For children, summer is a time for play, exploration, learning and relaxation.
But for many parents, hours spent working keep them from sharing in those moments. Career commitments, though necessary, can inspire guilt. Whether you’re working miles from home or in the home office, or even trying to navigate a hybrid of the two, you might be feeling the strain of trying to make sure you give your children your attention and affection while navigating the modern, hectic professional world.
“Parents want to make memories with their children,” says Lynn Louise Wonders, a licensed professional counselor and early childhood development expert. “It’s one thing during the school year, but their heartstrings get pulled a bit more in the summer.”
Fortunately, there are easy ways to strike a balance between work and play. Wonders shared several strategies to help busy parents stay connected and partake in summertime fun:
1. Make time to talk.
Set aside a time each workday when you and your child can connect. Whether it’s by phone, FaceTime or in person, scheduled chats help provide a sense of routine and give everyone a shared moment to anticipate. “Even a couple of minutes is OK; it’s all about being present,” Wonders says. If you’re away from home, find a quiet, distraction-free spot to make the call. If you’re in a home office, take a break at lunch or another time to sit with your child without devices.
2. Adjust work schedules if possible.
Parents with jobs that offer flexible scheduling might leverage those benefits to allow more quality time at home. That could mean arriving earlier to the office, working remotely, or taking a summer Friday or half-day, if those policies are available to you. Whatever your approach, “the most important thing is to try to keep work time and ‘off’ time separate,” Wonders says.
3. Leave notes in lunches.
It takes just a moment to write a quick note, but the impact can be powerful. “When a child gets to snack time or lunchtime, they see that little reminder that mom and dad are thinking of them,” Wonders says. She suggests parents jot down a few words of encouragement about the day ahead or share excitement about seeing each other again soon.
4. Plan a family vacation (or staycation).
Making plans in advance for a family getaway — or time to unwind and play together at home — gives children something to look forward to during the days when mom or dad is stuck working late. And a trip or staycation needn’t be heavily scheduled. Says Wonders: “It’s really about the presence and connection, just having plenty of time to hang out and be there for each other.”
5. Share a special keepsake.
To ease a child’s anxiety, parents might hand off a special keepsake each day as they part. The item could be a small stone, glass pebble or other trinket, “something a child can keep in their pocket to reach in and touch during the day if they’re missing mom or dad,” says Wonders, noting that this practice is detailed in the classic children’s book “The Kissing Hand.”
Not only does prioritizing quality time help boost the parent-child bond, but it can also help ease moments of guilt when an adult must return to work.
For more on connecting as a family, check out:
- 4 Ways Summer Adventure Club Is Great for Children and Parents
- 9 Activities to Make the Most Out of the Summer with Your Child
- Why Family Mealtime Is Important for Your Kids (And You!)
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