Ask Dr. Shore...
About Working Parents
Dear Dr. Shore,
My husband works full-time and I recently started a full-time job as well. I'm worried that both of us working outside the home might have a negative affect on our kids, especially in regard to their performance in school. What can I do to help them continue to do well in school, given our busy work schedules?
The first thing you need to do is recognize that your full-time work need not jeopardize your childrens school success. Research backs that assertion. Studies suggest that children in families in which mothers are employed outside the home generally fare well both academically and socially. A five-year study by Kent State researchers indicated that children in dual-career families perform better than children in single-career families on a variety of measures of academic and social performance.
At the same time, you will have less time available to them, so you will need to organize your time carefully, do some advance planning, and recognize that all family members will need to make sacrifices and be flexible in accommodating your and your husband's work schedules.
That is not to say that there won't be some pressures and conflicts. There no doubt will be, but those tensions can be eased with some careful planning. Some school-related suggestions follow:
Take steps to make weekday mornings less frenzied. Do school tasks -- including setting the breakfast table, making lunch, checking homework, and signing permission slips -- the night before rather than leaving them for morning. Also have your children lay out their clothing the night before. If they buy lunch at school, you might have a box with money easily accessible to them. If you still find that the morning is too rushed, try having everyone get up 15 minutes earlier.
Be available to the school by phone. Make sure the school has the work numbers of both parents. If one parent is more accessible, inform the school which parent should be contacted first.
Request time off from work. Consider asking your employer in advance for release time to allow you to attend school events or conferences. That might even be included in union contracts.
Make time during the evening to talk about school. If your children talk about their school day, listen attentively and show interest in what they are saying. You will have more success engaging your child in a discussion if you ask open-ended questions rather than questions requiring only a yes or no answer. Don't push it, though, if your child doesnt feel like saying much.
Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist who has worked in various public schools for more than 25 years. He has authored six books and produced a book and video series on bullying for schools and parent organizations called The ABCs of Bullying Prevention. Click to read a complete bio. For information on how to obtain his books and videos, go to his Web site.