Working from home with children – getting the balance right

Photo of Penny Vera
Head of Governance, Quality and Risk, Bupa Health Clinics, Bupa UK
02 April 2020
Next review due April 2023

Since UK schools were shut to the majority of children, many parents are finding themselves juggling working from home with childcare and home learning. While staying at home is crucial to controlling the coronavirus pandemic, this does mean the coming weeks will be difficult for many families. I talked to colleagues and a primary school teacher for advice on how to cope.

I have three children and am working from home. I have decided to focus on the positives! When my husband and I were both working away from home for part of the week, we didn’t often eat together in the week – only at the weekends. So now we are making a special effort to all eat together every night and have our silly talk and maybe a dessert to brighten up the day.

Alice has two children, who are five and two. Her top tip is:

“Try to separate when you’re home schooling or playing with your children and your work. This is easier said than done but trying to do both at once will likely end up feeling stressful and your children will pick up on this. Remember, they will also be feeling frustrated and unsure in their own way and sense the change that’s happened. I think the more focus and praise you can give them will ultimately make everyone feel better.”

Two young children baking together

Marcella has a six and an eight-year-old at home. She stresses the importance of self-care:

“While you might feel there is very little time in the day for exercise, try and build in a regular time in the day to do this, as it will help to keep you feeling more positive and focused when working. It’s important to build in ‘you time’ too, to switch off and have a bit of time to yourself, even if it’s just for half an hour in the evening. This helps me stay on top of everything, including work.”

Shapes drawn on the ground in chalk

Aarathi has an eleven-year-old daughter and a younger son. She has noticed her daughter missing the social side of school and has looked to digital communication as an alternative:

“My daughter did feel a bit sad, listening to the news and having our holiday cancelled. She has been missing her friends, so they’ve now created a small Facetime group to go over homework struggles together. This has made her a bit happier in the day as she still gets to see her friends.

“I’m also on a few school WhatsApp groups, so I can share tips, jokes and let my frustrations out with other parents in the same situation.”

Two children on a trampoline in a garden

Lauren is a primary school teacher and agrees that parents shouldn’t put too much pressure on themselves.

“Try to enjoy this extra time that you get to spend with your children and don't put pressure on yourself to home school them. This is not your job, and no one expects you to do this as you are not trained teachers! This is why we call it home learning, as all families can do is learn as best they can in this uncertain time using some of the work provided to you by your child’s school. As teachers, we are fully prepared to fill in any gaps when schools reopen so don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy whatever learning you can do together.”

More helpful tips

  • Healthy eating. If your kids keep asking for snacks, offer them healthy options like vegetable sticks and hummus and fresh pieces of fruit, which will go towards their five a day.
  • Exercise. It’s important to stay active and there are lots of online classes available. For example, Joe Wicks, The Body Coach, is running a virtual PE class for free at 9am every morning.
  • Animals. While we can’t go out to zoos, zoos are bringing their animals to our homes! Edinburgh Zoo are streaming videos of their pandas and penguins.
  • Family time. If you usually have help or regular visits from grandparents who you can’t see at the moment, why not ask them to have a regular video call with your children, maybe to read them a story, and give you some valuable time for a work call or a breather!
Photo of Penny Vera
Penny Vera
Head of Governance, Quality and Risk, Bupa Health Clinics, Bupa UK

    • Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Gov UK., updated 30 March 2020
    • Talking to your child about coronavirus. Young Minds., 13 March 2020
    • 5532 a-day. British Nutrition Foundation., page 14, June 2019
    • Children. British Nutrition Foundation., last reviewed November 2015

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