Children And Working Parents

Tips for balancing a full time life of work and parenting.

Working outside the home full time and parenting even a single child both constitute full time activity and work. Whether or not you get paid for either matters not a bit. Each activity is full of responsibility, a never-ending series of things to be done, and a growing list of frustrations. With the combination, trying to juggle both can become a nightmare. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Working and parenting can be both rewarding and fulfilling, but there will always be times when you ask yourself if you're leaving something important undone. Is it possible to always get every single thing done, on time, and address all needs that arise? Only a super hero can accomplish the impossible.

This is not to say, however, that it can't be done, or that parents shouldn't work. There are too many situations which necessitate that parents work, so that they can feed their hungry children. And, in many cases, parents choose to work, for any number of reasons.

But it's important to address some issues before they become issues, or the shift between worker and parent can become nightmarishly like the Grand Canyon. Once the chasm has opened to that point, building a bridge to connect parents to their children can become an impossible dream.

So, what are parents to do? There are many ways in which working parents can address their children's needs, while tending to needs of their own, as well as bringing home the paycheck that pays the bills and puts food on the table. But it all boils down to one key element: communication. It is absolutely necessary for parents to build a model of communication between them and their children. If this is left until some better, or more opportune, moment, it may be too late.

Here are some tips for building that bridge of communication before the Grand Canyon appears between you and your child:

· Don't give up. No matter how difficult life may be, or how trying the various stages of your child's development, realize that you can and will survive. It won't, I'm afraid to say, usually be easy.

· Don't be afraid to ask for help. If the load gets too heavy, know when and of whom, to ask for help. Maybe you need some time out, for yourself and your spouse. Believe it or not, taking a little time away from the children may be the best possible thing to do, for all of you. Also, know when it's time to delegate chores or hire outside help.

· Set aside quality time to spend with each child, individually. This doesn't mean that you have to spend a fortune, or take each child, one at a time, on a trip to Disney World. But it does mean finding some solid time when you can truly be with your child, away from the other parts of your life, when you can play together, or talk together. Go to the park, play ball, have a picnic, go for a walk or bike ride. Just let your child know that he or she holds a valued place in your life, worthy of special and separate time in your otherwise busy life.

· Take time to really listen to your child. Whether during that special time apart, or during everyday life, make a point of really hearing what your child has to say every single day. This doesn't mean simply asking the rhetorical, "How was your day," as you journey from the front door to the living room. This means finding at least a few minutes to let your child share his or her day with you. It also means really hearing your child, more than just the words, but in what may lie behind the words. Listen just as carefully to what your child may not be saying.

· Know what's going on in your child's life, what friends they hang around, the activities they engage in, where they hang out. Know what life is like for your child, and you will better know how and when to communicate. By knowing your children better, you will also have a much better understanding of when something may be seriously wrong with your child, when the child may be unable or unwilling to open up and talk about it with you.

· Encourage your child to be open and honest. You don't have to pry into every aspect of the child's life, or snoop around in a bedroom, reading journals and letters. But you need to cultivate the kind of relationship that encourages your child to be up front with you in all aspects of life.



· Learn the warning signs of behavior and activity that might indicate that a serious problem might be taking place. Read up on drugs, alcohol and gangs. Talk openly with your child about these issues. Let them know how you feel about these activities, but also build a relationship of trust, so that your child will feel more able to come to you if any of these issues becomes a problem. If a serious problem does arise, you may have to take the initiative and approach your child, or seek outside help. But if you don't avail yourself of the information available on these subjects, you won't know the signs when they are presented. Know what to look for.

· Visit your child's school from time to time. While you don't want to be an interfering parent, embarrassing your child by showing up unexpectedly, you do want your child to know you are interested in every aspect of his or her life. Make plans to accompany your child to lunch every now and then. Pick him or her up to go out to lunch with you. Show them that you are a parent all during the day, when you aren't together, just as much as when everyone gets home at the end of the day.

