photograph of mom working at home with kids

Right now, you are homeschooling, working from home and managing household duties. Because you are at home trying to balance all these things, you face more interruptions than ever.

They are frequent and unrelenting and it’s exhausting.

It feels like you can never focus on any given task because you are being pulled in so many different directions. You might be focused only to lose your train of thought seconds after you’re interrupted.

Understandably, you’re frustrated because it takes three times longer to complete a task, even a simple one. Does this happen to you?

Be Proactive and Prepare

The best way to handle this is to be proactive. What does that mean exactly? It means identifying the disruptions that get in the way of concentrating and/or finishing a task. Then coming up with ways that can prevent it as well as handle it without your presence or help.

For example:

You need time to make phone calls without screaming kids in the background. So, you go to a room in your home, close the door and even lock it.

If you have kids, you know that that doesn’t always work. They will bang on the door and keep banging and yelling for snacks until you open it. Even though you clearly asked them, to give mommy a few minutes of peace and quiet to make a call.

Sometimes asking for something is not enough, especially if you have kids.

Always be prepared and know from experience that kids won’t honor your requests no matter how nice or serious. Not to annoy you or ruin your day (even though it can sometimes feel like it), it’s because kids simply live in the moment. Knowing this can help you be prepared so that your kids are occupied so you have time to get stuff done.

Work-from-home mom or a stay-at-home mom, constantly being interrupted is frustrating and exhausting. I have a few strategies you can apply to help deal with interruptions that are stealing your focus and your sanity.

These tips won’t solve all your problems, but they can definitely help if you are overwhelmed by interruptions.

1.Teach your child when it’s okay to interrupt

Kids don’t always understand that when they interrupt it can be rude, or that it interferes with your work. Give them examples, find books or videos for kids that provide examples.

2.Lead by example

We can sometimes forget or be unaware of our own behavior. Responding to their interrupting you with poor manners isn’t going to help you. It will only keep the behavior going.

It can be hard, I know, to be calm when you are trying to work but try to practice a calming pause before responding to the interruption.

3.Try the Interrupt Rule

So, you’re on a work call or in deep work on your computer. You child barges in and interrupts you. Despite asking for them to please wait a minute, they ignore you and persist.

If this is you right now, give the Interrupt Rule a try. How to teach the rule…

  1. Teach polite interruption by showing how to place their hand on your arm or shoulder as a signal if they need your attention when you are busy.
  2. The next step is to put your hand over theirs to signal to him/her that you acknowledge them.

It’s really that simple but it’s important to be consistent. It’s also important to be aware that young kids are unable to wait longer than a few seconds before you respond.

This rule is really to help teach your child to interrupt politely and not so abruptly.

4.Create a weekly family schedule

Create a weekly schedule that clearly shows blocks of time reserved for you, your spouse, and your kids. Your schedule will have work, household tasks, errands, and other appointments on it so everyone can see who has what obligations for the week.  

This might be more helpful if you have older children as they’re able to read a schedule on their own. If you have young children, you can use a chore or small-tasks chart for tasks that they can do on their own to help out. To make it enticing, offer a small reward for doing a task without mommy’s help.

It will help keep them busy, encourage independence as well as helping out around the house. Freeing up more time for you. It’s a win-win.

5.Plan engaging activities

Plan engaging activities for your kids that don’t require your assistance and that your spouse, or sitter can easily manage.

A little work upfront can save you a lot of time and hassle. Do a quick search for fun activities the night before, print them out and have them ready for your kids along with any supplies or materials needed.

This should buy you enough time and maybe more, to make your call, or do whatever task you need to get done.

6.Get snack bins ready!

You hear it every day, “Mom! I’m hungry, I want a snack!” even though they just had a full meal like 20 minutes ago. Kids are gonna snack so have a snack bin (or snack bags) ready with some yummy foods they can grab themselves.

7.Set boundaries with visual aids

Visual aids like signs, and pictures can be really helpful to enforce rules surrounding quiet time and interruptions. It can be a printed sheet with a sign, symbol, or a cartoon with a message to inform that you are busy. It can also be a card to hold up and show to your kids when you are on a call or need a few minutes to focus on a work task.

8.Encourage independence in your older children

Some reasons your kids interrupt is because they don’t know how to do it on their own. If your children need something to eat, you can have snacks available (i.e. Snack bin) for them to grab without getting you to do it for them.

Depending on their age, you can also teach them how to prepare a light snack like a pb sandwich, or apple slices with cheese for example.

Also, it’s a good idea to make sure your older children know where common items are in the house. Common items, the things used for every day tasks can give them the freedom to do something without having to always ask you where they are. Like a load of laundry or prepare a small meal/snack.

9.Get older siblings to occupy the little ones

You might have a child that’s older, more mature and understanding. If you do, that’s great! Give that child an opportunity to manage a younger sibling while you are trying to get some work done. It’s like babysitting but not for long and with your supervision of course.

It’s about capturing a few minutes to finish a phone call or get lunch prepared.

10.Give your kids a notebook

Sometimes your child interrupts, not for snacks but because they have a question, an interesting thought or idea they want to share with you.

Give you child a notebook so that if they want to ask you something they can write it down in their notebook and refer to it when you are available. This works great for adults too! 

11.Set up virtual chat with a family member

This can be extremely helpful if you don’t have a babysitter or someone to keep your little ones busy. Set up a virtual chat with grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. Your kids would love it because they get to see family and it could keep them occupied until you can wrap up your important task.

12.Don’t forget the reward

I mentioned this earlier and want to emphasize the significance of rewards. Kids love rewards and it gives them motivation. Now, I don’t encourage giving your child a reward ALL the time, but it can help when used wisely.

Let them know that if they complete the activity without interrupting you (if it’s not an emergency), they will get a small reward. What that reward is at your discretion but can be a sweet treat, stickers, etc. Kids love rewards and it gives something to look forward to.

13.Praise kids (and your spouse)

Give praise when they help you, when they are considerate, display good manners and interrupting when it’s appropriate.

Everyone loves getting praise, especially children. Don’t forget to give it when deserved.

It’s not fun being interrupted when you are trying to get stuff done. You’re a mom juggling a lot of things at once. Give yourself permission to secure a few minutes of time throughout the day to get work done. Forget the guilt, you have priorities and need to manage your time as best as you possibly can.

I hope these approaches to interruptions are helpful to you and give you some ideas to work with. Not all of these tips will be effective with your kids, but it is worth giving them a try.

Do you have a tip you can share to help with interrupting kids? Share in the comments.

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