Thursday, April 24 marks the 21st year of Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day, an activity that is recommended for kids ages eight to 18 years old. According to the official website, more than 37 million youth participated in the day last year. Originally called the Take Our Daughters to Work Program and founded by Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1993, it expanded to include boys in 2003.
As kids and teens head to the workplace to experience a day in your life, there are several ways to make the most out of the learning process:
1. Plan ahead. Whether you’re bringing your daughter or son, niece or nephew, grandchild or neighbor, ask him or her what he or she wants to learn. Initiate an ongoing dialogue to find out what the child is looking forward to the most so you can highlight that aspect. Find out how that aligns with the overall objective to allow for conversation and engage your shadow into thinking about work in ways he or she may not have considered previously.
2. Swap kids. To mix up the experience this year, see if your spouse can bring your child to his or her office; then next year, switch back to your office. Mix things up so your child gets to explore a new experience.
3. Talk to colleagues. Ask co-workers ahead of time about their past experiences and find out what they would have done differently. Find out what their kids got out of it and what they’re hoping they get out of it this year. Their answers may be different from yours and strengthen a foundation to build upon.
4. Enjoy the commute. Yes, the day is geared toward children and teenagers to immerse them in the experience, but the day is also for you. It can be a wonderful experience to share with your child and to bring him or her into your world, so your work life isn’t so ambiguous or mysterious. Enjoy the day and savor the commute by having a buddy with you along for the ride. The experience of going on a train, bus or car during rush hour can be another worthwhile part of your child's special day.
5. Create structure. Many companies have planned this day for months, with activities such as an office tour, leadership presentations, interactive age-appropriate activities and a pizza party. If activities aren’t necessarily planned, the organization’s website provides an activity center with ideas to encourage girls and boys to engage in the day and think about their dreams for their future.
For instance, some start with icebreakers, like asking kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Others involve having the kids interview you to find out what your favorite subject in school was, what your original career plans were, if they changed and why.
Another example from the website involves middle schoolers being tasked with a scavenger hunt. As they meet employees, the kids should ask questions such as why they love their job, one type of training or education requirement necessary for the job, one kind of reading material for this job and one skill a worker absolutely must possess.
6. Actually do some work. Time should be carved, usually at the end of activities, to have your kid join you at your desk to see you at work (even though you may not exactly be very productive).
7. Step away from the desk. If your company doesn’t have a specific agenda (and even if it does), take the initiative to ensure your child can get the most out of the experience. A trip to a conference room, the cafeteria and the mailroom, combined with interactions with people in other departments, are worthwhile. They will help give kids a sense of the big picture.
8. Talk to your kids. As you introduce your child to colleagues and politely nudge them to shake hands and make eye contact, explain on a macro level what the person does. Show how each person has a specific role and how you interact with them on a regular basis, and allow for your child to learn more about job titles and responsibilities.
9. Take notes. Based on the program's theme this year, "Plant a Seed, Grow a Future," some kids may have class assignments and certain things to learn and take back to school. Remember, the day is an opportunity to boost their self-esteem, learn about teamwork and think beyond stereotypes of men and women’s roles on and off the job.
10. Recap. At the end of the day, ask your child or teen what he or she enjoyed most about the day and what he or she learned – the answer may surprise you. Since the day is hopefully enjoyable for you too, take stock of your experience as well. Make it upbeat and interactive so your child is engaged and excited to come back next year.