When working from home, it’s important to establish boundaries with your children to ensure a productive work environment while meeting their needs.
This simple guide provides age-specific strategies to create boundaries and promote independence for children in different age groups.
Under 6 Years Old:
For children in this age group, we recommend arranging childcare to ensure their safety. Childcare provides a safer environment and allows you to focus on work without constant interruptions.
6-10 Years Old:
Since referencing exact times can be difficult for children at the lower end of this age range, you might need to use cues. Establish boundaries for children in this age group by giving them quick indicators of when you are unavailable for interruptions. Use visual cues such as:
- Wear your headphones when you need focused work time.
- Tell them to check if someone is on your screen or if you’re engaged in a virtual meeting.
- Give them a subtle hand signal that indicates now is not the right time.
- Tell them you are unavailable when they hear you talking to someone else.
- Hang a sign on the door indicating when you should not be disturbed.
- Create a designated space in the house, away from your work area, where children can engage in activities, be creative, and make noise without distracting you.
- Clearly communicate what is important for them to ask and what they can handle on their own. For example, helping them find cheese in the fridge is not important, but finding a band-aid for a cut is.
- Establish communication channels so they can reach you in case of an urgent need. For example, use notes slipped under the door for non-emergencies and a specific knock pattern for light emergencies. We all know what they’ll do in case of an urgent need!
- Consider prepping meals or having easily accessible snacks in the fridge so they can independently manage their hunger without coming to you.
10-15 Years Old:
- Empower children in this age group with creative kits, activity suggestions, or electronics to engage and distract themselves constructively while you are working. This can include age-appropriate books, puzzles, art projects, or educational apps.
- Communicate responsibilities and expectations, distinguishing areas where they are responsible for themselves and need assistance. Have easily prepared food ingredients available, such as sandwiches or mac and cheese, so that they can handle their meals independently. Give them chores inside and outside the house that they need to complete.
- If they have a device, tell them if they can text you anytime or if you need to be distraction-free.
- Share your schedule for the day, including times when you can drop them off places or when someone else will need to pick them up. Take screenshots of your calendar so they don’t forget.
15-18 Years Old:
- Teenagers in this age group mostly do what they and their friends have decided to do for the day. Encourage them to walk, bike, or skateboard to where they need to go. Within reason, of course! This promotes self-reliance and reduces the need for your assistance during work hours.
- Establish clear communication about what activities, parts of town, and friends’ homes are on the ‘good-to-go’ list. Also, be explicit about what they can not participate in. Including the number of friends, they can have over. Set expectations for their behavior and communicate boundaries effectively. Reinforce your trust in their judgment while setting appropriate limits.
Establishing boundaries for children working from home is essential for maintaining a productive work environment, and it also allows your children to experience safe independence. Tailor the strategies outlined above to the specific age group of your children.
By effectively communicating expectations, providing resources for independent engagement, and fostering open lines of communication, you can balance work and parenting, allowing for a more harmonious and focused work-from-home experience.