Bring your child to work day is the fourth Thursday in April, a time when offices around the country open their doors to give their employees' sons and daughters a glimpse of the working world. While bring your child to work day began with a focus on empowering girls, most workplaces now welcome boys and girls equally.
If your employer has an official program for bring your child to work day, you're in luck! Find out the coordinator's name and sign your child up pronto.
But even if there's nothing formal planned, you can still enjoy bring your child to work day. With some forethought, it can be a wonderful bonding opportunity for you and your children.
Check With Your Manager
Before you decide to bring your child to work, make sure to check with your manager and colleagues. You'll want to ensure there are no important meetings, work travel or big deadlines scheduled that day and that everyone's prepared for the pipsqueak to appear.
Ask questions like:
- Does it make sense for your child to stay for the entire work day?
- Where should she sit?
- Are there any hazards or sensitive areas I should keep her away from? (For instance, if you work in a construction site, laboratory or area with toxic chemicals.)
- Is it okay to take a longer-than-usual lunch break with my child?
Decide How Long She'll Stay
If your child is an infant or young child, it's probably best to keep the visit short so that you can get back to work without worrying about entertaining her. Think about your child's temperament when planning how long she'll stay at your workplace.
Can you bring toys or activities to entertain her? Is your baby an easy napper, likely to doze in the stroller and let you work for hours? (If so, I want video evidence, since I don't believe such a child exists!)
Once you determine the ideal length of time, you'll have to figure out how to get her back and forth from school or child care, and what time of day would be best. If you work close to her school, it may be easy to pop in and out. If not, consider a carpool with other parents who might want to bring a child to work. Or see if your spouse, neighbor, other family member or babysitter might be willing to help.
Plan Your Visit
The whole idea behind bring your child to work day is to give girls and boys an idea of what their parents do at work, so they can start thinking about career possibilities for themselves. With this in mind, consider what experiences will give your child a taste of your job.
Some of the most powerful activities have an interactive element. Employers who run "bring your child to work day" programs might set up a roundtable discussion, give a guided tour of the workplace or arrange hands-on workshops based on each department's expertise.
If you're running solo, you can ask willing colleagues to demonstrate the most accessible parts of their job. Children love anything to do with money, such as a cashier letting them ring up a sale or the payroll manager showing them how to cut checks. They'll also be interested in the impact of your job, since many children believe mom and dad just play on the computer and talk on the phone all day long.
Don't underestimate the fun your child will have experiencing the daily commute, cup of coffee and lunch break with you. Be prepared for your son or daughter to enjoy traveling by subway or bus, or simply receiving a cool parking receipt in the garage.
Talk to the School
Don't forget to talk to your child's school and teachers to let them know she'll be absent for bring your child to work day. Ask about any make-up work or homework that you should get in advance -- that can be a quiet activity during a lull in the day.
Most schools will be supportive of your child going to work with you, as long as the day doesn't fall on a field trip or big test. The further in advance you ask, the better.
Talk to Your Child
Last, but certainly not least, talk to your child. Discuss what you do for a living and ask if she has any particular interests or aspects of your workplace that she'd like to see.
Sketch out the basic plan for the day and mention any surprises that she should expect. Be sure to touch on appropriate office behavior and dress, especially if you have a teenager.
Ask your child what expectations and goals she has for the day. Not that you have to meet them all -- but forewarned is forearmed!