Working Parents: Have a Plan for Taking Time Off From Work When Your Children Need You

Whether your child has an illness or injury, or the babysitter could not make it, taking unexpected time off from work can be tricky.  When both parents work, this can cause unnecessary tension because of arguments about who is going to stay home and take care of the child.  To prevent this from happening, it is very important to develop a plan ahead of time with your spouse about unanticipated “at home” days.

One important consideration is who has the most flexible schedule on any given day.   It may be that an arrangement can be worked out where both parents  divide the caretaking day in half.  If one spouse has mostly morning meetings and the other spouse has them in the afternoon, you can both work around your schedules.  My late husband and I did this.  His schedule was generally more flexible than mine, since as a lawyer, my schedule could be extremely busy.  We worked it out though between us, always keeping our focus on what was best for our children.  Compromise is very important as it reduces the parents’ stress levels and aids in flexible decision making, which of course, leaves more time for you both to focus on your child who needs you.

Speak to your office manager or human services representative ahead of time about the protocol for working from home or having children in the workplace. Many companies allow a parent to work from home if he is unable to come to the office and some allow children to be in the office under special circumstances.

If you and your spouse are not able to do any of the above, research alternatives.  Often retired relatives or friends will assist for a short while.  What is critical is that you do not wait until you need assistance to find a solution.

Raising children can be filled with ups and downs.  Having a plan and being willing to compromise - those are the key elements to surviving a sudden at-home stay.  Life is always going to throw curveballs at you, but being proactive can make them a little easier to catch

Establishing Bedtime Routines for Children

For us parents, trying to get our children to go bed at a regular time can be challenging.  What has worked well though is establishing a nighttime routine that prepares children for bed, rather than one that has a strict time that everyone in the family must be in bed by.

A typical nighttime routine should include taking a bath, brushing teeth, and a calming family activity.  Children need to wind down before going to bed, so if you select 8 p.m., for example, as the time for your children to be in bed, and at 7:45 p.m. they are busy playing video games, their brains are still going to be wired by the time they need to be in bed.  It is important to set a time for them to start their routine, as this will begin the process to calming them down and ending the night peacefully.

As the time is nearing for the routine to begin, take a look around the house and make sure that everything that can be done that night is done.  Have them pick up and clean up after themselves.  Also, double check that they have all their homework, clothes, and other items they will need in the morning ready.   This will make getting out the door in the morning problem free.

Use the time while you bathe your younger children to talk to them.  Some subjects are the type of bedtime story they want to read or what can be expected during the next day.  When they are brushing their teeth, double check that they are doing it properly and not doing it in a mad rush to do something else.  Explain to them the importance of doing this routine every day.

Once they head toward the bedroom, your children’s anticipation of reading a good book will be peaked.  Not only will they be anticipating an interesting story, but they will also be eager to spend quiet, loving time with you.   The books you and your children choose can range from simple bedtime stories that can be read at one sitting or more lengthy books which can be read one chapter at a time. And, reading is not exclusive to younger children as it can be a relaxing experience at any age. There are actually many benefits to reading to older children  and I discussed them in a previous blog. No matter how old a child is, reading time will always be special.

Be sure to set aside time after reading to pray with your children.  Praying together is an important opportunity to talk to God together.  Be sure to include in your prayers a lot of “thank yous” to God, as instilling gratitude in your children will make them more appreciative of what they have.  There is no better way to end the day!

Having a good, full night’s sleep is just as important for the health and development of your children as eating properly or being active.  Creating these routines will develop good habits that continue into their adult lives.

Finding the Balance between Your Children’s Activities and Their Well-being

In a prior blog post, I wrote about the importance of having your children participate in a variety of after-school activities and the benefits that doing so provide.  Today, I would like to extend a cautionary note that those activities should enhance their childhood experiences, not inhibit them.  Children who are overexposed to activities can suffer from headaches; feel tired, anxious or depressed; and suffer a drop in their grades.  Here are a few tips on how to have your children involved in extracurriculars, while still giving them the chance to be children:

  1. Time: According to most experts, children should not spend more than 10 to 20 hours a week participating in out of school activities. If they spend any more time than this, they will not have enough time to do their homework, adequately prepare for tests, and be with their families. Choosing activities that meet bi-weekly or monthly could be healthier options for children, rather than those that meet once or several times a week.
  2. Request: Before enrolling your children in an extracurricular activity, it is best to ask if they want to join in it. This way, it will be an activity that they want to do, not an activity that they are being forced to do. Also, try not to pressure your children to outdo themselves or anyone else in their respective activities. Never compare what they are doing or not doing with other children.
  3. Your schedule: Ask yourself whether you or your spouse have the time to drive them to and from each activity.  Adding too many activities can wreak havoc on your schedule too and cause a lot of stress. 

The balance between school, homework, play, and family time can be difficult.  The important issue is that you try to balance all four, with an emphasis on what works for the family unit as a whole.   No activity should take the place of spending quality time together as a family or put too much stress on family life.