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Tips from a psychologist for the home office with small children

Many people currently find themselves in the extraordinary situation of working from home. What at first sight sounds like comfortable couch-working in sweatpants with favourite music in the background, quickly becomes a nerve-wracking test when this new “office” has to be shared with partner and children.

Then it is important to take special care of yourself and the rest of the family and to grow together a bit. But how can this succeed?

Clear structures and rules

Those who work from home should be even more careful to draw clear boundaries between work and leisure. Ideally, you can do your work in your own room or work area and use the rest of the home as a “break room”. Very often, however, this spatial separation is not so clearly possible. In such cases, it can be helpful to set up a comfortable workplace in the living room or at the kitchen table and ask the rest of the family to respect it. But it is not only space, but time also plays an important role. In everyday office life, there are usually fixed breaks and the odd coffee round, which sits together for a few minutes and switches off. These are precisely the times you should create at home – ideally, get up from work, enjoy some exercise, clear your head and return after a predetermined time. And you can do the same with the end of the day – after a predetermined time, the day ends. Personal rituals (e.g. special music) can be used to consciously ring in this time and, if possible, you should not return to work.

Closure with perfection

Special situations require extraordinary measures – this is not the right time for pedagogical educational principles, perfectionism and iron rigour. At the moment, not every day is the same, and it can be a bit chaotic. Lego bricks on the floor, leftover food on the couch, pyjama dress code until noon? Why not just take a deep breath and say to yourself “Okay, this is temporary. What’s going to happen if everything is not perfect? The more honestly you live and defend this perfect “imperfections”, the more relaxed you are yourself. This is a state of affairs that benefits everyone involved.

focus on the positive

Even if the child bursts into the zoom meeting for the 10th time and burns the pancakes on the side, now sticking your head in the sand won’t help at all. What can motivate you is to keep the positive aspects in mind. Working from home is a privilege that not everyone can enjoy at the moment. Many people have lost their jobs for an uncertain period or work in system maintenance jobs where they are permanently exposed to risk. Let’s think about it: Isn’t it perhaps a good thing that you are in the happy position of being able to work from home?

And on top of that, working alongside your family? And every “team member” deserves a little praise every now and then! Credit for having a partner to watch your back or recognition for the fact that the child manages to keep itself busy for a few minutes. And certainly, also for the fact that you always manage to remain optimistic and to bring everything together so well.

Also giving space to despair

And even with the most optimised structure, the best family system and the most optimistic necessary attitude, it can happen again and again that even desperation is expressed. And it is allowed to do so! It can sometimes be exhausting, you can sometimes look thoughtfully into the future, and even fear or anger can surface now and then. Then it’s time to pick up the phone and contact someone who has an open ear! We are all in the same boat, and it can be very healing to share your feelings with others and to feel that almost everyone feels the same. This relieves, relaxes and enables us to control our emotions and to look forward again.

Photocredit cover picture: Shuraeva

Published on: 26. November 2020