November 18, 2014

Never bring your boss a work life balance problem

This morning, a male friend called me with a management issue. He wanted my thoughts on how to handle a situation with one of his female employees who is struggling with a work and family conflict. 

The problem is that each member of his staff takes a turn with a task that requires they stay late at the office one night a week. This one employee, a mom, has a young child at daycare and finds it impossible to rely on her husband or a family member to pick the child up when it is her turn to stay late.  She approached her boss and told him she couldn't continue to stay late once a week. 

"She's a good employee," my friend explained. "I don't want her to quit. But we are making everyone else take a turn at staying late."

My immediate response was to rattle off questions. 

First, why is this just this woman's problem? If there's a father in the picture, why isn't he working to find a solution, too?

Second, if she knows in advance she needs to stay late once a week, why can't she plan for it?

Last, and most important, why did she approach her boss with a problem, rather than a solution?

The number one rule in negotiation of a work life accommodation is bring a solution to the table.

I advised my friend to tell his employee to come back with a proposed solution to this dilemma. Then, she and her boss can negotiate from there.

If I were the frustrated mom, I might have asked my boss if there's a task I could take on early in the day in order to skip my turn on the late night rotation.

Long ago, I learned that bosses respond best to proposed solutions rather than problems. Because this woman's co-workers are single or have no kids, there is a possibility of resentment. As a manager, my friend needs to make sure whatever accommodation he makes for this working mom comes off as fair to all. 

We work in an era when the needs of the 21st Century workforce must be considered. In two-job families, men and women may both confront work life balance challenges. No one wants to lose his or her job over a child care issue. And, a good boss wants to keep a good employee. 

As I hung up with my friend, he said: "Let's see what she comes up with. I really want this to work out."

I pretty sure most bosses feel that way. 


August 19, 2014

Working parents biggest fears

I shouldn't say I'm shocked but I am. How is it that in 2014, at a time when most mothers and fathers work, we still fear that we will be fired when our family needs interfere with work demands?

It's interesting that men almost fear bringing up child care issues with their boss more than women do. A dad I know once told me I was lucky that I had a flexible work arrangement and said his boss would get angry if he asked for one. I urged him to ask but I don't think he ever did. 

A new Bright Horizons Modern Family Index survey of 1,000 working moms and dads with at least one child under 18 still in the home shows:

  • working parents fear family responsibilities could get them fired
  • fathers are just as stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts as mothers
  • 39 percent of parents fear being denied a raise because of family responsibilities
  • 37 percent of parents fear they will never get promoted while 26 percent worry about a demotion because of family responsibilities
  • 22 percent worry that family commitments will cost them key projects at work
  • 19 percent believe they won’t be invited to important meetings because of family obligations
  • Working parents are nervous to bring up key family-related issues with their employers

That's a lot of fear, isn't it? We all know that business is about making profit or showing performance but workers are the ones who make that happen. When we have to choose between leaving a sick kid home alone or going to work, that's a tough choice we shouldn't have to make.

Here's something all employers should note: . Those working parents who do feel supported by their employer report strong loyalty.

David Liss, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, said it well:  "it is clear that working parents throughout the U.S. are still struggling to manage all of their responsibilities, and many still feel that they cannot be honest with their supervisors about needing to be available and active in their family lives."

As a working parent, showing vulnerability to the wrong boss can be career suicide. And so, out of fear, we lie. In the survey working parents -- moms and dads --  admitted to lying or bending the truth to their boss about family responsibilities that get in the way of work. Some revealed they have faked sick to meet family obligations. Others said they lied about missing a work event because of a family commitment or the reason why they didn't respond to emails.

Again, all very pathetic but shockingly understandable.

Over my years as a working parent, I found a supportive boss makes all the difference in being a successful working parent and achieviing work life balance. If I hadn't had a supportive boss when my kids were really little, I couldn't have kept my job. The survey shows 41 percent of working parents agree with me.

