder have long been proponents of flexible working, so remote and home working is nothing new for us. What is new though, is trying to juggle working from home along with the mini (or not so mini) humans. 

We’re three weeks into the lockdown and to help/amuse/distract you we’ve pulled together the best ideas from our Dublin and Edinburgh teams on how to try and stay sane whilst attempting to spin multiple plates. 

Lesson #1: Give yourself a break 

This is not a normal situation. Keep telling yourself that. When you’ve just missed half of your important conference call because one of the small humans was asking you what they could have for a snack and could you build an assault course in the garden and can you help them make an origami dinosaur and their sibling just kicked them, remember that it’s ok for you not to be on your normal A-game. you are not working from home and trying to homeschool, you are at home during a global pandemic and trying to make sure your family stay safe whilst also trying to get some work done. 

Gary, one of our partners, has two teenage kids and his new normal is that he’s having a good day if he can get them both out of bed before 10am. 

Lesson #2: Provide some structure 

Kids love a routine. They’re used to it at school and like to know, at least part of the time, what they’re going to be doing and when they’re going to be doing it. Think about how to maintain that sense of routine in your family’s day and how you can plan activities to give you some breathing space to do the things you need or want to do. It’s easier said than done of course and a lot can depend on the personality and age of your kids but there are definitely some things worth trying. 

Laura, one of our directors, has a 10-year-old and felt absolutely overwhelmed by the volume of different resources she was being directed to for her daughter. She created a backlog of these and each day her daughter simply picks the 5 or 6 she wants to do that day and then creates a schedule for herself. It’s never stuck to rigidly, but it means her daughter has a plan she can try and follow. 

Lesson #3 A small amount of planning now can reap rewards later 

Deploy chocolate when you need to. Sometimes you just need something that is going to keep them entertained so you can chair that important meeting. Think about what you are going to do the night before and if you can prepare meals and even snacks in advance so you don’t need to think about it when you’re trying to juggle. 

We got this great idea from a friend who created a scavenger hunt for her son to do in the garden. Once he found all 20 items, he got some sweeties as a reward. Do factor in how much your child loves chocolate. We’ve tested this one out and some kids took 10 mins with others being entertained for up to an hour. 

 

Scott, one of our senior managers in Edinburgh, has two daughters aged 4 and 6. He swears by getting them both up and out in the garden first thing to burn off some energy and tries to keep the TV and tablets for the end of the day when they’re both getting tired.  Richard is taking a similar approach with his three, setting them up outside while the weather is good, as much as he can although the garden is slowly becoming the place where good inflatables come to die! 

  

Lesson #4 Stick to what you’re used to 

There are lots of activities that you will be used to doing with your kids like going to the cinema, going swimming or visiting museums. Of course, some of these are curtailed for the time being (unless you’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your back garden), but there are lots of others that you can keep going with. Theatres are offering free access to some of their back catalogue, David Walliams is releasing a new audiobook each day and you can go on virtual tours of museums from around the world. 

Our favourite suggestion though came from Gary – Adventure Saturday. Each Saturday he would take his kids on a new adventure planned around something they had never experienced before and which connected them with history, nature or culture. Options are definitely more limited now but could include; a photo competition in a local park, tree measuring (how many rings can you count?) or bug hunting. 

 

Lesson #5 No kid is too old to have fun 

When the small humans are not so small anymore, we sometimes think they can take care of themselves. In our experience, though the young adults or even actual adults can be the best source of fun and entertainment to carry us all through the craziness.  

Kevin, a partner based in Dublin has been staying in touch with his kids (aged 18-24) via family Zoom quizzes and jigsaws. We particularly loved his suggestions on building a family playlist with a majority vote required before a song makes it on and a WhatsApp group for old family photos with suitably insulting captions. 

 

Lesson #6 When all else fails – Lego 

Lego rules. At least in our house. We have millions of it. Get out all the kits and make one giant lego pile. Your kids are guaranteed to come up with some random stuff. If you need an injection of imagination there are loads of different lego challenges available online to get the creative juices flowing. 

We loved this photo of the Lego town created by David’s kids at their home in Dublin. 

Lesson #7 – if you can’t beat ‘em, join’em 

Tik Tok. Yup, you heard us. They’ve been talking to us about it for months and we’ve been half paying attention but not it is here among us and we can no longer ignore it. The dance routines, the funny videos, it’s time to get involved. 

The authors of this blog, Laura Thom and Richard Governey are management consultants and parents. Laura is the single parent of a ten-year-old and Richard and his wife, Lucy, have three kids aged 10, 7 and 4. They both claim to have spectacularly failed to be best case examples of how to work from home and be teachers at the same time, but are very happy to share their learnings 😊 

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