Making "bring your child to work day" meaningful
(MoneyWatch) Take Your Daughters and Sons To Work Day on April 26 is not only a great chance for your child to see what you do when you're not at home, but it can also help start a conversation about his or her own future. This year, the foundation that created this event is celebrating its 20th anniversary. There's a wealth of information -- including activities that might be fun to do with your child and others that participate -- on their website.
Here are 7 expert tips that will make Thursday more meaningful for both you and your child:
Make sure your day is open. You want your day to be as open as possible, and arrange for your child to participate in some group activities while you're working. "This day should be a special time for both of you, not stressful for you, and fun for your child - not boring. Plan so that it won't matter if you don't get as much done as you usually do," says child psychiatrist, Joshua Sparrow, M.D., co-author of the Touchpoints and Brazelton Way Series books.
Let them know what to expect. New experiences can be intimidating to a child, so share some details about your office and what will happen that day before it comes. "Discuss sounds, sights and smells of the workplace. Tell your children the names and jobs of the people they might meet," suggests child psychologist Laurie Zelinger, PhD.
Pack some "work" for them. You know how kid-friendly (or unfriendly) your office can be. If there isn't much for your child to participate in, allow them to create their own fun. "Plan ahead so that he can have a workspace near yours, and be sure that he brings some of his own 'work' to keep him occupied," says Sparrow.
Model good tech habits. One of the best skills you can show them is how to deal responsibly with technology. "This is a good time to teach your child about 'tech breaks' and how you can work for 15-30 minutes without interruption and then gift yourself a 1-2 minute 'tech break' to check in with your email, texts, Facebook, etc. and then back to work for another 15-30 minutes," says psychologist Larry Rosen, PhD, author of Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.
Talk about teamwork. Depending on his or her age, your child will likely only understand parts of what you do. A concept that is relevant to all ages, however, is teamwork. "Discuss why [different] jobs are important to each other and to the community. [Then] talk about what type of education is necessary for these positions," suggests Diane Peters Mayer, MSW, author of Overcoming School Anxiety. The latter will help them start to consider not only being part of a team, but what they might want to focus on in high school and college.
Chat with your co-workers in person. If your child is like many tweens or teens, he often socializes by texts, tweets and Facebook wall posts. This is another modeling opportunity -- to show that business (or social) interactions shouldn't just be left online. "Show the value of face-to-face communication in the workplace. Instead of spending the day behind the computer connecting only electronically, show your child how easy it is to connect with someone face to face and how the conversation stimulates humor, interest and fun, and perks you up to go back and attack your work feeling renewed," says Rosen.
Use the day to begin deeper discussions. "Taking Our Sons and Daughters to Work day is, I believe, a perfect time to discuss racial, gender and other barriers that exist is many professions and that your child's ability to reach his or her dreams and goals does not depend on these things but on belief in self, determination and hard work," says Mayer. Whether you discuss discrimination, or simply what your child saw and learned, use this hands-on experience to launch whatever conversation is important to you as a parent.
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