Have you ever been fearful that family needs will get you fired? Do you think fathers get less of a break at work and have more reason to be fearful than mothers?

March 20, 2014

Spring Break isn't what it used to be

One day last week, my friend called me and was panicked. Unexpectedly, she was told she needs to travel for work next week during her kids' Spring Break. "I have to go or we'll lose the client," she told me.

Usually, I offer sympathy. But this time, I took a different tactic. I asked her how she'd feel if she stayed home. Would she be enjoy herself and feel like she was on vacation? Or would she be consumed with guilt and worried about what was going on at work without her? I suspect the later.

Don't get me wrong, I treasure my time with my kids. I look forward to spring break every year with them. But while I don't endorse making work a priority over children, sometimes making a sacrifice in your personal life is necessary to keep a job. 

Around me I see working parents unable to get time off to be with their kids for Spring Break. They are scrambling to find a low cost option to keep their kids busy. Even those of us fortunate enough to take time off will most likely stay connected to our jobs by checking our email. Most of us working parents are far away from the days when Spring Break was a time to cut lose and soak up the sun without responsibilities.

I assured my friend that even if she grabs one afternoon of uninterrupted beach time with her kids, she has achieved the goal of breaking from her daily routine. In the end, work life balance is about making work and family blend the best we can -- and not beating ourselves up when life doesn't go as planned. 




August 21, 2013

There is help for working moms (and dads)

The start of the school year is hectic in my home. Judging by the conversations in the school supply aisle of Target this week, I'm not alone. But I know lots of working moms (and dads) who are making their work life balance easier this year by outsourcing responsiblities.

Today, in my Miami Herald column, I wrote about this trend. I'm convinced, there will be even more services catering to working parents in the next few years.


There’s help for busy moms who can’t do it all

Customers Zora Guzman and Mateo use the Moms Helping Moms shuttle.
Customers Zora Guzman and Mateo use the Moms Helping Moms shuttle. 



Just after breakfast, a van pulls up at the Lopez home in Coral Springs. Thirteen-year-old Emily gets in and heads off to middle school, saving mom, Diana, from delaying her 1 ½-hour commute to her job in Miami. The same shuttle picks Emily up after school and takes her to ballet class. Some afternoons, it picks up her older sister at home and takes her to be tutored in math or takes her home from school if she stays late for a club meeting.

Lopez, an international private banker whose husband works in Miami too, says hiring a transportation service has been the only way she can keep a regular work schedule, be home for dinner and have her children participate in after-school activities. “I believe in the theory that it takes a village to raise a child,” Lopez says. “But these days, we’re hiring the village.”

Working parents today are paying others to do things for our children that our parents did themselves — drive our kids to school, help them with homework, cook for our families and take them to baseball practice. The services are needed because things have changed dramatically for working mothers in the last few decades. For starters, there are simply many more moms in the labor force. The participation rate has skyrocketed to more than 70 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Family economics have change dramatically, too. As the number of women in the workforce swelled, so, too, did their contribution to family income. A record 40 percent of all households with children include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11 percent in 1960. With mothers contributing more, managing a household becomes a simple equation of trading money for time.

It can be an expensive exchange — financially and emotionally — and not everyone can afford it.

“It’s a struggle working moms go through,” Lopez says. “We ask ourselves, ‘Am I passing off something I should be doing myself?’ But then, we have to be realistic.”

Moms Helping Moms, the northwest Broward County shuttle service used by the Lopez family, gets $60 to $80 per child per week for roundtrip carpooling within five miles — more for greater distances. Founder Sharron Gay says she launched her business three years ago. As a mom who commuted an hour to work, she saw the need. “Life is too short to feel guilty or overwhelmed. We’re here to make your life easier,” the website boasts.

Gay’s five vans, driven only by moms, shuttle kids to school, activities, orthodontist appointments and sports practices. They even pick up sick children from school and bring them home. Gay says she offers the service moms want — assuring them that the bus won’t leave until the child enters the home safely. “We do things the way moms would,” she says. Gay says her service is profitable and she has plans to add more vans and new geographic areas by 2014.

