Most family-friendly programs focus on supporting new parents, however parenthood also involves ongoing transition points as children grow from babies and toddlers to school-aged children and adolescents. With each new phase comes a new set of joys and challenges. Without effective ongoing support, later-stage working parents can be just as vulnerable as new parents to the conflict between work and family roles. Supporting parents to manage the varying stages of parenthood not only makes life easier for employees, it also builds an organisation’s reputation for being a family-friendly employer, leading to increased retention of employees and a stronger ability to attract new talent.
How does navigating this transition change across the three main stages (baby/toddlers, primary school kids, tweens & teens) of working parenthood?
Transition is the challenging time in between what’s known, to what is new. For working parents the challenges of each transition point are quite different based on what stage the kids are at, and each raises new challenges as far as work life integration goes.
In the early years, the focus is on the initial separation between parent and child, managing the logistics of childcare, as well as the emotional challenges this period brings (e.g. guilt, anxiety, stress). In primary school, parents are juggling the transition to school and all that brings with it – i.e.. shorter school hours, school holidays, extracurricular activities and school admin. By the time the kids are in high school, the challenges for parents centre around helping teenagers navigate puberty, increased independence, and the pressures of senior year studies.
What strategies can organisations employ to support parents as their family matures?
- Know who your working parents and carers are
- Implement policies that support Parental Leave and flexible working arrangements
- Promote awareness and focus resources on the ongoing key transition points
- When employees ask for support, adopt a ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ attitude
- Encourage employees to use leave as needed
- Promote the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and how it can help with transition points
- Facilitate connections within the business and external partners as required
- Pay special attention to employees with caring challenges or change of circumstances
- Remain inclusive by considering non-parents in initiatives where possible
Through our work with the Perinatal Workplace Wellbeing Program (PWWP), what we heard from our research participants was that, although organisations are increasingly interested and engaged in supporting new parents, there is a real need for ongoing support as children get older.
The good news is, it’s often not hard to start making a big difference simply by asking your employees what they would most value in terms of organisational support.
It’s very encouraging that workplaces are supporting new parents, but it can’t just stop there – working parents need support throughout the ongoing seasons too.