For over 25 years, National Bring Your Child to Work Day has allowed kids to step into the working world of their parents for a day. This year is very different. Because of recent events, every day has become take your child to work day for many working parents. While the reasoning is unfortunate, the effect on kids may be very beneficial.
Traditionally, when kids came to the workplace one day per year, it was more of a show and tell event. They would tour the facility, meet co-workers and their children, and take advantage of activities and refreshments that many employers organized for this one special day. It was not a complete perspective of mom or dad’s job. Currently, kids are seeing a very different day, a real day full of stress, challenges, and problem-solving. If the goal of National Bring Your Child to Work Day is to provide kids a better understanding of what mom or dad does, the current situation does this far more effectively.
Workers that traditionally don’t work from home are facing many new challenges and adapting to a very different work environment. They’re navigating a less structured environment without co-workers and the emotional connection of colleagues, one that demands more self-direction and discipline. This can be challenging under the best of circumstances. Combining these ordeals with finding an appropriate workspace, technical challenges, and separating from the many distractions that exist at home can make for a difficult day. The one upside for many is the dress code: Casual Friday takes on a whole new meaning!
How can our kids benefit from this new normal? Turn the workday into teachable moments:
Teach your kids how to be “co-workers.” My nephew started practicing his trumpet just as his mom began a customer teleconference. A neighbor told me her dog was barking while her high-school son was on the computer with classmates doing a school assignment. The son told her to take the dog on a walk so it would not disrupt the call. We must all think of each other as co-workers and the house as a workplace. You wouldn’t start practicing your trumpet in your cubicle surrounded by co-workers. Everyone has a lot that needs to get done. Doing so requires respect, patience, and planning.
Teach them emotions, good and bad, are part of work. When National Bring Your Child to Work Day was one, prearranged day, it was easy to shield your children from a bad day. Now that they see you work every day, that may not be possible. Kids will overhear conversations; they may see your disappointment when a deal doesn’t close, or you must interact with an unhappy customer. They may sense your frustration with files being disturbed on the kitchen table you now call an office. Reassure them that all of this is normal. It happened at work also. Everything is fine. Don’t forget to share your successes and good times. Include your children in the celebration.
Teach them about the different facets of work. Let your kids see there is more to your job than they may think. If you can, involve your kids in your work. Encourage them to make copies, to sit at your “desk” and read or study while you are working. I know of parents that are taking this time to introduce children to popular software applications and how to use them. If only I could teach my rescue dog to staple! Schedule coffee or snack breaks with the little ones to decompress. Demonstrate that work can be fun.
Teach them to collaborate. Share your stories of successes and lessons learned. Social media is full of postings where parents are sharing their photos of young children sitting at desks with toy phones pretending to take calls or typing on a keyboard. Colleagues are sharing ways to entertain their kids while also getting their work done. See this unprecedented time as an opportunity to give your kids access to not only what you do, but to work in general and the ways in which families and communities are working together for something greater.
All of us need to be understanding that we may be interacting with people doing their job unexpectedly at home. Systems may be a little slower, there are going to be kiddos in the background, we may hear a dog bark or a doorbell ring. It is OK. Hopefully, if we have learned anything through all of this, it is to wash our hands more often and to prioritize what is important.