Facing the Challenges of Balancing Work and a Special Needs Child
Balancing Work and a Special Needs Child: Speaking to Your Employer about Your Child’s Needs
Finding a job is not always easy, and it can be that much harder for a parent who has to juggle the responsibilities of caring for a child with special needs. You probably have many questions running through your mind:
- Do I tell prospective employers up front that I may have to take off time to rush my child to a doctor?
- How do I handle regular therapy sessions that will interfere with my work hours?
- What will my employer say if an emergency occurs while we are on a deadline?
These are only some of the questions that you may consider when balancing work and caring for a special needs child.
First, please know that you are not alone. One in seven children under the age of 18 has special health needs.
Applying for a New Job
When applying for a new job, you can choose to tell your prospective employer upfront about your home situation, or you can wait until the first emergency occurs. Here are some things to consider when making this decision:
- Does your child have regular doctor or therapist appointments? If so, and you know that you will need this time off from work, it is best to be upfront about this during the interview. This way you can offer to make up this time in other ways.
- Has your child been hospitalized in the past, and is that a possibility you face again in the future? If so, how did you handle it then? Think about what that might mean to your job and explain how you will deal with it should it happen again.
- If you do not require taking frequent time off from work, it may not be necessary to discuss the situation during the interview. Remember to be honest down the road if you find yourself needing time off for an unexpected situation.
Facing the Need for Unexpected Time Off
One of the most crucial things to remember is that your employer needs to be kept in the loop if you need time off. While that is probably the last thing on your mind when dealing with your child, it is essential to let your boss know what is going on.
If you have projects that you are working on or other deadlines, your employer will need to know to give those tasks to someone else if you will be out for an unspecified period. You may also be able to carry out some of your responsibilities remotely, such as when sitting in your child’s hospital room. Be honest about your situation and let your boss know any possibilities and limitations you have at this time.
The Importance of a Supportive Workplace
Having the support of your employer and coworkers is invaluable. Honesty can be your greatest tool. A little bit of planning on your part for how you will handle emergencies can go quite the distance to a smooth transition between work and caring for your child.
Speak with your employer about the possibility of taking some work home with you to complete if you will need time off from work. That may not work in every situation, but if it is an option for you, it may mean not coming home with a smaller than expected paycheck.
Cultivate relationships with other employees if you do shift work. Having a few people that you can call to cover for you in an emergency can be a tremendous help. Also, remember that reciprocity works both ways – be available whenever possible to help others.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2018 Magazine