From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension

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Working Parents with Young Children: What's Important?

Posted Jun 01, 2006.

Working Parents with Young Children: What's Important?

In our current economy most parents feel the need to work just to make ends meet. For single parents, work is not often an option. Guilt and a struggle between family needs, children’s needs, and personal goals can result. For mothers with a young child, the decision to return to work can be difficult. What makes a difference in how well children do?

An important study found that children of working parents did better when:

  • Mothers were warm and responsive with children
  • Child care was stable and of high quality
  • Children spent fewer hours in child care

The study indicates the overriding influence of family, especially the mother-child relationship, and the necessity of choosing child care wisely when it’s needed.

When work is needed, consider these tips:

  • Look for flexible hours. Part-time, work from home, or flexible hours are easier to work around family life. Families reported less stress when their jobs allowed them to take care of family issues.
  • Determine how many hours you can work and still have energy for your child and family. Parents who are rushed, tired, and preoccupied are not usually warm and responsive.
  • Look for stable, intimate child care relationships. While centers often provide enriching learning opportunities, staff turnover may be high. Nannies, relatives, or family care providers may offer more stable, intimate relationships.
  • Make one-on-one and family activities a priority: Take time to look at books, play games, prepare food, and talk about your day. Don’t let structured activities like day care, lessons, and sports become a substitute for parent-child experiences.
  • Leave work at work unless it gives more time with your child.
  • Remain involved in your child’s care and education.

Prioritizing relationships, carefully choosing and limiting child care, and finding flexibility and support to meet family needs are essential for balancing work and family life.

Keeping time and energy for your child builds the love, trust, and relationships your child will need for future success.

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