Thousands of children will tag along to their parents’ workplaces on April 26 for the 25th annual National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. To make the most of the experience for you and your child, University of Georgia childhood development expert Diane Bales offered some guidelines and tips to ensure a successful workplace visit.
Preparation is key
Before planning a trip to the office for your child, make sure to clear it ahead of time with your supervisor. Fewer companies are hosting official Take Our Kids to Work events.
It’s also smart to discuss expectations with your child. Be sure to discuss expectations for the day and your child’s behavior before the event. Talk through workplace etiquette and explain the need to use an inside voice and not run around office hallways if your child is younger.
“Doing that helps them learn that different people and places have different expectations as far as behavior goes,” said Bales, an associate professor in the UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “The goal is not for the parent or office staff to entertain the child the whole day, but if you sit and answer emails all day long, I can’t imagine a child will find that very interesting.”
Have realistic expectations
It’s often difficult for young children to sit still for long stretches of time, and bored kids frequently find less than ideal ways to entertain themselves. It’s important to plan activities or things your child can help with during the office visit.
“Ask yourself, ‘Could my child help file books or organize folders for my class or help me collect art materials for our next project?’” Bales said. “Is there something like that which you would have to do anyway but that they might get something out of?”
Chatting with other adults in the workplace may also provide valuable insight for older children and teenagers who are beginning to think about what they would like to do after graduating from high school.
“Getting a sense of what the work world is like and getting a view of what careers certain degrees can lead them to can be very helpful.”
Build in breaks
Making time to decompress during the workday is essential every day, but for children especially, breaks are nonnegotiable. Take a walk around your building and introduce your child to co-workers, or head someplace outside the office for lunch.
“Keep in mind that a whole work day is hard for an adult, and certainly for kids who aren’t used to that, it’s going to take a lot of stamina to last the whole day,” Bales said. For younger children, midday may be a good time to run them home or to a child care facility if you think they’re starting to fade.
Ask your child questions about the experience. A simple “what did you think” or “what did you learn” can lead to insightful observations about the workplace and help your child process the day’s events. Ask what was fun and what was boring, and try not to be offended if your job doesn’t seem that exciting to your child.
“It’s OK, I think, for kids to know that there are parts of work that aren’t overly interesting,” Bales said. “But taking your child to work with you can be beneficial both as a connection between parent and child and in giving kids a sense of what their parents do all day.”
All it takes is a little planning.