October 31, 2022

Families and Shift Work

Family members who live with a shift worker have their own set of challenges and frustrations. 

Children might find it difficult to understand why Mom or Dad is at work when important school activities are scheduled, when their sports team is playing, or if extra help is needed with a tough homework assignment. 

Couples may find that balancing work and family life with the added complications of shift work schedules means they don’t get to spend quality time together to discuss important family issues or have intimate alone time. 

Friends and relatives may also get frustrated trying to set up social activities with you because of your shift work schedule.

Suggestions for families with children.

Looking after a family takes a lot of time and energy. 

If you are a shift worker with a young family, working nights and weekends will often mean that you do not have the opportunity to spend the time you would like with your children. While it may be difficult for very young children to understand, older children must appreciate that shift work is a lifestyle that affects the whole family and requires special participation. 

Here are some suggestions for you and your children:

  • Make a date with your children and take them somewhere special regularly.
  • Plan a family day once a month that involves everyone.
  • Set up a family message board to leave notes, school work, drawings, etc.
  • Record special events you might have to miss, such as school plays or sports events, and watch the tapes together.
  • Celebrate birthdays and holidays on your nearest day off.
  • Post a calendar in an accessible area and record your shifts and family members’ activities so that everyone knows what is happening and when in advance.
  • When possible, be present at family meals. 

Suggestions for couples.

Maintaining a healthy, loving relationship can be challenging for couples at the best of times, but when you add in conflicting work schedules, fatigue, and extra stress, it can prove difficult. It is going to require good communication, flexibility and adaptability on the part of both of you. Here are some suggestions for you and your partner:

  • Schedule time to talk about important issues when you are both rested and prepared to talk.
  • Have regular conversations about the positive and the challenging aspects of shift work and what they mean to you as a couple and to your family.
  • Talk about what is working and not working with your relationship.
  • Keep written notes on issues that need to be discussed and exchange notes on practical issues.
  • Keep to-do lists and other lists going that keep you both informed and involved in family chores and responsibilities.
  • Make a date to go out and have some fun together at least once a month.
  • Make a special point to share some quiet time every day for affection and thoughtfulness.
  • Do not ignore your sex life as this is an integral part of a relationship.
  • Call time out when negative emotions keep you from speaking clearly. Set another time to talk things over calmly. If things get heated, take a break to cool off.
  • When conflicts or feelings of isolation persist, consult a professional who can help resolve the roadblock.

Suggestions for spending time with others.

It is important for shift workers to enjoy recreational and social activities with other people in their life. These people, too, need to understand that their help is needed in being flexible and adaptable to accommodate your work schedule. Here are some suggestions for spending time with others:

  • Keep friends and relatives current on your work schedule and determine their availability for social activities.
  • Use e-mail and answering machines to keep in touch with friends.
  • Socialize with co-workers who have the same work schedule.
  • Participate in sports that don’t require a set schedule, such as tennis, golf, or skiing.
  • Take advantage of reduced prices for daytime visits that some gyms offer.
  • Take advantage of your unusual hours to go shopping or to the movies with a friend during less busy times.
  • Pursue a hobby or volunteer work that ensures you meet and interact with others.

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