Talk to the Kids about Your Work


Talking about your job has a positive impact on your children.

By Jim Marggraff

 

Parents spend eight-plus hours of their days at work – a significant part of their lives – and yet many moms and dads don’t talk about their work at home

This is a missed opportunity. Sharing work stories makes children feel involved in their parents’ lives while opening up priceless opportunities for parents to teach life lessons in problem-solving.It may take some creative storytelling to help children grasp certain concepts, but the effort is well worth it.

Don’t worry that your work will bore the kids. Any parent can have exciting, helpful conversations with their children about their job, regardless of their profession.

Following are some careers that at first may not seem kid-friendly but it’s how parents tell relevant stories about their jobs that engages their youngsters:

Accounting: Accountants often work with strict deadlines and cycle through busy periods, whether that’s tax season or end-of-the-month closings. They can gamify their scheduling habits and show their kids how they manage to fit all their work in and still make it home for dinner. A hands-on approach might be making an actual game board or calendar with moving pieces. Kids can help think through scheduling conflicts and problem-solve together.

One of the challenges of being an accountant is having to sit back and watch clients make poor decisions. Parents who work in this field can share these frustrations with their school-aged kids, explaining why they advised a client to do one thing and how they responded when that person took the opposite action. Children will learn about decision-making from these scenarios and understand from an early age that recklessness has consequences.

Data Entry: Data entry gets typecast as a boring and even mind-numbing job, but there are still plenty of ways to make it seem interesting to children. Data entry specialists can introduce their kids to the concepts behind databases and computer programming. They can also talk to them about automation and artificial intelligence, inspiring curiosity in these technologies instead of fear. Learning how computer systems work from an early age could set kids up for a lifelong interest in technology, not to mention that coding is the skill of the future for everyone and could lead to a lucrative, rewarding career.

Sales: Salespeople have to exhibit strong interpersonal skills and become experts at persuasion. On any given day, they can share with their kids how they educated a customer on the benefits of their product. These stories can spark conversations about provocative areas, such as psychology and ethics.

In terms of problem-solving, sales representatives can explain to their kids how they generate leads during slow seasons and what they do when they’re not selling as many products as expected. No matter what professional fields their children pursue, they’ll carry these lessons of resilience and creativity with them for the rest of their lives.

Custodian: Perhaps the biggest obstacle for parents who hold custodial positions is the stigma that can surround this field. It’s important that parents who are custodians talk about their jobs when their kids are young. They can tell them funny stories when they’re little, but they should be candid as the children get older. If someone treats them poorly because of their job, their kids are likely to develop empathy from hearing their experiences.

Manager: For people managers, life is full of lessons to bring home. These lessons offer an excellent method to show children of all ages that adults are not perfect and encourage youth to consider how their own decisions will affect their future.

For instance, sharing a story about a difficult employee facing consequences (perhaps even termination) could be eye-opening for an older child or teen. Doing so can result in reflection, especially if the teen's parent asks for his opinion on the situation.

Any job is more than the role, and it's a question of what one brings to it. Passion and commitment to quality, with respect garnered resulting from these attitudes, can transcend any "title." There are always ways for parents to connect with their children about work. Young kids crave quality time with their parents and are fascinated by their worlds. Parents can use this adoration to educate and bond with children, casting their role as exciting, relevant, and inspiring.

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Jim Marggraff is a serial entrepreneur dedicated to developing innovative technologies. Jim’s latest company, Eyefluence, was recently acquired by Google. He also invented the Leap Pad learning system and the Livescribe smartpen, helping students and adults around the world. Jim is not only an entrepreneur himself, but also a parent of entrepreneurs. Currently, Jim is working on a parenting book about raising founders. To keep up with Jim and his book, follow him on Twitter @JimMarggraff.