Others see opportunity, too. Fueled by demand from working parents, a burgeoning cottage industry handling chores for working parents is flourishing. There are reading specialists who get $40 to $50 an hour to assist students individually at their homes on reading and writing. There are businesses that will bring dinner to hungry kids waiting for mom and dad to get home from work.

Ryan Sturgis, a partner in Delivery Dudes, says his business picks up meals from local restaurants and delivers them to Broward County homes. It has seven geographic locations (plans to add more) and charges a $5 delivery fee.

“We get a lot of moms who call on their way home from work. We tell them we can be there with dinner within 45 minutes.”

Some parents turn their world upside down to manage responsibilities before finally accepting that they can’t do it all. Eventually, they discover outsourcing a necessary expense to keep their jobs, reduce stress or get ahead in the workplace.

Miami mother Gabrielle D’Alemberte, makes a priority of the things she feels a mother should do, such as attending school functions and tucking her daughter into bed. But the single mom says she couldn’t continue to work as a trial attorney if she didn’t outsource some tasks at work and home. She has hired someone to pick her daughter up from the bus stop and take her to ballet lessons. In the past, she has hired a company to deliver meals to her home and she’s employed someone to go over her daughter’s homework and review for tests.

D’Alemberte specializes in litigation against large international resorts and often travels for work.

“I could not have had the job and profession I’ve chosen without the help I have gotten in bringing up my wonderful 13 year old,” she says. “Knowing I can’t do it all makes it easier to hire people to help.”

In a twist on outsourcing, working parents also are automating. Whitney Zimet, who ran a community coupon site for five years, hired math and Spanish tutors for her two kids. She even searched for a service to pack healthy lunch box meals. But Zimet turns to technology for relief from some tasks — using Amazon to get home delivery of required reading materials, ongoing school supplies and birthday gifts. She uses auto-delivery for kids’ vitamins and household products. .

It used to be a real point of pride for women who stayed home to take care of every aspect of their families’ lives, she says. Now women are in the workforce, used to thinking practically and doling out tasks to solve problems, and scrutinizing the value of an expense, she says. “Most of us are aware of what needs Mom’s attention, but we’re also looking at what can make our life easier."


August 19, 2013

When you reach the last "back-to-school" day....

Today, I woke up extra early. I hovered over my two older teens with a camera in hand, wanting to snap a picture of them on their first day of the school year. For my daughter, a high school senior, this would be my last time doing this ritual.

 With comforting predictability, I’ve always pulled my camera out on the first day to capture the newness of the year, before the homework struggles and complaints about teachers set in. It hasn't always been easy to "be there" to capture the moment -- some years it meant planning in advance to make sure work assignments don't conflict.

Today, the annual lump in my throat seemed larger as I stood there at dawn watching my daughter get into the car with my son and drive off for high school,  leaving me in the driveway. Every family has its own rituals for getting back into the school swing. I may have complained in the past, but today, I realize how much I enjoy the events leading up to back to school -- stockpiling lunchbox snacks, comparing the deals on new school supplies, choosing first day of school outfits.  

Alone in the driveway, it hit me...

The day will come when I don't have the back-to-school stress that comes from getting kids in bed earlier, digging up quickie family dinner recipes and organizing carpools to sports practices and afterschool activities. Inevitably, my kids will head out from their dorms to attend class without mom taking a first day photo. Inevitably, my work life balancing act will get easier. Now that I'm much closer to that reality, I'm not sure I want that to happen.

My camera just doesn't feel ready. 


July 26, 2013

Do you dare use child care on a family vacation?



For those of you who look forward to summer vacation as a well deserved break from routine or a way to regain work life balance, what are the dos and don'ts of vacationing in 2013? 

