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Jennifer Newman: How to balance work while struggling with child problems

05/03/2015 02:00 EDT | Updated 05/03/2016 05:12 EDT
Difficulties in the workplace cause enough stress of their own, but parents who also need to balance child troubles at home often face a much more difficult situation .

"Working parents worry a lot about their children, especially when a child is in trouble, unwell or struggling with something," workplace psychologist Dr. Jennifer Newman says.

"Parents may feel torn between the demands of work and their children's needs, and they can feel guilty for things that are beyond their control when it comes to kids."

Newman spoke to the Early Edition's Rick Cluff about the ways parents can manage work-life balance when it comes to having trouble with children.

How does having a struggling or troubled child affect careers?

It's important to take a community perspective. Parents with a lot of support often do fine.

But those who experience isolation and are left to cope alone have a harder time. They may downsize their job, or give it up altogether.

Others find their own mental health suffers because of constant worry.

It becomes especially difficult if there's an outdated way of thinking, for example the idea that work and life are totally separate spheres and should remain that way.

How can working help parents with struggling children?

Work can become a bit of an oasis for many. Many find it actually can be a break to go to work. When your home life is turned upside down, it takes a toll on your confidence.

Self-esteem can be bolstered by doing well at work. It's also a distraction from home front issues, that can't be solved immediately.

How can co-workers, bosses and organizations support parents in this situation?

It's important to recognize that issues at home fluctuate and things can go from good to bad very quickly.

If you're in a management position, offer workers flexibility with schedules and listen to staff and support them where you can. 

Human Resources can assist in raising awareness about what parents are up against and how to deal with it.

How can workers with struggling children handle working and worrying about their children?

It's important to find places where you feel good about yourself — whether it's at work or during your personal time. Make sure not to isolate yourself during those times.

If you feel distracted at work, ask yourself 'what can I do now?' The answer may be to focus on a task, take a break, or make a phone call to talk to your child.

Above all, remember that crises do have a tendency to pass, even though it doesn't feel like it when we're in them.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Jennifer Newman: Balancing work with family troubles.

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