Parents heading back to work face an array of challenges. Whether you’re transitioning back to in-person work after COVID or it’s time to go back to the office after parental leave, facing what your new normal looks like can feel like a challenge. Not only will your kids have to contend with new daily expectations, but you’ll be facing lots of changes, too. That’s why Crème de la Crème put together this list of strategies you can use as you make this transition.
Help Kids Prepare With Contextual Information
Before you actually transition back to work, you’ll want to make sure your kids know what’s coming. Giving contextual, visual notice will go a long way. Though the amount of time any individual kid will need to prepare based on the advance notice you’re giving them will vary, most kids will find it helpful if you present the changes visually or in the context of other events.
For example, you can use a calendar to mark the days as the transition approaches. You could also contextualize the change with a detail like, “three days after your birthday.” Taking things out of abstract terms (such as the fact that mom is going back to the office) and making sure your child knows what that means for their lived, day-to-day experience (like how mom won’t be home for dinner twice a week) is also helpful.
In addition to talking about upcoming changes, you should also highlight things that will remain the same. So, if mom WILL be home every night for bedtime still, make sure the kids know that, too.
Set Clear Boundaries for Work
If you’re transitioning back to work with a new or reduced schedule, take some time to meet with your team and coworkers. Explain your new hours, and talk through ways to work together so that the new normal makes sense and benefits everyone. Even if your schedule hasn’t technically changed, though, make sure everyone is aware of when you are — and aren’t — available.
You may still have some flexibility to work from home for part of the time. That can be helpful, but it can also present some additional challenges. It’s difficult to perform in both parent and working mode simultaneously. To address this challenge, set some boundaries for yourself so you’re not trying to respond to an important email while enjoying a family meal.
Recognize Behavior as Communication
The transition back to work can feel like a challenge for kids, too. If yours are acting out, keep in mind that children often use their behavior as a means of communication. You’re likely to run into kiddos refusing to go to bed at bedtime or melting down at the breakfast table here and there.
Children don’t have the same developed language skills as adults, so they try to “tell” us how they feel through how they act. If you can pinpoint the feelings driving the behavior, you can better respond with empathy. Doing so can help spur more effective interactions, even when you’re facing negative behavior.
Model How to Problem-Solve
You can set a good example as you grapple with some of the more prickly parts of changing up your routine. Modeling problem-solving for your children will give kids healthy ways to tackle their own problems and feelings, both now and when they’re facing challenges the future.
Think about things you might do the night before and how to set your new routine so it works well for everyone. Your children will pick up on how you react to problems. If you have a partner, problem-solving together can further show the benefits of positive, collaborative communication. All in all, finding healthy methods of solving problems shows your kids that they too can solve problems that come their way.
Establish a Good Sleep Schedule
During time off from work or periods when you’re working from home, you may find your family slipping into a more relaxed sleep schedule. Need to finish a last-minute report? It’s been all too easy waiting until the kids are finally in bed knowing you could all sleep in the next day.
As you transition back to work, however, it’s important to set and stick to a schedule that helps every member of the family get the sleep they need. While it may be tempting to stay up late on days you don’t have anywhere to be first thing, maintaining a schedule can help everyone recalibrate their expectations and re-acclimate to the workday routine.
Practice Patience — With Your Kids and With Yourself
When it’s time to transition back to the workplace, no matter why you’ve been away, remember to practice patience. Yes, you’ll likely need to exercise patience as your kids (re)adjust to the routine. But it’s just as important to be patient with yourself as you make this big change.
Give yourself breathing room to get back in the swing of what work is like, and put blocks on your calendar so you have some time reserved to get back on top of emails, reports, or projects. Tackle the biggest things first, and take the time you need to make it through the rest. If you can avoid it, you might also try not to schedule big client meetings or presentations in the first few weeks.
Remind yourself you don’t need to be perfect the first day you’re back in-person in the workplace. You don’t have to be perfect that first week in. You might never achieve perfection. That’s fine, too. You should expect that it will take some time for your kids to get used to things as you make the transition back to work. Give yourself the same grace you give the kids as you make the change.That concludes Crème de la Crème’s list of tips for you to try as you make the shift back to work. Do you have another piece of advice we didn’t include here that every parent transitioning back to work needs to know? If you do, drop us a line so we can add your tip.