Is is okay to hire child care on a family vacation? Is it okay to check out of work completely? Is it okay to bring extended family members along on a trip?

Of course, the answer depends on how guilty you feel over the choices you make.

I just read a very helpful article on about 8 Ways to Find Child Care on Vacation. It includes suggestions such as choosing a hotel with babysitting servies or vetting a sitter ahead of time who lives in the area you are traveling. When I worked 60-hour weeks in the newsroom, I felt guilty using any child care while on vacation with my kids. When my kids were younger, I tried it. I left them with a hotel sitter one night. I think the combination of a new environment and a stranger unsettled my daughter. She cried the whole time we were out to dinner. When I got off the elevator, I could hear the screaming from down the hall. I just felt too guilty to ever try it again. But, I know some families who have left their kids at the camp on cruise ships. They've reported their kids had a fabulous time and they enjoyed some grown up time alone.  There is no right or wrong answer, but there are more child care options than ever if you want some grown up time when traveling with kids.

Next question, is it okay to connect with the office on vacation?

Earlier this week, I wrote my work life balance column on people who take longer vacations but stay connected to the office. I think each of us has to learn to vacation in the way we feel most relaxed. I received an email from John Roig. This is his take: As an IT professional now for 20+ years I've come to know there's no light at the end of the tech tunnel; just another tunnel.  Fine.  To 'restore' (regain perspective really) I need to be where no one can reach me (and conversely, where I am literally unable to reach out - technologically). Getting harder though...cell penetration is getting better each year.....this trip (Zion) was 3 days in early May.  I try and do 2/yr."

(John Roig in Zion Canyon)


Next, is it okay to bring extended family members along on a trip? (Does that detract from a real vacation)?

That depends. says according to a poll, 40 percent of families have gone on a multigenerational vacation. In an era where many grandparents live in different cities, states or time zones than their grandchildren, a trip can forge bonds far stronger than a simple holiday visit to grandma's house and it's efficient way to spend time with your parents and kids at the same time. Plus, grandparents make great babysitters. But if you travel with a toddler and a grandparent in tow, pace is going to be very important. Remember though, vacation is all about renewal. If it becomes too stressful, you may be defeating the purpose.





February 14, 2013

Want romance? How to snag a last minute babysitter


A few years ago, I slipped on a brand new red dress, put on my makeup, curled my hair and doused myself in perfume for my big night out with my husband on Valentine's Day.

And then my phone rang. It was the babysitter, calling to say she couldn't make it. Ugh!

Tonight, my husband and I plan to slip out for a romantic Valentine's dinner. Fortunately, my kids are finally old enough that I have built in babysitters. But for years, going out on a holiday  meant scrambling to find a babysitter, (maybe paying a bonus) or staying home. 

 Rachel CharlupskiMy guest today is Rachel Charlupski. Her really cool business, The Babysitting Company, matches reliable and energetic babysitters to parents’ needs. It prides itself on being available 24/7 and being able to accommodate last minute and special requests. In the U.S., her company offers babysitting services in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Orlando, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New York City, D.C., Detroit, Chicago, Phoenix, LA, San Francisco 

Rachel says business grew from her passion for babysitting, which began during her early teens. She says she began to understand the benefits of her services: the peace of mind a good babysitter provides to parents.

After her schedule became inundated by babysitting jobs, Rachel, 18 years old at the time, founded The Babysitting Company. "I wanted to accommodate my network of clients with babysitters who are educated (for homework help), fun (so that kids can't wait to have them back), responsible (so Mom and Dad feel comfortable), energetic and available for travel (so that even on vacation or a business trip, Mom and Dad can have peace of mind)."

Tens years later, Rachel is still running her successful business and has great advice to share with parents:

Me: Should working parents feel guilty about going out without kids for Valentine's Day? 

Rachel: For parents, celebrating their love is important and kids look up to that. Kids thrive when parents show love to each other. However, you should do something for your kids before you leave...maybe leave a note on mirror for when they brush their teeth or candy on their bed. Valentine's Day is about being romantic but also about love and your kids kids should feel that love, too.

