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Maintaining strong relationships with your children while working from home

Last Modified: May 21, 2020

Healthy Mind, Community

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This post was written by Brandon T. McDaniel, PhD, research scientist, Parkview Research Center.

A discussion on parent-child relationships is especially relevant as many of us are working from home during the pandemic while simultaneously attempting to care for our children, taking care of their needs, assisting with e-learning requirements for school and more! Remember, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, uncertain and anxious. We all do. [1]–[3]

Navigating these new situations while maintaining strong relationships with your children is crucial. It may not always be easy, but try utilizing a few of these strategies to help you stay connected:

Set up a schedule (and stick to it as much as possible)

This schedule is going to help you get through this uncertain time. It can be as flexible as you need it to be, but having it be consistent from day-to-day (if possible) is best. The predictability of the schedule will help your children understand what times you are busy, when you can play, when screen time will happen, when they need to complete their e-learning or homework and more.

Set up specific times to connect with children

Make sure there are enough breaks and time built into your schedule for you to connect with and care for your children. Younger children may need your attention more often, so try to schedule 15-minute breaks throughout the day allowing you to focus solely on them and their needs: setting them up on the next activity, finding new toys for them to play with near you, making them a snack, and so on.

You may also need to break up your workday. Allow for longer breaks in your schedule so there are specific times where you can play and focus only on them. These focused times are important because multitasking between work/technology use and your child will likely leave them feeling upset. They may even act out in frustration which will continue to put stress on you both. [4]

Discuss your work schedule with your supervisor or boss

Of course, to create these breaks, you will likely need to discuss your schedule with a supervisor or boss. It’s best if you can have this conversation over a video call versus email. A lot of information can be conveyed via nonverbal cues and behavioral responses during a conversation. In other words, you would have a better idea of your supervisor’s reaction to your proposal and concerns.

Also, when you have this conversation, be sure to come with a clear plan. List the reasons for your plan, pointing out why you’re asking for this arrangement (demands that have been placed upon you by the pandemic, school closures, etc.). Outline the benefits for your employer and be willing to compromise and work with your boss on what would work well with the demands of your industry. Here are some more suggestions on how to talk with your boss about a flexible schedule.

Realize you are human

With so many people and tasks competing for your time and attention, you will likely feel anxious and stressed at times. You will make mistakes. You might even “lose it.” Try not to beat yourself. You can’t do it all even though that is exactly what you are being asked to do.

When the inevitable happens, apologize to your children and when you can, give them your undivided attention. Make those times really count. These positive moments can help offset the difficult moments.

Take care of yourself

It’s impossible to run on an empty tank. Self-care and making time for yourself is important. If you need help dealing with parenting stress, here is an article with some practical tips: Tips for parents on dealing with their stress. Also, Be Well Indiana has a great site for finding resources in Indiana if you need help with stress and mental health.

Explore other ideas on working from home with children

Looking for more ideas? You can find more tips in these articles:



[1] M. Drouin, B. T. McDaniel, J. A. Pater, and T. Toscos, “How parents and their children used social media and technology at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and associations with anxiety,” 2020.

[2] S. Keeter, “People financially affected by COVID-19 outbreak are experiencing more psychological distress than others,” Pew Res. Cent., 2020.

[3] S. Keeter, “A third of Americans experienced high levels of psychological distress during the coronavirus outbreak,” Pew Res. Cent., 2020.

[4] B. T. McDaniel and J. S. Radesky, “Technoference: Longitudinal associations between parent technology use, parenting stress, and child behavior problems,” Pediatr. Res., vol. 84, no. 2, pp. 210–218, 2018.

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