Firstly two working parents can spend plenty of quality time with their children. It is, like most things to do with parenting, about admin. Please do not feel guilty about working. It is often a necessity of modern-day living and a role model. Just don’t lose sight of your family in the bustle.
One of the most valuable gifts you can give to your child is to be mindfully present in their life. It is good if both parents share an expectation of what this looks like.
Psychology Today defines mindfulness as a state of active, open attention to the present. However, although mindfulness is a ‘buzzword,’ the general idea has been around for decades. Being in the room looking at your phone is not being present. In the same way, talking to them about their day while you are mulling about an issue at work is not listening. Instead of letting your daily lives and interactions pass you by, from significant events to holidays, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. Providing daily contact is essential, but that isn’t what being mindfully present is all about. Being mindfully present means spending quality time with kids, giving your love and attention wholeheartedly, partaking in what your kids love doing, appreciating the things that mean so much to them, accepting the bad times, and helping when they need it.
It’s not that most parents don’t want to be present in their child’s life. Modern life demands attention in more than a hundred ways and is hard to avoid. Work and social media are usually the number one culprits. Coming home from work but still with things to do for tomorrow, which is immediate, parents can understandably focus on this. A quick, half-hearted goodnight because you have to get to work early in the morning is not the same as tucking your child in and reading their favorite bedtime story to them. Or sitting after dinner for thirty minutes asking about a friendship. In such a fast-paced world, the ideal thing is to find a balance between work life and family life.
What are the Harmful Effects of not Spending Quality Time With your Child?
According to Dr. Karyl McBride, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver, Colorado, neglect changes the child’s developing brain in response to the child’s environment. Here are some harmful effects of not spending time with your child:
- Isolation, breakdown in communication, and family bonds. For family bonds to grow stronger, there has to be constant communication, time spent together, and shared interests. In situations where parents can’t make time to communicate and listen to their child, the bond weakens, and communication may break down. The child may even isolate themself, especially when they’ve been trying to get your attention and have been failing. It can often take the form of immersion in computer games or a virtual world they can control. When they don’t isolate themselves, they may turn to their friends or even strangers who may end up taking advantage of them. This article discusses how to talk with your child.
- Feeling of emotional distress. Children can begin to feel unloved when you don’t spend time with them. Parents should create a system that reinforces their love for their child, even if it’s words of affirmation. This does not only effect working parents, but it is more of a concern. When a parent always complains of not having the time, but does see that parent to look at cats on Facebook or lie in every weekend, the message they might take away here is that you don’t love them. Or if you only have time to do activities that you want to do, but refuse to do activities that they want you are telling them that your love is conditional. Dr. McBride writes that children can sometimes internalize this pain and loneliness, thinking it’s their fault. If you are always busy for a good reason, talk to your child about what you do and why, and also make the most of any time you can carve out with them. Remember it is quality time rather than just hours that is important. Some very busy people have great relationships with their children as they carve 30 minutes to play cards every evening. As an extreme it can lead to childhood emotional neglect.
- Poor performance in academic settings. A feeling of security and parental attachment at home plays a big part in a child’s school performance. Parents who are mindfully present are more likely to read to their children, help them out with homework, and generally offer their help when they need it. This teamwork can boost the child’s determination to do well at school.
- Over-reliance on Social media. When you don’t spend enough time with your child, they turn to social media to fill that void. And with social media, your child is vulnerable to sexual comments and images, targeted advertising, cyberbullying, verbal abuse, and oversharing. Spending time with your child is not just about bonding. It’s also a medium through which you can impart your own values to your child. The more time you spend with your child, the more they get to know those values you hold dear. This section discusses all aspects of social media.
- Exhibiting some strange behaviors. In an attempt to gain your attention, your child may start doing things that are entirely out of character. If not to attract your attention, then it might be to lash out or vent their frustration. Check to be sure you’re spending enough time with your child when you start to notice strange behaviors out of nowhere.
How do you Fit your Children into your Busy Schedule?
There will always be life commitments to follow through on. Below are tips on how to spend more quality time with your child amidst your busy schedule.
