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Parenting while working from home? Try these tips

It’s not easy being a parent and employee at the same time! UCOP Learning and Development is here to help. Check out the Working Remotely for Employees Collection, especially the LinkedIn Learning course, Balancing Working from Home and Families. This course, led by best-selling author and clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, offers a range of tips to help you navigate — and make the most of — this time.

Here are 8 tips to reduce stress, boost productivity and help your family feel better.

  1. Reduce your stress response. Approach each situation as your best self so you can react calmly and rationally. Practice self-care: Protect your sleep, get physical activity, connect with nature, reach out for social support, engage in creative pursuits and acknowledge your emotions.
  2. Break big tasks into manageable chunks. If there’s a task hanging over your head, break it down into concrete, realistic and specific steps. For example, instead of the task “get a handle on my email,” try “respond to the three highest priority messages and delete seven items of spam.” Completing these small tasks will help keep you motivated; over time, your progress will pay off.
  3. Clearly designate your workspace. In order for you to be most effective, your workspace should include physical space and boundaries, visual space and quiet. You can set up a temporary workplace even if you use spaces differently throughout the day; for example, before working at your dining table, arrange files, notepads or a pencil cup — whatever gets you in a work frame of mind. Remove these items when you’re sitting at your dining room table with your family in the evening so you can fully engage and be present during your off-hours.
  4. Clarify your threshold for interruptions. You’ve probably heard the tip, “Shut your door when you can’t be interrupted.” But that’s easier said than done when you’re also trying to parent. Rather than attempting to wall off an entire afternoon, develop a system to help your family understand whether they can intrude — for example, displaying a red, yellow or green light sign. Be clear that the red light is an absolutely uninterruptible time. Use this sparingly, and make sure to let your family know when an urgent period will end.
  5. Learn to be flexible, but firm in setting boundaries. Setting and sticking to appropriate boundaries is difficult, but research shows that setting appropriate boundaries can help you parent better. It can also improve your productivity and motivation at work. When you’re better able to bend, you have less chance of breaking. Help your children get on board through positive reinforcement.
  6. Consider how you want to be seen — and followed. Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act; it models self-care and emotional intelligence for your children and helps you be a calm and balanced parent. When your kids see you as a whole person with relationships, hobbies and needs outside the family, they can enact those same lessons someday. And, modeling being imperfect — as well as overcoming challenges — teaches your children to be flexible and handle mistakes
  7. Schedule quality family time. As you create your schedule each week, carve out at least one uninterrupted block of together-time for your children each day. Stick to your plan and share it in advance. If your children know, for example, that you’re saving time to play catch with them at 6 p.m., they’re a lot less likely to demand attention at 4:30.
  8. Embrace the positive. Psychological research shows that we cope best with challenging situations by finding a sense of meaning. Considering what you can gain from this situation will lead to greater fulfillment over time.
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