Jewellery designer Lisa Zampolin was edging jewellery with pendants during quarantine when her 13-year-old son had an idea. “Mom, we should give your angel bracelets to all the nurses and doctors who follow you on Instagram!” The next thing he knew, Zampolin’s followers were the messages and addresses of health workers from all over the country, and his sons packed and sent 200 angel bracelets. “I have teenage boys. They never paid attention to my jewellery,” said Zampolin laughing. “But now that I work from home instead of in the showroom, they see me in a completely new light: as an entrepreneur.”
It’s 9 a.m. Do you know where your parents work?
Following various stay-at-home orders, every day it is time take your child to work day while millions of parents work alongside school-age children. The challenges are considerable, as evidenced by the memes about working from home, but experts see a silver lining. Now children can learn what their parents really do for a living, see how hard they work to make a living and possibly gain new appreciation for them.
“In my job as a family and child therapist, I ask a lot of questions, but what affects almost all children is, ‘What do your parents do for a living?'”, said San Diego psychologist Ron Stolberg, professor at Alliant International University and co-author of “Teaching children to think”. “I get blank looks, overly broad answers and a look of amazement when they realise they have no idea.”
Seeing the professional identity of a parent – skilfully conducting a Zoom meeting, being treated with respect by colleagues and being important in the business context – can have a profound impact. “Children are taking a look at [their parents’] professional life at a time we have never seen before, and here is a huge opportunity for learning, sharing, growth and connection, both for children and parents,” said Neha Chaudhary, psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-founder of Brainstorm, Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation.
Fred and Maureen Schmidt, owners of the Florida Shade Critters swimwear company, have long involved their children, 12 and 14 years old, in their business, but in “fun ways”, like putting them in a photo shoot. “Now that we have swimming costumes arranged throughout our home, our daughter is looking for suitable samples from the pre-algebra classes and our son helps design textile prints,” said Maureen Schmidt. “In addition, they listen to us to discuss the most trivial details of the business, from website and ad analysis to shipping. They are seeing how hard we work. ”
Ahhh, the workload. Often left in the office, this is now laid bare for everyone. “Witnessing parents’ energy production during the day is disconcerting for the children, and many are finding a new appreciation for this experience on a daily basis,” said therapist John Sovec, a specialist in teenagers. “I see that teenagers are taking on more tasks to help parents run the house smoothly and not just looking for money in return for chores.”
When parents work at home, young children also receive the message that life does not revolve around them and that work comes before play. Independent educational consultant Colleen Paparella Ganjian in Vienna, Va., models this by founding her 7-year-old daughter with a daily planning advice similar to the one she uses. “Once she has finished her work, she has free time. Just like me. ”
Working at home with two young children, Bolanle Williams-Olley, financial director of the Mancini Duffy architectural firm in New York, tries to set a good example. “The other day my daughter and I were in my bed, trying to get 30 minutes of productive time,” she said about her 6-year-old daughter. “I had my laptop and she had her programming lesson. Watching me concentrate, she is learning to be disciplined to pass her homework”.
Older children can also learn from the emotional toll of the pandemic on businesses. “Most of the companies in our portfolio have fought for this and much of my day is dedicated to Zoom, helping CEOs make plans to survive, often including decisions to reduce the number of employees,” said Mike Troiano, partner of Boston venture capital firm G20 Ventures. He has rarely discussed the job with his three children (11, 14 and 18) who used to live at home, but now with an 18-stairs commute to the dining table, he is coming in without the buffer of a podcast or Springsteen tracks and is more eager to share. “Now the children are getting a more complete picture of what it means to drive and the emotional costs of doing what is required.”
Time will tell whether this proximity drives children to follow in the footsteps of their parents’ careers, but Seattle-based gastroenterologist Steven Shaw, who has added home telemedicine appointments to his hospital rounds, believes it could be. “Although my video calls to patients are behind closed doors for privacy, my [10-year-old] son recently said he wants to shadow me at work. My 13-year-old daughter has long wanted to be a doctor, but now she appreciates the work involved. ”
The pandemic also offers children an intensive course in the professional pivot, while working parents climb up to adapt to this new virtual normality. Natasha Augoustopoulos has always taught yoga on site at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York, but since then she has started creating YouTube video sessions for students in her flat converted yoga studio. “I didn’t have a tripod, no filming equipment or anything,” he said. Augoustopoulos enlisted his 9-year-old daughter as an iPhone director and video filmmaker and as a participant in partner yoga videos. “My daughter says she loves my work because it helps people, and she smiles proudly when I tell her it’s part of it,” she said. The duo recorded more than 30 videos together.
“Interestingly, this time at home has allowed a different kind of learning for children,” said Chaudhary of Harvard Medical School, who believes that helping a parent can be quite effective for children. “So far, book learning has been the star of the show, but practical, hands-on learning has come into play”.
The shift to remote working can also reverse the dynamic, as dependence on technology has created an environment where children can finally have an advantage over their parents. A Take your parents to Tech and Social Media School if you want. Don’t expect them to always see into your eyes. Shade Critters was brainstorming on how to use TikTok and if it made sense for the brand. “One idea was a poolside challenge, like a cannonball or a synchronised swimming TikTok,” said Fred Schmidt. “But the kids thought it was better to keep TikTok to professionals: teenagers.”
Written by: Lauren Parker
Find out more about working from home successfully with your children here!