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The Risks of Shift Work

Many families are feeling the stress of overcommitted and overscheduled lives. But few families feel it more than those in which parents work at differ­ent times of the day. When parents work different shifts and are not home to­gether very often, a strain is put on their relationship and the family. Even more difficult are jobs that have rotating shifts—firefighting and nursing, for instance—forcing parents to work different hours each week; those schedules can prevent families from establishing routines and rhythms and can seriously disrupt family stability.

In these families, husbands and wives often have little or no time together. If they are lucky they have a day or two during the week when they are both off, but their sleep schedules may be so different that they still spend very lit­tle time with each other. These people essentially pass messages to each other, and their parenting may be hampered by a minimum of teamwork.

When parents work different shifts, children often sense that a problem ex­ists. They rarely see their parents together, and they sometimes yearn for a "normal" family life. Parents in these situations have to work especially hard at giving their children the feeling that their family really is a unit, despite the difficult schedules. They need to make the most of weekends and vacations and support each other in areas like household responsibilities and discipline.

For some families, shift work is a solution to providing good child care and supervision for children who would otherwise be left in the care of another adult or on their own. Such arrangements may provide a financial benefit to the family and a sense of comfort to the child.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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