- Firstly is your schedule really that busy? Be honest with yourself. Is it that your schedule is jammed packed with really important things. Things that are more important than your family. Do you stay at work in the evenings till 7, then come home, and then when the children are in bed, sit and watch TV or scroll through social media? It is important that we find time for ourselves. However maybe some days you come home at 5, spend time with your family, and then work for an hour or so in the evening. Even sit with them as they do their homework. It is easy to be busy. But are you actually time-bound with what you need to do, or is it that you like to do it in that order for you.
- Are the times you are busy fixed? Carrying on from above. I personally find the most productive time of the day for me and my projects is 5.30 am till other people get up at about 7. I am happy with this and then I go to bed at around 9.30 to 10.00. I don’t watch much TV but I feel that I am doing the things that are important to me, and also making sure I am around for my children. One colleague of mine used to save all her work till Thursday and then just work till it was done, sometime very early the next morning. She decided to have one appalling work night and then have the rest of time for her family. Housework can always be moved around. Again a quick 30 minutes in the morning and then an hour as the children are busy with homework etc.
- Recognize that it’s not about the length. Sometimes societal pressure makes us feel guilty about the amount of time we spend with our children. In these circumstances, the mind favors quantity over quality. Like in any relationship, 5 hours just sat next to each other, looking at a screen has value. However, one hour playing a board game with our phone away is worth more. Remember it is about quality time, not the amount of time.
- Those unstructured family moments do the job just as well. There is nothing wrong with planning elaborate getaways with your child, but those unstructured, non-obvious moments can do the job just as well. A 2007 study led by Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, professor of Anthropology at UCLA, found that the quiet, in-between moments of family life did as much of the real work of family bonding as any fabricated family time. Everyday activities (like sharing meals, household chores, or running errands) may afford families quality moments and social interaction instances that serve important relationship-building opportunities. Chatting in the car instead of listening to the radio as they are on their phones.
- Schedule on a calendar. Get a calendar with room for writing and put it in a frequented area of the house where it can be easily seen. On the calendar, you can use different colors for different members and activities. Make sure you refer to the calendar to keep you posted on family activities. By seeing an overview, you can see where there are several days with no time to organize an ‘event’ so you can make sure to focus on those moments that you are together to be present.
- Use technology. Calendar apps exist that can help you track your activities and follow through on your commitments to your child. You can assign and schedule activities like games, practices, lessons, and drop-offs. These apps are equipped with reminders, color coding options, and journals that can help you stay in sync with your family. With technology, you can avoid getting buried by your busy schedule. It will also give your child some ownership over time to ensure that they are not lost amongst meetings.
Ways to Spend Quality Time With your Children
The quality of the time you spend with your child begins with immersing yourself in the moment. Remove the distraction of your phone or computer. Here are a few ideas on how to give quality time to your child. Let them choose, you might think that a walk is quality time, however, let them show you their Minecraft world! And turn your phone off!
- Read a book together.
- Make cardboard tablets together.
- Visit thrift shops for shopping.
- Try a backyard camp out.
- Bake together.
- Join in the play at the playground.
- Watch the sunset.
- Ask about the ups and downs of their day.
- Schedule family movie nights.
- Exercise together.
- Take on chores together.
- Organize family dance parties.
- Take silly pictures with Facebook or Instagram filters.
- Find an art that works for both of you – going to the museum, cinema, etc.
- Do sleepovers in the living room.
- Take trips to the park.
- Organize family game nights
- Karaoke at home.
- Take sports lessons together.
- Fix something broken in the house together.
- Talk on a long car journey. Just sit next to each other, looking forward and talk.
Final Thoughts on Building Quality Time With Your Child
None of this is to say that parents should quit or let their jobs suffer to spend more time with their child. Too much time with your children doing nothing has its own negative effects. Being at their ‘beck and call’ is not healthy either. Your child needs unstructured time to themself for them to develop socially and cognitively. What matters is to find a balance that works and to make the most of the time you have with your child. One hour of being present, even if just on a car journey talking to each other, is better than two hours in a room with both of you on your screens.