Take Your Child to Work Day is coming this month. To my 4-year-old, my life consists of taking care of him, making his meals, taking him to and from school and one other thing: work. He knows I go to work, he is starting to understand that work means we have money to buy things, but it was still a confusing concept to him until I took him to my office for the afternoon. I couldn’t explain much about the details of my job, but for him it became real. It became a place with people in it, with desks and elevators. And, to his delight, it was a place with snacks. It was a small step forward, but an important one.
Now named Take Your Child to Work Day, it comes on the 4th Thursday of April every year. From that one afternoon I learned that showing my child my life, even though he’s still young, helped me make a real connection with him.
For Younger Children
The initial goals of Take Your Child to Work Day should be small. Show your child where you work, let them see the place and meet your coworkers. Turning the abstract concept of “work” into something concrete can help your child understand things about your life they couldn’t before. It can also help build dinnertime conversation to include not just “What did you do at school today?” but also “Here’s what I did at work today.”
Younger children will require more planning on your part. Consider whether a half day or a full day is a better fit. While you can bring along games or books to entertain them, think about ways you can involve them in your work and explain it at a level they can understand. Think about what meetings and deadlines you may or may not want to schedule.
For Older Children
When a child is old enough to have strong interests, think about how to work them into your day. Talk to coworkers in other departments about bringing your child to meet with them for a while. A child with artistic ability can sit in on the Design department, one who enjoys math can visit with Finance or Engineering, and one who loves to write can find common ground with PR or Marketing.
You may not want to bring them to your office year after year, so consider trading kids with a family friend so you can expose your child to different careers. Since the goal for older children is not just building a connection but also helping them envision their own future, variety can be helpful.
For All Children
Invite some colleagues for lunch. Help guide conversation to what kind of subjects everyone enjoyed in school, what hobbies they had, what they wanted to be when they grew up. See if your office has any formal programs planned for the day. Explore activities you can do together, there are suggestions at the Take Your Daughter to Work Day site. Finally, talk to your child about what they want to do to make them a part of it.