Working parents need to make contingency plans for the days when there's no school, but one plan most definitely does not fit all situations. What exactly those plans are--as well as how and when they are made--depends on the reason school's out. A major holiday, obviously, we'll have been thinking about it for a while; a snow day, on the other hand, we may have less than an hour's warning.
Whatever the reason the kids are chanting "No school today!" parents' solutions typically fall into three basic categories: use child care, work at home or take the day off.
Below I cover seven reasons that there may be no school and give strategies, tips and activities for each.
Major Family Holidays
Major holidays like New Year's, Christmas and often Easter come with a long school break, but other important family holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and sometimes Easter come with only a little or no time off from school.
No matter how much time you have to celebrate the holiday, the important thing to keep in mind is that holidays live on in kids' memories forever. So, make the most of the holiday season because you don't want to be remembered as being chained to your computer or absent for the holidays. Kids will remember holiday fun, so make sure you have some!
Work ahead or take vacation days to ensure your presence during family holidays. If you do have to work over the holidays, keep work contained to certain times and places (out of sight), and give the kids you're full attention when you are doing holiday activities.
School breaks take advanced planning for parents. Since they're on the calendar from the beginning of the school year, lead time is not necessarily an issue. Many parents simply schedule their vacation for these extended breaks from school.
However, if you plan to work at home when there's no school, it takes a little more creative planning. You'll need ground rules and and a repertoire of things kids can to do independently. And to keep boredom in check, those things probably need to be everyday activities mixed with some special holiday fun.
Depending on your job, you may--or may not--have to work on Monday holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day and President's Day. The more universal ones, like Memorial Day and Labor Day, tend to become an extension of the weekend and are great opportunities to build special memories with kids. (Even if you're self-employed, these are good holidays to take time off because no one else, i.e., clients, colleagues, is working.)
But the other Monday holidays take more careful planning. If you can, schedule them as work-at-home days. If you work at home regularly, you probably have established some ground rules. Remind kids of them and help them find some independent play activities. Or perhaps, just take the day off and have some fun. Often museums and attractions have special events on these days (although many are often closed on Monday). Go to the movies or play in the park.
Teacher In-Service Days
These are similar to Monday holidays in that parents need to find ways to keep kids busy and/or arrange childcare. Also, like holidays, parents know about them in advance. Or at least they should! (Always put these on your personal calendar as soon as you receive the school calendar.)
However, they are different in that there's little chance parents have the day off too. One strategy is to work with other parents at your kids' school, and arrange a kid swap or play date. If you can work at home, perhaps host the play date if your kids are old enough to play independently. Another idea is to simply take the day off. Many times schools schedule these on Mondays or Fridays, so you could plan a long weekend trip. Also, unlike Monday holidays, doctors, dentists, barbers, etc. are still working, so you can get all those tedious appointments out of the way.
Kids love snow days. Parents? Maybe not so much. Kids even come up with snow day superstitions to encourage school cancellations, while parents cross their fingers that school will go on as planned. But a working parent always needs a snow day child care plan. Like holidays, snow days are a source of cherished childhood memories. So try not to be so obvious that you’re rooting for the weatherman to be wrong. And if it does snow, keep these snow day fun ideas in mind.
Working at home with a truly sick kid (as opposed to one who is under the weather) can be tough. If your employer allows you to telecommute when your children are sick, this can be great. But be realistic and honest about what you can really accomplish in type of part-time telecommuting. If you are a home business owner, you still have yourself to answer to, so be realistic.
For just three months of the year, summer vacation means no school. Yet, parents may need to start planning summer vacation six month out. There's the practical (summer child care and summer homework) and the fun (vacations and summer activities).