#210: How to Work at Home with Kids During the Coronavirus Lockdown … Without Completely Losing Your Sanity

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Your kids are home for … who knows how long. And you’re worried about how you’ll be able to make this work.

Maybe your spouse doesn’t work from home — at least not right now.

Or you’re super busy with client work. Or you have little ones who can’t self-direct or entertain themselves for very long. Plus, you don’t necessarily want to plop them in front of the TV for hours at a time.

How are you supposed to work on client projects and do quality work?

That’s the topic of this week’s podcast. My guest is Carol Alexander, a 13-year freelance writer and homeschooling mom of six kids.

So, yes, we’re talking about someone who’s worked under these conditions for years and figured out how to make it work.

In our discussion, Carol shares tons of practical ideas and strategies to help you navigate these unchartered waters.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Carol Alexander has been homeschooling for 27 years so far. She started freelancing part time 13 years ago, but moved to fulltime in recent years.

How do we even start dealing with the situation of working from home with children?

Start by checking your mindset. Remember that you’re not alone. Most of the world is trying to juggle this crisis right now, including your clients — many of whom are also suddenly working from home.

Remember, your children are not to blame for this situation. When parents carry a heavy load, kids can take the brunt of their anxiety. Don’t let that happen.

Give yourself grace. You can only do so much. Allow yourself to adjust your standards, even if temporarily. The dirty dishes and pile of laundry can wait. Your family and work are the most important things right now.

How do we manage our kids while working at home?

Start with a family meeting. Explain what’s going on and lay down some rules.

Strategize and plan your week on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening. Kids do better when they know what to expect. Schedules are helpful.

How can spouses/partners work together on this? And what if you’re a single parent?

If you’re both working from home, do it in shifts. You might not both be able to work nine to five at the same time. Figure out a system that works for you.

Recruit other significant adults in your life (not grandparents, due to risks) to help. Partner with a work-from-home neighbor.

Make use of early mornings, sleep times and evenings.

Identify tasks that don’t require your full attention, such as emailing, marketing, invoicing, and other non-client work. Save these tasks for when your attention is most divided.

Write drafts when you have to have an ear on the kids. Polish when they’re in bed, or otherwise cared for, so you can really focus.

When you have time constraints, you get things done more efficiently.

Work expands to fill the time you have. When you have less time, you can still get a lot done.

Clients will understand when a little one starts screaming or crying in the background. They’re in the same boat.

Should we set work hours to give ourselves clear parameters, force better productivity AND help us manage it all?

Yes. It also helps your kids. If they know you’re all going to take a walk at 11:00, that gives them something to look forward to.

And if you’re juggling with a partner, having set work hours helps with everyone’s expectations.

How can we keep our kids occupied while working at home?

Prepare things in advance so your children are less needy. Have snacks prepared and lunches made. Move school supplies where they can reach them. Make it easier for them to help themselves.

What takes a child seven hours to accomplish at school will only take a couple of hours at home.

What takes a child seven hours to accomplish at school will only take a couple of hours at home.

By being at home, your children won’t have bus rides, lunch hours, recesses, and class change breaks built into their schedules. So “school” time at home won’t be nearly as long.

How can we motivate teenagers to not spend all their time on video games once they’ve done their work?

Hopefully, this situation is just temporary. So don’t beat yourself up if your teen spends more time on social media or playing video games than usual.

Encourage them to dive into some hobbies.

Also, they should can take over some of your household duties, such as cooking and helping to care for younger siblings.

What about younger kids who’ll need help with their schoolwork?

Time blocking can really help. If your child encounters a math problem he/she can’t solve, give permission to skip it.  At the end of the time block, you can help with the problem.

The use of timers is also helpful.

Any suggestions for activities outside of school work for preschoolers and elementary school children?

  • Set up a small desk. If you have an old laptop or keyboard, set up a small desk for your little person next to yours. Let them play at work while you do tasks that don’t need focused concentration, like emails or social media marketing.
  • Download audiobooks. Some kids could read all day. Others, not so much. But every kid loves an audiobook.
  • Plan movie marathons. Not to be overused, but great for a Friday afternoon, plan for a movie marathon. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Marvel movies beg to be watched back to back while eating popcorn and pizza.
  • Encourage outdoor play where permitted. Stock up on bubbles, sidewalk chalk, silly string, or other outdoor amusements they don’t normally play with.
  • Have them write a play to be performed when parents can attend.
  • Have them set up an obstacle course and when parents are free, hold a race in the backyard.
  • Give them a book of science experiments and free reign to do whatever you have the supplies for.
  • Bring out the Lego bin. Any parent of a Lego lover knows an afternoon can be spent creating with these little blocks.

What if school assignments aren’t enough? How can we find materials to supplement?

If you think the schoolwork isn’t enough, you may need to adjust your expectations. You can’t expect your child to be busy with schoolwork for seven hours.

Remember, this is a temporary situation. It won’t set them back to miss a few extra weeks of school.

If you need additional resources, try Googling “free home school curriculum.” You’ll be overwhelmed with the offerings.

Other good places to look:

How can people learn more about you?

Carol’s website: Be a Pro Writer

Carol’s Handout: How to Work at Home with Kids During the Coronavirus Lockdown

Be a Pro Writer Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/beaprowriter/

Additional Considerations

Put a backup plan in place

Have a backup plan in case you or your kids get sick and you need to tend to client projects. Get in touch with colleagues who might be able to lend a hand.

Use these tips to maintain focus
  • This is the perfect time to use the 50-minute focus technique. It will help you stay productive
  • Use a timer to create constraints.
  • Try Focus@Will or fm with headphones. The music is designed to help you focus. They both offer free trials.
  • Set work times and stick to them. Having a schedule is more important than ever.
  • You may need to use weekends to catch-up, but don’t throw everything over the fence on Friday afternoons. You still need weekend downtime.
  • Living on social media and constantly monitoring the news isn’t going to help. Limit it to once a day or turn it off.
  • Change the conversation you’re having with others. If Covid-19 is all you’re talking about, you’ll only agitate yourself.
  • Continue to meditate, exercise and get eight hours of sleep. You’re not a machine.
  • Get creative with exercise. If it’s permitted, take walks and go for runs outside. Do some weight-training or yoga at home. YouTube is a great resource for at-home workouts.
  • Go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. That early morning time is priceless.
  • Take things one day at a time. Long-term planning right now is not very helpful. Focus on now.

Remember, this too shall pass. Take care of yourself now and you’ll come out wiser and stronger. Hang tight.



Plus … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1.  Grab a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.

You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

2.  Download a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.

I’ll show you the 3 things you need to do to get your business off the ground safely and land your first paying client faster.  — Click Here

3.  Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’d like to work with me to grow your income quickly with better clients (and become one of my new success stories). Just email me at [email protected] and put “Case Study” in the subject line.

4.  Work with me privately.

If you’re a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time, with less stress, I might be able to help you get there faster than you think. Email me at [email protected] … put “Breakthrough” in the subject line and I’ll get back to you with more details.