For children, summer is a time for recreation, education and relaxation.
But for many working parents, hours spent at the office keep them from sharing in those moments. Career commitments, though necessary, can inspire guilt.
“Parents want to make memories with their children,” says Lynn Louise Wonders, MA, LPC, RPT-S, an early childhood development and parenting 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:
Make time to talk
Set aside a time each day 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 minutes is OK; it’s all about being present,” says Wonders, who advises parents to find a quiet, distraction-free spot at work to place the call.
Adjust work schedules
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 on occasion or taking a summer Friday or half-day (if the policy exists). Whatever your approach, “the most important thing is to try to keep work time and ‘off’ time separate,” Wonders says.
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 mom and dad are thinking of them,” Wonders says. “It’s a really nice gesture.” She suggests parents jot down a few words of encouragement about the day ahead or share excitement about seeing each other again soon.
Plan a 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.”
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 the exchange 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 ways to enjoy the season: