Policy makers, parents and the public are concerned with perceived declines in parents’ time with children. Data from two national surveys show that nearly half of parents report feeling like they have too little time with children.
Granted, it’s difficult to juggle family life with work and other obligations, but studies show that parents place a high value on this one-on-one time. They rate spending time with their children higher than other activities, see family time as an important experience that produces long-lasting and happy memories for children, and recognize that spending time with children is necessary for children’s proper growth and development. Plus, research reveals that most youths like spending time with their parents.
So what are you waiting for?
Here are three simple steps for spending quality, one-on-one time with your children.
1. Commit to making your children more a part of your daily schedule. Make a list of your regular activities and consider how much time you are devoting to each of those activities. Find ways to limit the time spent in activities of lesser importance in order to make more time for your children.
For example, I know a man who neglected his children because of his obsession with sports. When his wife brought the problem to his attention, he made some admirable changes. For example, he became more selective about which games to watch, and sometimes he turned off the television during the first half and watched only the second half (or, when watching a full game, turned off the game at halftime to play with the kids). On other occasions, he took his kids to a local sports event to watch it live.
2. Make sure that you’re spending quality time with your children. Instead of watching TV in silence, try to be more interactive. You can eat dinner together every evening, go to the pool, play a board game, have a picnic in the park, or go to the library for a number of activities (like storytimes, book clubs, arts and crafts, etc.).
Playing outside with your children is a simple act that can have major benefits. According to a recent study by Sandra Hofferth, Ph.D., a professor of Family Science at the University of Maryland, children’s time spent outdoors has fallen dramatically: children have lost eight hours of free, unstructured and spontaneous play a week. Decades of research has shown that this type of play is crucial to physical, intellectual and social-emotional development at all ages.
3. Effective parenting involves a schedule which includes individual time with each parent. Susanne Denham, Ph.D., in her book "Social and Emotional Prevention and Intervention Programming for Preschoolers," says that the relationships children establish in the home influence the relationships they establish outside the home; thus, “the development of a positive, consistent, emotionally supportive relationship with each child is primary.”
Individual time can foster a warmer, stronger relationship by allowing the parent to focus on the individual child’s needs and interests. According to Stanley Greenspan, Ph.D., author of "First Feelings: Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child," individual time with your children shows positive regard, emotional availability and responsiveness. Anita Gurian, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine, suggests that individual time with children can encourage individuality, reduce favoritism and curb sibling rivalry.
Here are some ideas for spending quality, one-on-one time with your children. Some are more elaborate than others; fit them to your circumstances:
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