THE BLOG
02/06/2013 03:30 pm ET Updated Apr 08, 2013

Parents: See Your Shadow

According to the official report, Punxsutawney Phil, "King of the Groundhogs," did not see his shadow on Groundhog Day -- nor did his common-folk cousin, Staten Island Chuck, see his. Folklore says that this means Spring will come early this year. For those of us who live in the colder regions of the country, this is a happy thought, but I want parents to see their shadow.

JA Job Shadow, one of the many great programs of Junior AchievementR, matches high school students with professionals to learn career perspectives. This is a great idea, but why not take your own child to work with you and have them be your "shadow" for the day?

Real-life situations are a great way to teach your child, and your workplace can serve as an excellent "classroom." Why just talk to your kids about your job when you can show them? But, the lessons go beyond showing your kids what you do during your work day.

In this age of electronic banking, we are increasingly removed from the physical handling of cash. Our paychecks are direct deposited into our checking accounts. Our children watch as we pay for groceries, gasoline, restaurant tabs and even parking meters with our "magic" plastic charge and debit cards. When we do need old-fashioned greenbacks, all we have to do is find one of those money machines (ATM), put our card in the slot, press a few buttons and, just like that, out comes cash! Our children need to see, firsthand, where those funds come from.

In previous blogs, I have discussed teaching your kids to budget their allowance, and how my allowance system operates on a "work for pay" principle. By taking your kids to work with you, they will see that this is the same for you -- you earn your salary to fund your budget. There is no such thing as a "free ride" in life.

For older kids, this is a good opportunity to learn about your career, the value of their education and the importance of study skills which lead to healthy work skills. You will also begin a dialogue with your children about their own career goals and interests.

5 Tips to Prepare for Bringing your Child to Work:

  1. Get clearance from your boss or employer to bring your child to work.
  2. Only introduce your child to a safe, age-appropriate environment -- driving your forklift or cleaning the outside windows on a skyscraper would not be a good idea!
  3. If your child will be missing classes, inform your child's school of your plan and have your child arrange for makeup work. When I pulled my kids out of school, they would keep journals and write a report for school. The teachers liked that so much that they would often have my kids present their reports to the class.
  4. Talk to your child about your career: why you chose it, what are the education/physical requirements, your duties and what it means to you.
  5. Teach your kids proper workplace behavior and manners.
Follow up with your child after your outing. Ask what they learned, what they thought about your job and what they want to do that will be the most fulfilling. I teamed with The Deloitte Foundation to provide my book, Life Inc.: The Ultimate Career Guide for Young PeopleTM , companion website and other tools to help middle and high school students begin thinking about future careers. Together, we reach 500,000 kids including 200,000 youth of our military and 110,000 youth from the National Urban League.

This April 25th marks the twenty-first annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work DayR, with more than 37 million youth and adults participating at over 3.5 million workplaces each year. But, in recent years there has been some controversy surrounding the organized event. Some school districts and educators around the country suggest that it is more important for your child to remain in school. They would prefer the date be changed to a time when kids don't normally have classes, such as Summer recess.

The inspirational, organized event is good, but why wait? I am in favor of supplementing your child's education. Enrichment through real world learning -- museum visits, attending a performance or taking your child to work -- is beneficial. This is even more important in difficult economic times when schools have been forced to eliminate extra-curricular and cultural programs. It is incumbent upon parents to see that their children are getting a well-rounded education. How about getting parents' permission to take one of your kid's friends along?

Come out of your burrow, take advantage of the promised early arrival of Spring and enjoy being "shadowed" by your child at work for a day!

Did your parents take you to work with them? Please share your memories with us in the space provided.