Me: Is it too late to get a babysitter on the day of a holiday?

Rachel: I can arrange babysitters on up to an hour notice. I know that sounds crazy but it is possible. New Year's Eve is more difficult, but not impossible. I did send a babysitter out this year on New Year's Eve on just a few hours notice. My sitters are amazing.

Me: How should babysitters gain trust of family?

Rachel: My sitters go through 10 hours of training before going to an assignment. Seeing how much someone puts into their profession should make parents more comfortable. When a babysitter enters the house, look at how that person greets you, how comfortable they make you feel and how they interact with your kids. Your intuition is the best thing. Kids have the best intuition besides mothers. 

Me: Is a referral from a friend enough of a reference?

Rachel: No one should come in without two professional references and you have to call the references.

Me: What should you expect to pay on a holiday such as Valentine's Day?

Rachel: Definitely expect to pay more. Tonight start at $25 an hour, and my babysitters at hotels get up to $50 an hour. We only take credit cards so that makes it easy when you come home. Our sitter have a receipt for parents to sign and we follow with a credit card receipt.

Me: What's the ideal amount of time needed to secure a babysitter?

Rachel: 24 hours notice is best. If a child is sick or something comes up, we usually can find someone last minute.

December 14, 2012

Work life balance, holidays, divorce -- managing it all

Divorce and kids


As a child of divorced parents, I remember my mom and dad arguing every holiday season over how they will make their work schedules fit in with who gets us kids on which holidays. My dad, a doctor, was often on call so keeping set days was tricky and, the negotiations often got ugly. 

Today, my guest blogger, Barry Finkel who shares his wisdom on how to keep family peace during the holiday season. Barry  is the founding partner of The Law Firm of  Barry I. Finkel P.A., a divorce and family law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focused on serving the needs of the entire family. .

By now, you should know which vacation days you will be able to use or which days your workplace will be closed. If you or your former spouse need to switch or negotiate remember civility: "The key question is 'Do I love my child more than I hate my ex?'"

Barry says:   "The most important thing to keep in mind is the best interests of your child. A lot of times divorce is highly emotional, and the vision of what is really important gets cloudy."

While he acknowledges that last minute issues arise, here is his advice for how to balance work, kids and divorce during the holiday season:

Barry_Finkel_050-minThe holidays are upon us. Even for families of divorce dealing with time sharing and child custody arrangements, this can be a season of joy. With some advance planning, cooperation and flexibility, the children can enjoy quality holiday time with both parents.


It’s important that the divorce settlement’s child custody or time sharing arrangement be flexible enough to reflect and respect the family’s new reality. Assuming that’s the case, the following tips can help ensure everyone enjoys the holiday season together:



-          Focus on the kids. With all the following suggestions, keep the kids’ needs and emotions foremost in mind when making any changes to the time-sharing agreement. If issues or conflict arise, step back and seek compromise.


-          Plan ahead. As much as possible, parents should plan their holiday festivities around the existing time-sharing schedule. The normalcy and regularity of the existing schedule provides stability – especially for younger children.


-          Divide the day. If the families traditionally celebrate Christmas day, split the day in half, with one parent getting Christmas morning one year, and afternoon / evening the next. The same should be applied for New Years. Same goes for other holidays, like Hanukkah. With eight days, families have eight opportunities to celebrate.


-          Share the celebration. If the family historically has shared a holiday dinner, gift exchange or other ritual the kids have come to expect, continue the practice – assuming the parents can get along.


-          Meet the needs of out-of-town family. Grandparents and other family members have no inherent rights regarding time-sharing. If extended family has flown in for the holidays, however, parents should agree to relax time-sharing.


-          Get away. Whether through the timesharing terms or mutual agreement, it’s permissible for one parent to travel during the holidays without the children. If this is the first special holiday you will be alone, don’t put a guilt trip on your child.  Get out with friends, or volunteer at a hospital or food bank.


