For kids, a parent going off to work is a normal part of life. Mom and/or dad wake up early, kiss them goodbye and return eight to 10 hours later to have dinner, relax and tuck them into bed.
But how is that time away spent? What exactly do they do?
Explaining what mom or dad does at work or on a business trip can be like reading a fairy tale with no pictures. You can give them a general idea of what his or her job entails and even show them pictures of the building or town they work in. After that, kids are left to fill in the details with their own imaginations. Therefore, no amount of explaining can create as clear a picture as taking your son or daughter along with you to work.
Take Your Kids to Work Day has become commonplace in many offices. Making it fun for the kids, employers often arrange activities, such as face painting, balloon animals, hotdog stands, ice cream vendors and more. Some kids also get the opportunity to sit in on meetings, send memos and other duties created to help them gain a better understanding of their parents’ workday. But, what if mom or dad spends much of their time traveling for work?
When a child learns that his or her parent is flying to another state or overseas, you can only imagine what they picture in their heads. A business trip together can be the perfect way to take the mystery out of your travels. Before heading out, be sure to explain that this is a business trip first and a family outing second. This way, if you’re not planning on taking them along to work, they don’t feel neglected.
Preteens and Teens
Preteens and teens can be especially curious about what a parent does when he or she is away on business. They, of course, assume that mom or dad is off laying poolside while they are left to stay home. Taking them along is a great way to show them that it is not a luxury vacation. This is hard work; the work that pays for their clothes, food, phone, activities, and college.
Picking the right trip to take your teen on is important. You’ll want to choose the one that gives them the opportunity to observe a sampling of what you do; visiting a factory, attending a trade show, or perhaps even running a board meeting are some good examples. Within these situations, your teen will be able to witness – firsthand– your enthusiasm, professionalism, and dedication to what you do. This is also a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate what a healthy work ethic and attitude look like even when the days are long, hard and boring.
Of course, there will be moments that your teen will be asked to leave the room or areas that he or she will not be allowed to enter. While you are busy, he or she can be sitting outside the conference room or in an empty cubicle catching up on homework, reading a book or chatting with friends on social media until your return.
If your kids are young, this trip can take a lot more planning. Depending on your situation, you will want to have a spouse or other responsible adult come along. You may also seek childcare services for business professionals in the area. To keep the days fun for both the children and their attendee(s), you will want to plan for things that they can do in the hotel room or apartment. Kindles, paper books, coloring books, movies, board games or card games are just a few things my wife and I have packed when taking our children out of town. We also look for hotels with indoor/outdoor pools, water parks or onsite entertainment.
For both younger children and teens, it’s also a good idea to search for nearby attractions you can visit as a family. When traveling within the U.S., we always refer to the National Park Service website to find nearby attractions. With 419 different locations featuring both nature and history, we always find sites that are educational and fun. When traveling abroad, we’ve also found tripadvisor.com to be another great resource.
During these off-the-clock moments, I also recommend turning off your phone and unplugging your devices, so that you can enjoy uninterrupted time with your family. Of course, this isn’t always possible. But if you can, do. Life is too short to let these precious moments slip away.
As the husband of a successful female executive, I know all too well how hard it can be for women in leadership to stay connected with their kids. In my book, Lean On, I explore challenges non-traditional families face and how you can make it all work for your family.