Ways to nurture your child while you work

by | Mar 26, 2020 | Parenting

You have new coworkers.

As we navigate the challenges of coronavirus and its implications to daily life, it’s important to keep something, or rather someone in mind. And that’s your kid.

It’s a big adjustment for you, moving from everyday go-to-work life to figuring out how to do your job at home. It’s hard when you’re in an online meeting and your toddler is melting down in the room next door. Or your school-agers are fighting upstairs and slamming doors.

But let’s look at it from a child’s perspective, think about how it must feel for them. First off, they don’t really get what everyone is so worried about. Life looks pretty much the same for them.

Maybe they don’t go to school anymore, but hey, no problem. Being home is fun! I have my parents to play with.  But wait, they won’t let me come in? I can’t sit in their lap? They won’t play? I have to be quiet? I can’t!

Or what about your child how doesn’t go to school and is used to being home all day with one parent. The house is their space. Now you’ve invaded it and are changing the way things are done. 

Young children have short attention spans — about 3-4 minutes per year of their age. So your 4 year-old needs a change of activity about every 15 minutes and your 2 year-old, every 8 minutes. Also, children like to spread out, dump their toys, move from one thing to another, eat frequently and need direction from you. And they’re not very quiet! 

Working at home with children requires intentional planning, flexibility, patience and a sense of humor. Here’s a tip: save your big guns (movies, video games, special activities) for late in the day when everyone is tired. Might be a good idea to keep it a surprise too. 

A friend who’s working at home alongside his 3 yr-old told me one day when he turned off the tv, his daughter had a huge meltdown. This was unusual for her and he realized that she, too, was adjusting to the new routine.  “We’re trying to think of her perspective. She wants to be at school, she wants her friends. She’s lost her structure, so we’re trying now to create a schedule at home that’s similar to what she does at school.” 

They now go outside each morning and afternoon, have regular snack times and a ticket system for limiting tv and computer games.

The ticket system includes all the activities their daughter does in a visual schedule. It’s located at her eye level and she can pull a ticket, give it to a parent and do that activity. When it’s over, it’s over and she moves on to another ticket. So far it’s working!

Here’s a few ideas for making it work for you:


Create a space for your child in the room where you’re working.

A small table and a basket with paper, pens, pretend phone, clipboard, post it notes, books, colors, a fidget toy, etc. will give her a place to “work” with you. Change out the contents of the basket every few days to make it interesting. Have simple guidelines for being there: we will work quietly together,  if mom/dad is on the phone or talking on the computer, hold your questions until I’m off, plus whatever is unique to your child/situation.

Communicate clearly when you can be interrupted and when you can’t.

Together with your child come up with a system for letting them know when you really can’t talk. For example, you could have a red and green post it notes on your door. Red means not now, green means I’m available for a minute if you need me. Maybe a little toy on your desk, a scarf over a lamp, a hat you put on – whatever works for you. And hey, before you begin the call or zoom meeting, let your coworkers and/or clients know that you’re working at home and your child is nearby. They’ll get it.

Have regular family meetings.

Even if your child is too young to contribute much, talk about how things are going as a family. Especially if you have a particularly challenging day or a day that was really smooth. Reflect on what happened, what you can continue or do differently tomorrow. What’s working as we all work together? What’s not? How’s everyone feeling? If your kids are old enough, include ice-breakers at your meeting and laugh together. Create a sense of team work, where everyone has an important role.

Connect throughout the day. 

Each morning take a few minutes to play, snuggle, talk, connect. Find time midday for full-focused connection with your child. Then end the work day the same way – talk, play, go outside, make dinner together, connect. The in-between times for your child can be filled with shared and self-directed learning and play, snacks, lunch, rest/quiet time, pre-determined tv and computer time. Check in with your child frequently if you can’t see them. Especially if you can’t hear them! Schedule in some FaceTime call with family and friends, too.
Remember that in order to feel secure, children need to know that you see them. Even if you can’t stop what you’re doing to engage or respond, you can acknowledge their presence in other ways. This could look like a thumbs up, a smile, high five, wink or funny face while you’re talking on the phone.

Expect the unexpected, emotions are high, uncertainty looms and we can’t expect children to not pick up on our stuff.

Hang in there. You’re going to come out on the other side of this a stronger parent, more resourceful and more connected with your child than ever. Here at Nurtured Noggins, we’re rooting for you. 😍


Meet Ann

I'm a child development specialist, parent coach and teacher trainer. I've cared for countless babies in child development programs, plus 3 kids, 3 grand babies and 5 foster babies! I LOVE babies and would come hold yours if I could. ❤️

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