How Working Parents Can Plan for a School Snow Day

Even if you telecommute already, prepare in advance for snow days.

Winter Break Kids in Snow

Remember as a kid listening anxiously to the radio on snowy mornings hoping to hear school closings? Now as a working parent, unless you're a teacher, you're probably much less excited about a snow day. While snow day fun is the source of fond childhood memories for kids, any days school is closed, but snow days in particular, are a lot of extra work for parents. When school is cancelled, parents who work from home or in an office, must make quick, alternate child care plans.

Snow Day Strategies

While it's nice to always use the same contingency plan, many parents—work-at-home or not—will need to employ more than one of these snow day child care strategies throughout the school year.

Anticipate Snow Days
The key to dealing with snow days is long- and short-term planning for a weather emergency. Talk to your employer before a snow day about telecommuting during weather emergencies. Or make tentative arrangements to have a friend watch your kids. In the short term, keep an eye on the forecast.

If you already work at home, you still need snow day plan. Keep these independent activities for kids in mind, though your kids may be more accustomed to seeing work from home than occasional telecommuters'.

For parents working in offices, occasional telecommuting may be the answer to the snow day dilemma. But children, excited to play in the snow, don't always make it easy.

However, some employers are more lenient about expected productivity during weather emergencies, since employees who do make it in the office often come late and leave early. Still, you should lay out some work-at-home ground rules to ensure you can get work accomplished, particularly if you'd like to telecommute more often.

Use the Electronic Babysitter(s)
While I am not a fan of using television  or electronic games on a regular basis to entertain kids when working from home, exceptions are sometimes in order. And snow days, which are a special occasions, are a good opportunity to just let the kids relax and zone out If you know a snow day is possible, think ahead and rent some movies that the kids haven't seen.

Get Help from Friends and Relatives
If a grandparent or other relative lives close and will watch your kids, that makes your life a lot easier (and more fun for the kids). But transportation for the caregiver or children can be problematic. And if someone volunteers to watch your kids, be sure thank them with a gift or other kindness. This is, of course, just good manners, but also it makes them more likely to do it again.

Kid Swap
Arrange a play date at a nearby friend's house for this school cancellation, but the next time you host. More children in your home sounds like less productivity, I know, but I find that because it keeps kids' boredom at bay, I am more productive.

Take the Day Off
Probably not the ideal solution, but if you can trade this duty with your spouse, it probably won't be necessary too often, especially if you can utilize some of these suggestions at other times.

Change Plans
If your schedule is flexible, switch a weekend plan with the snow day. This can make for a memorable day, as it did for us the snow day we went to Washington, D.C. Or it could be something more mundane, like a house project. If fixing the kitchen sink is on your weekend to do list, do it during the snow day. On the weekend when your spouse can watch the kids, catch up at work. Since our school district will cancel school based on a forecast of snow, I've taken the kids shopping, usually a weekend chore, when the snow didn't materialize.