The hardest part about being a working parent are all the things you might miss out on. It goes beyond having to skip a school play to attend a critical meeting. Even when you work a standard 40 hour week, it’s difficult to find time to connect at the end of the day. If you’re among the millions of workers who put in more than 40 hours per week, it may feel like your kids are going to forget who you are while you’re working to keep the bills paid. It may take extra effort, but it’s possible to stay engaged even when time isn’t on your side.
Know what’s going on at school
You can’t always rely on your child to let you know what’s happening at school. Since it’s where they spend the majority of their day, communicating with the school is a critical component of maintaining involvement. More importantly, feedback from the school and teachers may be the only indication you get if your child is struggling. Fortunately, the digital revolution has made staying involved easier.
- Sign up for school newsletters and push-to-text notifications. Most schools have a website where you can sign up for mass communications. It’s great way to stay on top of events and get reminders about school holidays.
- Sign up for social media. Schools often have social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Following the school not only helps you stay informed of school events, it gives you the opportunity to connect with other parents. With younger children, meeting parents is an opportunity to meet your child’s friends.
- Open the lines of communications with teachers. If they don’t know you, teachers may hesitate to contact you unless something is wrong. Give teachers a heads up that you’d love to stay in touch and that they can reach out to you for anything, good or bad. Teachers may know more about your child’s mood and social habits than you do, so they can be a great resource when the only thing you hear from your child about their school day is that it was “fine.”
Schedule together time
It may seem forced, but making regular “dates” with your child is one of the best ways to ensure together time doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Once you have a plan, treat it like you would a meeting with your boss or most important client.
- Be there, be on time. Unless everything at work will literally burn down without your presence, once you’ve set a date with your child, put those plans above all other priorities. Commitment to “together time” will help demonstrate their importance to you.
- Put the electronics away. It’s vital to give your full, undistracted attention. It improves the quality of your time together, and has the added perk of helping teach your child useful social interaction skills.
- Take pictures. If you do something fun and interesting during “together time”, make sure to take pictures. As time passes, these become valuable mementos of your history together.
Share their interests
In large part, the things we love define who we are. It’s tempting to want to share all of our favorites with our children, but it’s better to respect their individuality and focus on understanding what they love most. This doesn’t mean you should to pretend to be something you’re not. Rather, listen to the music they like, see a movie they pick, watch them play their favorite video games, or better yet, play with them. Sharing in the media they consume will not only help you understand your child more as a person, it also gives you something to talk about and bond over.
Don’t be afraid to text
If you’re child is old enough to recognize emojiis, they’re old enough to get little messages throughout the day to let them know you’re thinking about them. You don’t have to buy them a phone, almost all wifi connected devices allow free texting apps. Older kids will probably appreciate a text over a call, anyway.
Don’t forget to call, too
For younger kids, a quick call before bedtime can become a part of a cherished routine. Even if they would never admit it, older children also find comfort in affectionate rituals, like calling to say “I love you,” before they end their day.
Go low tech
Leave them a little something special to find whenever possible, like a note tucked inside the book they’re reading, or a treat you know they love. The goal is have your caring and presence felt, even when you’re not there to deliver it in person.
Although it takes effort and planning to stay engaged with your child when your schedule is already packed, the end results are worth it. Time and energy are never wasted when invested in the relationships with the people you love most.
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