All in Moderation: 10 Ways Parents Can Model a Healthy Work-Life Balance.

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Every parent wants their kids to have a strong work ethic when they grow up. That’s why you’ve made it a point to talk to your kids about what they want to do when they graduate and how to choose a career they love. But know this: Your words aren’t the only thing potentially shaping their future careers. Turns out, they’re also absorbing how you balance your professional and family life.

Research has shown that many of our attitudes and expectations surrounding work-life balance are shaped by our parents. That’s probably a frightening thought for many parents who are prone to answering emails at odd hours and staying up at all kinds of hours to finish work.

If you want your kids to be successful and happy in their careers, it’s going to take a lot more than finding a great internship to seal the deal. Here’s how you can change your behavior to model a work-life balance that’s worth imitating.

Set regular office hours and stick to them. Avoid working long hours. They’re not doing you or your work-life balance any favors. In fact, one Stanford study found that productivity sharply declines when a person clocks in more than 50 hours a week. Keep your working hours in check by setting a regular schedule and sticking to it as best you can.

Take actual breaks. Eating at your desk is not taking a break. If you’re working from home, do your best to eat meals with your family and take actual breaks. Working in a regular office? Grab your lunch and find a nice spot to eat outside where you can recharge your batteries. Show your kids that rest is important.

Turn off work email notifications. When you’re at home, relaxing with the kids, remember to turn off your phone’s work email notifications. Better yet, put the phone in an entirely different room while you’re spending time with the family. Disconnecting from work allows you to be fully present and engaged with your kids.

Establish boundaries with your team. Do your coworkers constantly email and call you outside of your working hours? Establish boundaries with them by making sure that everyone is aware of your regular office hours. Discuss the best ways to contact you outside of work hours in case of emergencies or urgent work matters.

Take good care of yourself. It’s important to show your kids that work shouldn’t come at the detriment of their own health. With that in mind, be sure to carve out time for exercise, even if it means waking up at the crack of dawn to sneak it into your schedule. Eat healthy to maximize your energy and productivity. And don’t forget to sleep! Be a good role model for a healthy sleep schedule by sticking to a regular bedtime routine.

Go on vacation (or staycation). Vacations give us a brief escape from stress and allow us to spend quality time with family. Unfortunately, Americans are notoriously bad about taking vacations. According to research from the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of American workers (55 percent) aren’t using all of their paid time off. Bottom line? Don’t be all work and no play! Take family vacations (or staycations) and use that time to relax with your family.

Find volunteer opportunities. Many companies offer volunteer opportunities that allow employees to take a paid day off to give back to their community. Take advantage of these days! Even if your company doesn’t have a volunteer program, signing up for volunteer opportunities is a great way to show your kids the importance of finding meaning outside of work. If possible, get your kids involved in your philanthropy. Volunteering is a fantastic way to teach children important values such as generosity, gratitude, and teamwork.

Take a mental health day. Young people are facing a major mental health crisis. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts are noticeably higher than in previous generations. Taking a mental health day — a day off where you take a quick break to reset — is a powerful way to demonstrate to your kids that mental health matters. Just remember to tell your kids that you’re not playing hooky from work, but rather, taking a step back to de-stress.

Spend quality time with your partner. Remember to nurture your relationship with your partner by making time for them before and after work. Like it or not, your relationship is serving as an example for how your kids should treat (and expect to be treated by) their partner someday. Show affection and appreciation to your partner before you start your workday and be sure to end the day the same way.

Stay devoted to your kids. Yes, work may pay the bills, but remember that your kids are the most important thing in your life. All those school plays, sports games, and award ceremonies you end up missing because of work are things that you can’t get back. Try to be there for your kids as much as possible by creating a master schedule of work and family responsibilities. Plan everything in advance as much as you can. As the saying goes, no one wishes they had worked more on their deathbed.

A Healthy Work-Life Balance Benefits Everyone. Striking a good work-life balance is one of the hardest things for American workers to do. However, it’s also one of the most important, given how much our work-life balance can influence our kids. By following these tips, you can reduce your stress and increase your sense of well-being — and, potentially, help your kids do the same in the future.

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