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Finding a balance between work and play, and “me” and “we” time can be especially difficult when we’re sharing a physical space all day. Young children especially may want to play with you all day, might not understand why you cannot play with them right now.

But the reality is, sometimes we’ve just got to work. And kids do too! Grown-ups can explain to children that sometimes family members—not just grown-ups—need quiet time to themselves in order to focus on their work, or school, or a special activity.

Time apart, time together

Spending time apart—or at least on opposite sides of the room—has benefits beyond just ‘getting things done.’ Time spent apart allows for individual exploration and unique experiences that can be shared with the whole family later. At the beginning of each day, talk together about what important tasks and activities you each need to or would like to do.

Then make a plan for when you’ll spend time on those things. Express your enthusiasm for their activity and let them know that you’re looking forward to hearing more about it later. You might say…

  • “I’m excited to see what you create!”
  • “That sounds interesting. Can you tell me more at dinnertime?”
  • “I’m looking forward to our game night!”

 

Be sure to express gratitude, too. Say, “Thank you for being quiet for a little while. I feel happy and relieved to have this task done.” Or “I really enjoyed reading a chapter of my book, and I couldn’t have done it without you!”

Finally, perhaps after your important tasks are done, make a point to spend uninterrupted, quality time together each day. Limit distractions as much as possible. Put away your cell phone and laptop and turn the TV off. Together, you might play a favorite game, draw pictures, take a walk, play catch, or have a dance party.

If you have multiple children, rotate through activities they each enjoy. Include activities you like, too! The goal is to let each person in the family know that they are valued, that you care about their interests and wellbeing, and that you enjoy spending time with them!

Space for this, space for that

You may be using spaces in your home for many purposes throughout the day. Your kitchen table might now also serve as a workspace and a budding-artist’s studio. Your favorite TV-watching couch might now double as a comfy spot for reading and quiet time. Being clear about what your family will use each space for can really help make your days go more smoothly.

Use the graphic below to help you set some guidelines for shared spaces in your own home. Remember to keep it simple. Ask, “What do we do in this space?” “What’s one thing we cannot do in this space?” You may have to remind little ones often, and that’s okay. Visual reminders may help them remember, too.