-          Always keep the children’s needs and expectations in mind. Observing or maintaining past traditions provides stability to the kids. Limit shuttling from one parent’s home to the other’s. Be flexible. Have fun.




August 29, 2012

Storms test workplace flexibility

The minute I heard that South Florida schools were closed on Monday, my kids cheered and I groaned. If I listened hard enough, I could hear other working parents groan, too. Up north, parents have to contend with snow days. Here we have to deal with storm days. Regardless, all of us have to contend with bosses who may or may not understand the predicament parents face when kids are off school and we are expected to come to work. To me, that's when companies who call themselves family-friendly are put to the test. Talking to crazed parents on Monday inspired me to write the article below: 


The Miami Herald

Storms, school closings provide ultimate workplace flexibility test

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Daniella Aronsky, left, 9, takes more folders from her mom, Emira, who works at the office, while her sister, Sofia, center, 7, and cousin, Shayna Soffer, right, keep inserting papers into brochures, at the Soffer Health Institute in Aventura. With school being closed, from Isaac, the office finds duties to keep the kids busy and helping out.
As Floridians set out frantically buying storm supplies this past weekend, one announcement created almost as much panic as the threat of high winds: public schools would close on Monday.

For working parents, the news triggered a mad scramble for child-care solutions, particularly when most businesses chose to stay open. Trapped, some parents were forced to take a vacation or sick day, others showed up at work with kids in tow, while the desperate begged relatives or babysitters to step in at the last minute.

Across the country, hundreds of companies boast of being family-friendly workplaces. But to me, days like Monday speak volumes about the reality of that label. For parents, it’s not only how our employers react to our need for accommodation during weather related events; it’s also how well they’ve planned for it.

As news of Tropical Storm Isaac circulated, top managers at C3/CustomerContactChannels in Plantation held meetings to prepare for various scenarios. Supervisors were told to allow employees to work from home when possible and encourage staff to download documents to their laptop hard drives to be able to work on them even without an Internet connection. Even more, the company, which operates call centers around the world, began brainstorming ways that hourly workers could make up time off for weather-related office closures.

On Monday, when downpours flooded the streets, Alicia Laszewski, vice president of communications at C3, asked to work from home. Pregnant, Laszewski says she felt uncomfortable making the commute to the office and had two young children out of school. She got the green light to work from home. “It builds loyalty that they have respect for me and my health and my family,” Laszewski said.

Read more....


August 22, 2012

Teachers offer back-to-school advice for working parents

A friend of mine met her daughter's teacher for the first time a few months before school started -- at Walmart. In the check out line, she learned about reading resources that could have helped her daughter had she known about them earlier in the year. She has vowed to meet her daughter's teacher this year within the first few months of school.

Regardless of what grade your child is in, "contact your child's teacher or schedule a conference early in the school year to establish an open line of communication," says Joan O'Brien, a middle school math teacher in Davie, Florida.

In today's Miami Herald column, I asked additional teachers for their best advice for how working parents struggling with work life balance can stay involved in their child's education.

The Miami Herald

Back-to-school basics for working parents

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Families scramble on the first day of school at Devon Aire K-8 Elementary School in South Days on the first day of school for Miami-Dade County on August 20, 2012.
  Families scramble on the first day of school at Devon Aire K-8 Elementary School in South Days on the first day of school for Miami-Dade County on August 20, 2012.
This school year, some working parents are changing their game plan.

Felicia Alvaro, vice president of finance at Ultimate Software, is one of them. Last year, her teenage daughter was secretive about grades and attendance. But a phone call changed that: Alvaro was called in to meet with her daughter’s guidance counselor and a concerned teacher and learned her daughter’s grades had slipped and she had skipped classes numerous times. “If I’d met with them after the first time, it wouldn’t have happened again. I was busy with work and it was easier to naively trust my teenage daughter,” she said.

