Kids tend to model their behavior on what they observe their parents doing, which is why it’s so important to set the best example you can early in their lives. Admittedly, that can be a hard thing to do. There are times that parents do things they wouldn’t want their children to do. One of the most dominant impressions that parents make has to do with their attitude toward work and whether they’re able to achieve a healthy work/life balance. The “Preacher” in Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is “a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1). This includes work and the obligations of family. It’s hard for children not to notice when a parent’s commitment to work bleeds into his or her private life and takes away from time with family. It’s especially important for a single parent to set a good work/life example since yours may be the only example they see on a regular basis.
It’s Not Easy
Whether you’re a single parent or not, it can be extremely difficult to strike a balance between work and family. Managing day-to-day stresses can be extremely taxing. But it’s an excellent opportunity to show kids why it’s important not to let work overwhelm your entire life. Stress is damaging to your body and can affect every part of your life. Finding breathing room in your work week and in your finances is vital not only to your health but to your children’s understanding of the relationship between work and life. Stress can impact kids as well. They’re under pressure to succeed also, so it’s definitely not too early to impart good values and habits. Here are a few lessons to model for your kids.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
Children sometimes overextend themselves, believing that success in school means working harder and longer, which is an easy trap to fall into for anyone, regardless of age or experience. Make sure your child understands that adding responsibilities and commitments won’t help when they’re already feeling overwhelmed. School, sports, and extracurricular activities are important, but everyone needs downtime to rest, which is the key to being successful and productive. Try explaining what happens to you when you feel run down and stretched too thin, as well as how important it is to stay healthy.
This is an important point for everybody. Effective time management can make it much easier to maintain a balance between work and family, and it can help your children. Set up a schedule for the school year, with time marked out each night for homework and nothing else. Make sure there’s time for a break each night and that they build in time on the weekends to get away from school and personal responsibilities and just have fun. Budgeting time for each activity keeps you from losing track of your time.
Recognize What Causes Stress
Knowing what makes you feel stressed is the first step in controlling your response. Explain to your kids how easy it is to get upset by financial stress and that you’ve had to develop strategies for coping with it. These might include careful budgeting and utilizing various financial management apps that show you where the money goes and how you can be smarter when money is tight. Make sure your child understands that while you can’t necessarily prevent financial stress, you can maintain good work/life balance by putting plans in place to successfully cope with these inevitable stressors.
Kids are often under a tremendous amount of stress and, like you, may struggle to keep things in perspective. As a parent, look for opportunities to show how you employ tactics that keep you from becoming overwhelmed.