Those of us who work sometimes feel that we are doing our children a disservice (I know I struggle with that feeling occasionally). Sure, we bring home a paycheck that benefits our children, but we may also miss activities or other aspects of their daily lives. This can be especially true in two-earner families (like mine). But in addition to greater financial security, our jobs also provide opportunities for our children to learn many other life skills that they can use throughout their lives.
Being consistently employed and engaged in our work demonstrates an essential life skill to our children: responsibility. Duty and responsibility are implicated in every aspect of human life, from work and family to spirituality and community. Responsibility’s sister traits include punctuality and perseverance, both of which are transferable to all areas of our children’s future lives.
Living successfully and happily requires loyalty and commitment. Many of our relationships expect loyalty from us: employers, business partners, and family members. Loyalty is a measure of respect given to those we care about and those with whom we are interdependent.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “work hard, play hard”. Our kids watch what we do every day. If we work responsibly but take out time to spend with our families and recharge, we set a good example for our kids.
One of the best skills we can pass along to our children is money management. With a paycheck comes the opportunity to teach our children about income and expenses. Kids need to understand the basic essentials of finance – especially concepts such as budgeting, income, expenses, and credit. Learning these lessons at an early age can help them avoid financial pitfalls later in life. Also, once they are old enough to understand, don’t be afraid to talk with them about the estate planning you’ve set up for them, in case anything happens to you. It’s a gift to them to know you love and care for them enough to handle your affairs in advance.
When we talk about our jobs and the people we work with, our kids learn a lot about human relationships and coping skills. Many days, there are teachable moments in which we can use our work issues to model life skills such as successful communication and conflict resolution.
Most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours at work. We can use these experiences to help our children learn valuable skills which can be translated to many areas of their lives. Of course, our children naturally want to emulate us so if we do not deal well with work challenges, our children can learn negative skills from us.
So I invite all you other working parents to let go of the guilt, take time to reflect on the effect our actions and behaviors have on our kids, and use our jobs as opportunities to help them build tools for successful futures.