In the new school year, Alvaro plans to meet with teachers proactively, every few months, and she will drive her daughter to school every morning “just to open the door to communication.”

Clearly, most of us know parent involvement can make a difference in a child’s education. But at a time when the literacy rate has plummeted and the SAT reading scores were the lowest on record, are working parents too busy earning a paycheck to take an active role in their children’s learning?

With that in mind, I turned to teachers for advice on how working parents with heavy job demands can best stay involved in their children’s education. Their suggestions are aimed at parents of all income levels and all grade levels. The consensus among teachers is that parents don’t need to spend hours volunteering in the classroom or sitting on the PTA board. Involvement, they say, starts with a simple gesture: finding out a teacher’s email address and using it to communicate — from your desk, business hotel, home or nearby library.

In elementary school, where a teacher can be the reason a child looks forward to waking up, meeting that person should be considered a parent’s priority.

Kim Milov, a fourth-grade teacher at Hawks Bluff Elementary in Southwest Ranches, believes parents should try extra hard to attend open house/meet-the-teacher night. “That way, even if you’re at work you have a visual connection with your child at school. You can imagine him sitting in his chair.”

Milov also suggest parents consider taking one day or night during the school year to show involvement. “Maybe you could come for field day, or chaperone a field trip or participate in an evening program like family night.”

Donna Rabinowitz, a first-grade teacher at Central Park Elementary in Plantation, says three key moves will make a difference when your child is in the first few years of grade school. First, look through your child’s work folder on a regular basis to see what he or she is doing in school. If you see your child is struggling with something and you don’t have time during the week, put it to the side. Then, take a half hour out of your weekend to go over that skill. Second, read with your child, even if it’s just 10 minutes a night. Lastly, review your child’s homework every night. If the child did poorly on something, know the reason. Showing your child you care about what they do in school is important: “We only have one short year to mold them. You have many years to mold them.”

For young children, parent-teacher conferences are critical, teachers say. Carolina Garcia, a kindergarten teacher at Coral Park Elementary in Miami, says teachers realize that parents, sometimes, can’t afford to miss work for a conference. But most teachers are willing to set up a phone conference. “Just having that one-to-one conversation with your child’s teacher is important.” In between conferences, she advises parents to read the weekly newsletter teachers usually send home. “If parents are divorced, we can send each a copy.”

Abbi Stoloff, a fourth-grade teacher at Fox Trail Elementary in Davie, says talking to your kids about school, regardless of their age, shows involvement. “If you can’t be involved during the work week, be involved on the weekends.” Rather than grilling them about their day, spark a casual conversation, she advises. “Listen, guide them and be a presence. Ask questions about what they’re working on at school. Good communication makes the day-to-day easier. That’s involvement.”

Unlike grade school, teachers expect more independence from middle school students. But that doesn’t mean parents should back off, teachers say.

Lori Goldwyn, a math teacher at Tequesta Trace Middle School in Weston, suggests regularly looking over your tween’s agenda and making a routine of checking teachers’ websites. “Bookmark them and communicate with the teacher.” Goldwyn says one of the simple steps working parents can take is to spend 10 minutes on Sunday nights talking about the week — what’s due, what needs to be signed, what tests are coming up.

By high school, some parents back off completely. That’s a mistake, teachers say.

Daniel Muchnick, a U.S. history teacher at Miami Norland High School, says working parents of teens can become stay involved with a few keystrokes on a keyboard. Parents should be aware that many school districts use online grade books, he says. “Grades, attendance, assignments…everything is available online.” Parents can also establish alerts so they can be notified by e-mail or text if their child is absent, if an assignment is missing or if a grade point average drops.

Muchnick recommends checking your teen’s grades at least weekly, and if you see he isn’t doing well, email the teacher. “We welcome communication from parents. When parents are involved, grades are better. There’s definitely a connection.”


Read more here:

Read more here: