What You Teach Your Child About Working

by Alison Bell

What You Teach Your Child About Working

Ever think about the message you’re sending your child about your job? That it’s fulfilling  — or irritating?

"You are your child’s first work role model," says Denver psychologist Thomas Olkowski, Ph.D. "The more enthusiastic you seem, the more likely it is that she’ll appreciate the value of work and be inspired to pursue a career she loves."

Of course, no one always enjoys her job. But even with work’s downsides, you can send an upbeat message by:

Talking up the joys

Many parents make a point of saying they wish they didn’t have to work to keep their kids from thinking they like their job better, says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a New York City- based research organization. "But emphasizing only that you need to work sends a negative signal."

Instead, she suggests, say "I like my job, and I also love being with you." This way, she’ll feel secure and receive a good impression about working.

Speaking your child’s language

Communicate in simple terms, recommends Olkowski. Joan Payne, a labor-delivery nurse in South Pasadena, CA, tells her 5-year-old, Melissa, "You know how good you feel when your brother falls down, and you give him a kiss? That’s how I feel at work when I help the mommies feel better."

Balancing complaints

If you have a bad day, it’s fine to tell your child. But put it in perspective by saying, "Just like you sometimes have a bad day at childcare but still like it, I can get upset about my day and still like my job."

Using discretion when blowing off steam

Talk to a friend when your child’s out of hearing range. "If she senses something is bothering you, she’ll try to find out what it is," says Galinsky.