I’ve worked from home for the past six years as a writer, editor, and media personality for The Motley Fool. For that period I’ve had to juggle my son, who is now 16, when he gets home from school, on vacation days, on those random days when schools close seemingly just to annoy parents, and, of course, during the long, long summer.
I’m lucky that I have a lot of flexibility with much of what I do. Sure, I have meetings some days and podcasts tape at certain times, but I can write pretty much whenever. And, sometimes, that means putting in odd hours to be a better parent.
Make time for your teen
On some days I simply have to work roughly normal hours (I tend to work more 7-3 than 9-5 in general). During those days my son would be entirely happy to play videogames and watch videos on his phone, maybe occasionally stopping to text a friend.
I try to not let that happen by including him in my work routine. That might mean having lunch together or him having a drink while I have my morning coffee. When I take a break, I make sure to drag him off his devices and at least engage in a conversation (which can be quite the challenge with a teenage boy).
Be flexible (if you can be)
During the summer I can’t take 10 weeks off or even just work part days like I often do during random days off, long weekends where my wife still has to work, and even weeklong school vacations.
Because I have a lot of flexibility in when I work, I have been known to get up early and work from 5-11 or so and then spend the rest of the day with my son. Maybe we go somewhere, maybe we watch movies on the couch, or maybe we play videogames together. The important thing is that I’m making an effort to spend time and engage.
That’s not always easy. I don’t love getting up before my normal wakeup time and I really don’t like working late-night hours, but I often do both because it frees up my day to spend time doing things with my son.
Adopt a hobby your child is into
I’m not a big videogame guy but my son, like many teenage boys, plays an awful lot of them. I can’t keep up when it comes to the latest shooting game and while I buy every “Star Wars” game, I generally get stuck on the opening scene that teaches you how everything works.
So that we can have some activity together, even when my schedule or other circumstances don’t let us leave the house, I got a Nintendo Switch. My son wins nearly every time but the Switch has games like Mario Kart that I can play reasonably that are also fun.
My son and I have also been known to pull out Uno and we’ve even played dominoes on occasion. Are these either of our favorite things to do? No, of course not, but they’re things we can do together that create at least some socialization when we’re both at home.
Make an effort
Teenagers, from my experience, can entertain themselves. A teen plus a phone can kill a whole day, but that’s probably not a very healthy choice.
As a parent who works from home, when my son has an off-day, an off-week, or even an extended break, I try to make sure to engage with him as much as I can. That’s not always as much as I would like — sometimes work gets in the way — but it’s likely more than he would request if given the choice.
Trying to be an involved parent can interfere with my productivity and force me to work weird hours and/or weekends. I’m hoping it’s worth it and that in the future (likely many years from now) my son appreciates the effort.
–By Daniel B. Kline