Do Your Children Know What You Do at Work?

During That’s My Mom and other related Education by Entertainment programs blindfolded middle and/or high school students are asked to identify which parent (to be selected from a panel of four or five parents) is theirs. The students are allowed to ask the panelists yes/no questions about what they do at work, but the answers to these questions are the only information provided. Typically, one student out of a panel of four to five students will correctly identify their parent! Their performance is at chance level!

On occasion students will perform better than chance in this activity. Indeed, this past week a panel of girl scouts performed 100% accurately. Performance better than chance is often due to an artifact, such as the parent says something rather than just holding their YES or NO sign, the parents on the panel do very different types of work, or the student knowing something unique about the parent (such as they refuse to use a cell phone or they have students write a story about a huge stuffed animal). More significantly, on occasion students perform well because they have either spent a day or two with their parents at work, attended a school assembly on careers or have extensive career discussions with their parents on a very regular basis. In all cases, after playing this game, students (even the high performing ones) and parents alike agree that they should spend more time speaking about work.

There is a great opportunity for students to learn more about work on Thursday, April 26, called Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® day. Employers of all size are encouraged to participate. The program, which is sponsored by The Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation, is celebrating its twentieth year with the theme “Build Opportunity: 20 Years of Education, Empowerment, Experience.” The organization offers numerous ideas for conducting a successful day on their web site. Many organizations develop their own programs using some of the suggestions provided and some activities generated from their own initiatives. A small business might simply encourage parents to bring their children to work, show them what they do, encourage the children to help out by doing a few work items, have lunch with coworkers and supervisors and their children. Programs receive very high ratings from participants. I have observed that the programs tend to increase student interest in thinking about their careers, improve parent-student communication, and improve employee morale.

I have also observed that workplace parent-student programs also provide an opportunity for communicating important messages to employees who are often too busy to attend or otherwise become impatient attending meetings. Instead, my observation is that when their children are present the parents are appreciative and highly attentive at programs. The parent’s learning from the programs is, of course, reinforced when they discuss them with their children.

Are there reasons to not participate? By design, the Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® program is on a school day. Some parents or schools may not approve of students missing the day at school. Rather than not participate, some employers may choose to have their program in June after the school year ends. Other employers may find that their business commitments don’t permit having a program on April 26. In this case, businesses should consider having their program on another day, rather than not having it at all.

In addition to hosting a Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® program some businesses, of course, have family days in which employees and their children have fun at a park, beach or other recreation area. While these days provide great opportunities for interaction, a family day does not afford the opportunities that a parent-child work program does, and should not be thought of as a substitute program.

Other career related programs for families might include businesses sponsoring youth groups. Also, businesses might consider offering a monthly evening Career Explorations program for high school students, focusing on different aspects of work during the school year. During the summer months, when high school students tend to be away from home, and college students tend to be home, businesses might consider sponsoring a monthly evening program, such as From College to Career to help students prepare for their career. Of course, these programs aren’t all altruistic. By helping students, parents might be less distracted with family issues and more loyal to the company. Furthermore, if the company is looking to expand in the future they may present a great recruiting opportunity. More information on these programs is available on the Education Resources Information web site

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