· Accompany your child to sporting events. Whether or not your child is playing, go together. But, especially if your child is a participant, nothing is more warming and appreciated than seeing an interested parent up in the stands, cheering and supportive. Take your child to citywide or larger sporting events. Use this as quality time to explore something that both of you might have in common.

· Share, but don't force activities on your child. Just because you love something doesn't mean that your child will, or that your child should be forced to do something they don't like. Let your child explore to find unique interests and enjoyable activities, then share them together.

· Don't expect perfection. This is especially hard for parents, especially if you have a child who expects perfection in himself. Let your child be a child, and not perfect all of the time. Teach your child that it is okay to be less than perfect. No matter how much we may want our children to excel in academics or sports, if they can't be relaxed and enjoy it, what use is it?

· Don't take your frustrations out on your child. It's really hard to be upbeat and happy with a demanding child, when you walk through the door after an especially difficult day at work. But remember that nothing that happened that day is the fault of the loved one coming to greet you. And loved ones don't deserve to be the object of your anger and frustration. Find some way to leave work at the office, and allow yourself to be a devoted parent when you get home.

· Know what your child is getting into online. If you have a computer at home, and/or if your child has access to a computer at school or at the library, know what the child is doing. There are ways for you to check up on your child. Explore your computer so that you will know the methods for seeing what your child is viewing. Use your computer's history or cache files to see what pages have been viewed. While I don't advocate spying or unduly snooping on your child, your child's welfare may well depend on what you are able to learn - without the help of that child - on activities conducted online. Predators lurk behind computer screens. Other dangers lurk, as well. Know your child, and know his or her computer life.

· Know how your child is really doing at school. Do more than casually glancing over a report card, praising the good grades and cracking down on the poor ones. Take time to look over tests, reports or other school paperwork. Make time to visit the school and get to know teachers. Talk openly about how your child may or may not be doing. See if there is more that you can do, as a parent at home, to help your child succeed at school.

· Don't be afraid to set rules and use discipline at home. You don't want to run your home like a concentration camp, but you don't want a child totally out of control and calling all the shots, either. Discuss your expectations with your child, and let them know what penalties are in store for outright abuse or disregard for household rules. You can afford to be flexible - and you should be, in some cases - but children also need to know, with assurance, where their boundaries are.

· Teach your child the value of a good work effort. Assign duties and chores at home. Let your child learn the necessity of work around the home. How else will they learn what to expect when they get out into homes of their own. Also, let them work for the things they want. Give them chores and an allowance, or let them earn money of their own. Even if they aren't of legal working age, work with them to set up lawn mowing services or something else. Let them learn for themselves what is expected in hard work in this life, and what rewards will be theirs for their efforts.

· Most importantly, learn how to have fun with your children. Laugh with them, never at them. Find fun things to share with your children. Let them be kids, for as long as they can. Growing up is difficult enough. Don't force adult responsibilities on them too soon. And allow yourself to let down every now and then, to show children that being grown up is not all hard work, frustrations and problems. Choose very carefully what family issues you should share with your kids. They should be made aware of critical family concerns, but only in a way appropriate for age and experience. Don't let them take on the adult roles of responsibility, worry and concern before their time.

In all things, allow your child room to grow, to become an independent human being. Teach them well and let them know they can always come to you, no matter what the situation or problem. Cultivate a lifelong road of open and honest communication and your work as a parent will be more worthwhile and possibly easier to manage.

Finally, don't accept any outside advice on how to raise your child, anything praised as the pure gospel and only truth you should follow. Trust in your own instincts as a parent, and apply or modify these and any other suggestions to suit your own style and your own family situation.

Working outside the home and inside the home with a family is a rewarding experience. But it takes lots of advance preparation and planning. With that, and fate blowing favorable winds your way, your parenting experience, and your children's childhood experiences, can be a rewarding time full of wonderful memories to cherish for a lifetime.

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