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How to Set Boundaries with Your Kids When Working From Home

A woman rubbing her temple and holding a little girl, with another jumping in the background.
Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

Working from home can be challenging, and it’s even more so if you have kids. Setting boundaries and establishing a routine with your children is critical if you want to get any work done (and stay sane).

Separate Your Workspace

If you’re lucky enough to have a room—or even a somewhat separate space in one—that can serve as a home office, take advantage of it. Sit your kids down and explain that this room or space is off-limits during the day. Tell them they can play anywhere else but there.

Make sure you’re at their eye-level and that you explain it in a way they’ll understand. Don’t assume they’ll get it immediately or remember the new rules, though. It will take them some time to adjust. However, if you remain patient, you’ll be able to get through to them.

If you don’t have the option of closing a door, get creative and turn it into a game. Tell your kids they need to build a LEGO wall for your new workspace, and that they can’t cross it until after a specific time.

When you tap into a kid’s imagination, it’s easier to get him to “play” along.

Create a Schedule Together

Talking to your kids is one thing, but you’ll have to do much more than that if you want them to remember the rules every day. Create a schedule together and hang it somewhere in your home where everyone can see it. It’s a helpful reminder for everyone about who is doing what, and when.

Turn it into a fun activity by using different colors, stickers, or anything that gets them excited about it. Write down your work hours and—more importantly—write down your play hours. It’s much easier for kids to accept that you won’t be available at certain times if they know when you will be.

Include meals, bedtime, and other important points of the day on the schedule, as well. This will teach your kids about structure and organization.

They probably won’t start following it immediately, but if you consistently remind them, they’ll catch on soon.

Make Play Hours Count

A father and daughter having a tea party in a tent fort.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

If you want your kids to behave and respect your work hours, you need to reciprocate and invest some energy in playtime when work is over. We’re all exhausted after a long day of work and Zoom calls. However, rewarding your kids for controlling themselves and not crashing those Zoom calls is important. Do your best to play dress up or hang out in their tent fort for a while.

It’s important to show them how much you cherish your time with them. It will also make them less likely to barge into your workspace if they know you’ll be playing with them later.

It’s also good for adults to learn how to separate work time from personal time—especially when you work from home.

Accommodate Their Schedule

Are your kids bursting with energy early in the morning? If so, avoid doing your most important work at that time of day. Save it for later when you know they’ll be taking a nap or doing something else instead of climbing you like a tree.

If your kids tend to sleep in, get up an hour earlier than usual, and dig into any work that requires sustained focus. It’s all about organization and flexibility.

You have to do what works best for you and your family.

Be Realistic

Keep in mind that not every day will be perfect. Sometimes, you’ll have to deal with your kid climbing onto your lap and pulling your hair in the middle of a Zoom meeting.

Even when you think you’re finally getting somewhere, there’s a chance your kids will forget the rules. At some point, they’ll likely appear when you’re on an important call with your boss, adding to the already stressful realities of working remotely.

Try not to get angry or frustrated. Rather, try to accept it for what it is and just do the best you can. Stressing about it will only make the situation worse. Your kids will sense it, and then you’ll end up having to deal with a crying toddler on top of it.

Explain your situation to your coworkers before a meeting. Let them know you might have to step out for a moment, or that you might be interrupted because you can’t physically distance yourself from your small children.

Working from home isn’t the ideal scenario for a lot of people, and it’s particularly challenging for those with children. Adjusting to a new normal takes time, so just remember to cut your kids (and yourself) some slack.

With a little planning, consistency, and a whole lot of patience, you and your family can figure out a schedule and rhythm that will allow you to successfully work (and play) at home.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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