EXPERT Q&A

How do I connect more with my toddler when I work so much?

Many working parents—even those working from home—often feel that they aren’t doing enough for their young children. CareNectar expert Martha Tyler shares tips for staying connected with your children, even during long work weeks.

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Question

I’m a father to a toddler, and also work a full-time job on top of running two small businesses. Things are quite busy! And since the pandemic, I’ve been working from home. We don’t have enough space in the house for a designated office, so I worry my daughter thinks I’m ignoring her when I’m home. When I’m not working, I try to be present with her. We read together, go to the park, play with her toys—we simply do whatever she wants to! I tell her I love her and give her lots of hugs. But I worry it’s not enough. What else can I do to make sure she knows how important she is to me?

Answer

This is so very hard! I can read just how much you care about being a great parent to your daughter while also taking care of your family financially. It sounds like you’re already doing a great job of giving her your full attention when you’re not working. That’s a huge step in the right direction of making sure she knows you’re seeing and loving her. Here are some ideas to do a little more.

Magic Box. Something that’s worked really well for parents I’ve worked with is a “Magic Box” that your daughter can open when you go to work each day. Inside the box, there can be a small activity for her to do, crayons and paper, a small toy, a new book from the library to read with her caretaker while you’re at work, etc. This can help with some separation anxiety and also give you something to help connect with her about later. You can start the conversation by asking, “What was in your Magic Box today?”

End-of-the-Day Ritual. Another idea is to develop an “end-of-the-day” ritual for just you and her. So when you’re done with work for the day or as a dinner topic or before bed (choose the time of day that works for you and your family), have some sort of ritual that is just for you and her. A special way of hugging, a special way of saying I love you (like “I love you 3000” from Iron Man), or a series of questions that only you ask her. Just have something that’s consistent every day. That way she can count on you to be there for her, even when you’re busy.

Imagination Exercise. You can also ask her to make a list of all the things she wants to do with you. Often, we can give children what they want in their imaginations and it has a similar impact to really giving it to them. Ask her, “If we could spend all day together, what would you want to do?” And then reflect back what she says. If she says, “I want to go to the beach!” You can say, “Oh! I would love to go to the beach with you! We could build a sandcastle together!” Make a list of what she says and then do the things on the list that you can do! She might say, “I want to go to outer space!” And you can both can go in your imaginations! This can help her feel like you’ve done BIG adventures together, even when you haven’t left your sofa! Check out the Imagination Exercise here!

Special Drawings. Lastly, you can try to leave her special drawings around the house or her room. Ask her to make drawings for you too and hang them in your workspace. This is a great way to be present in her life even when you can’t always be totally present. You can hide them so she finds them throughout the day!

The most important thing is that you love your daughter and you show up for her. By even asking this question, you’re already showing up for her! Keep finding small ways to show your love often. That’s the most important thing! And remember, we’re here to support you!

Recommended Activity

Check out the Imagination Exercise to give your child what they want… in their imagination!

Meet The Expert


Martha Tyler

Martha has her Masters in Education and is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She has worked as a sitter, nanny, tutor, or teaching artist over the past 20+ years. In addition, Martha has hosted a child care podcast, Chronicles of Nannya, for several years. She is also the co-founder of Compassionate Childcare LLC and is thrilled to be able to share her experience, knowledge, and resources with CareNectar!