Revisiting this as we go through our third MCO in Malaysia:
It was Day 1 of the Movement Control Order implemented by the Malaysian government to combat Covid-19. Only one day has passed, and I was already pulling my hair out. It is definitely challenging working from home when you have little kids vying for your attention too. With my stress level running higher than normal, I also got into an argument with my husband half way through the afternoon.
By night, I was ready to hit the bed, exhausted, with only 2 hours of work achieved in a day.
However, I had a game plan for the next day.
- Communicate what to expect
Firstly, I had to remind the children that even though mum and dad were staying at home for the next two weeks, this is not a holiday. We still had to work during the day. I also had to tell my younger preschool child that his elder sister had school work to do at home even though he didn’t.
- Create a timetable for everyone
Work out a plan for the day so the kids know what to expect for the day ahead. Make sure to plan in breaks and free play time too. It helps them feel organised and excited about what is to come too.
- Manage expectations with your spouse
If the both of you need to work from home, it might be good to discuss your expectations of each other during this season. Since my kids are still too young to be left unsupervised the entire day, I had to work out a schedule with my husband. He would be with the children for the first half of the day while I worked, and then I would take over in the afternoon so that he could work without distractions. We also discussed about how much additional screen time we were willing to give to the kids during this season.
- Set boundaries
When everyone is at home, the lines between work and leisure time are blurred. For the workaholics, it is easy to continue working till midnight. But for those who need additional discipline, you need to set boundaries with how much time you spend on Netflix. Each of us struggle with different areas of our lives and setting boundaries are important to ensure that your life is in balance. This is also important so that our children know when our ‘work’ day has ended and we can now give undivided attention to them for the rest of the day.
It helps when you give visual or audio cues to your children so they know when work time is up and when play time begins with you. You could easily use a kitchen timer, clock alarm or just inform your child that “When the long hand of the clock reaches 6, mummy will be able to play with you! And that is only another half hour from now.”
5. Have a huge stash of varied activities planned
We have boxes where we place used toilet paper rolls, sticks, googly eyes, cotton buds, paper and all sorts of art and craft material for their little creative minds to explore. If they are bored of craft, a simple box where they play hide and seek or pretend that it is their cave can keep them entertained for at least 30 minutes.
After a while of staying stationary in one place, you can get them up and about in the front yard scooting (if you have the space), draw hopscotch lines on the floor with chalk, put some music on for a dance party or get them to alternate between jumping jacks and hopping around the living room for 5-10 minutes.
We also invent stories with the kids with home made puppets (they can draw characters and stick it on ice cream sticks) and get them to perform it to anyone who would listen, including the dog. Or you could send the kids around the house with a list of items to collect as part of a treasure hunt contest.
A friend of mine who does home schooling with her children say that she organises activities for her kids to discover daily through a simple stationery file drawer system. Each day, she places either some homework, toys, craft or printables in different drawers and they can only go to the next drawer to discover the activity once the first one is completed.
If you need some resources online to help with young children, Scholastic has offered free online classes for different age groups. There’s also this amazing list of free online resources offered by top educational services I discovered recently.
I hope you will be able to find a balance to make things work for you and your family. If you have any other tips to share, please comment!
Article updated on 24 May 2021.