For parents: How to limit distractions from children while working from home

Techniques to set boundaries for your kids while trying to get work done

For parents: How to minimize distractions from children while working from home
For parents: How to minimize distractions from children while working from home

Working from home has been a challenge for many parents over the past year amid the pandemic, dealing with constant interruptions from children who are also spending most of their time at home.

We’ve heard it from so many parents: The minute they hop on a work call or a Zoom meeting, the interruptions seem to never end, and work hardly gets accomplished.

Thankfully, Metro Detroit mother and pediatrician Dr. Molly O’shea is sharing techniques that could help parents and caretakers as they work from home.

Dr. O’shea says she has heard complaints from parents in her practice every single day about being bombarded with distractions while trying to get work done.

“(The children) realize that you’re being taken away and doing something else, and they crave you, they crave us as parents,” O’shea said. “It’s something that we should look at and be happy about in a way, but, frankly, it’s annoying and it drives us crazy and it makes it really hard for us to do our work.”

The pediatrician says the situation leaves many parents feeling like they’re doing something wrong. O’shea believes that most parents are giving their kids the attention that they need, but parents might be giving that attention at the wrong time.

Part of the solution is trying to prevent the behavior before it happens.

“If you know you’re about to go into a meeting or go on a Zoom call, you can get with your kids ahead of time and say, “I’m going to be on this meeting for the next hour or so, so for the next 10-15 minutes, I want to be with you guys; I want to spend this time with you because I know I’m going to have to spend this time away,’” O’shea said. “Let the child drive the activity ... let them decide what they want to do.”

In her practice, O’shea teachers parents the concept of a technique that she calls giving your children a “time in” instead of a time out.

“We’re all used to the phrase ‘time out,’ when your kid does something disruptive or annoying ... Well a ‘time in’ is when you’re trying to anticipate a situation where bad behavior or misbehavior might occur, you instead give that intense attention ahead of time,” O’shea said.

“The other part of time in is also setting expectations where ... when you’re spending that time together, you say, ‘I know that you guys are going to do such a great job when I’m online in my meeting for the next hour or so. I know that you guys can do it; you’re getting older now ... I’m going to be so excited to hear what you did,” O’shea continued. “By both spending that time together and setting expectations, you’re setting the stage to have a more successful meeting.”

Experts also say that spending a little bit of time with their children before a big meeting, conference call or tackling a large household chore, can go a long way in minimizing some of those distractions later.

“It takes you, as a parent, putting away your phone, setting our computer aside, taking a deep break, slowing down your talking and your energy level, getting to their eye level and say, ‘I just want to do whatever you want,’” O’shea said.

Experts admit that these techniques will not always work. If all else fails, the strategy of ignoring the behavior is a good one to fall back on.

“Sometimes, the best strategy is to ignore it, to literally ignore it,” O’shea said. “If you end up responding to it, you will perpetuate it. They’ll learn that they can get your attention by you attending to it. So if you can learn to ignore that noise, that sibling fighting, whatever it is that’s occurring, it will occur less and less while you’re on your meetings.

“So try these positive techniques first, but if push comes to shove, and you’re having a moment, don’t just mute yourself, turn off your video and start yelling -- instead, ignore,” O’shea said. “That’s the most powerful next strategy.”

Watch the full report in the video above.


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