- Explain the situation. Talk to your children about your schedule, especially older ones who can better understand the impact it’ll have on them. For younger children (below the age of five), still talk to them, you just need make sure it is age appropriate and you keep reminding them as they do not have a strong sense of time yet. Help them understand that you are working from home, not on an extended holiday and this requires flexibility. Recently, I’ve taken on a project for a key client that requires me to work two nights a week from 18:00 to 02:30. Yes, that is AM – I am facilitating through the night! I’ve gone to great lengths to help Mila adapt and understand how this impacts her world, and we are finding ways to make up for the time she loses with mommy. Daddy has also been amazing at finding fun things to do with her and make their time special.
- Try new activities. Fun toys and games that children haven’t played with before will keep them entertained longer. Time-consuming projects, like crafts, stickers, puzzles and Legos, will buy you some time. We’ve invested in a trampoline for Mila and it gives her endless hours of pleasure, while ensuring that she gets plenty of fresh air in a part of the garden fairly far away from my office, which suits me well 😊.
- Mix up your hours (and make peace with what is). If your job allows for it, try to work when your baby or toddler is asleep, like early morning, nap times and at night. It’s not ideal, but it’s short-term and you’ll be more productive if you have quiet time to yourself. Just make sure that you are still getting enough rest and remember that this too shall pass. This is my mantra as Mila is not the best sleeper. She spends many nights cuddled in our bed, which means interrupted sleep and I often sneak out to get a few hours of work done. On the upside, I do get to come back to more cuddles and, before I know it, she’ll be grown and I’ll wish for this time back. So, I juggle and make it work, knowing the sleepless nights will pass.
- Get help caring for your child, if you can. It might not be easy with the physical distancing guidelines, but if you have someone that can help (e.g. a family member that can stay isolated with you), you’ll be able to get more work done. If you co-parent, take turns between watching the children and working. When you’re working, aim to be in a separate room so your children learn that this is where mommy or daddy is off limits.
- Talk to your children about their feelings. It can be really hard (especially for little ones) to have mommy and/or daddy at home but not to be able to play with them. Allow your child to express their feelings and – if they struggle with this – help them to find words to talk about their feelings. If the expression is in the form of spitting or hitting, you can remind them that “It is okay to be sad / angry, etc. but we don’t spit or hurt each other in this house.” Ensure that you have an appropriate consequence for the behaviour, such as mommy will not play with you or will need to leave the room if you are hitting or kicking. Then leave; only for a minute or two and not without ensuring that you can still keep an eye. This shows that you are serious. Then come back ready to heap huge doses of empathy onto your child and let them know that you really acknowledge and care about their feelings.Since she was about 18 months, Mila has been able to tell me that she gets sad and she misses me when I go to work. It is tempting to say, “But it’s okay, you have Gran and Granda to play with.” But this type of reply side-lines her feelings. So, I make sure to acknowledge them and regularly tell her how much I miss her and I let her know that I talk to my class about her. It shows that she is always top of my mind and I carry her in my heart when we are not together.
I wish you well with them. Stay safe. Stay sane!
NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.
Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.
Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.
Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’