Is the time you spend with your kids actually hurting them? It is if you're doing this ...
As if parents don't have enough to worry or feel guilty about already, many of us feel pressure to spend more time with our children, be more intensely involved in their lives, and spend every free moment we have with them.
But are our children really benefiting from all this together time? It turns out, spending that much time with them is actually doing more harm than good.
Recent studies suggest that spending time with our kids while we feel stressed out, pressured, or upset just increases their stress levels. Our harried feelings are actually "contagious" to our children, leading to lousy and unhealthy parenting time (NOT the productive, happy time we hoped for).
Interestingly, families actually spend more time with their children now than in previous generations (currently that equates to about an hour per day). But some experts think the rise in parents leading such child-centered lives isn't a good thing.
So what's the answer?
Most of us want to spend time with our children (we actually like the little buggers), but other areas of our life also require our focus and attention, including our personal happiness. When we turn time with our children into one more "to do" on our lists, it becomes an obligation and all involved feel it.
We simply can't force quality time. When we try, real happiness and connection fade away.
So, in effort to balance focused family time with needing to run other areas of your life, here are four ways to keep your parent/child hang time positive and on the energetic up and up.
1. Side-by-side time.
While your children do their homework in the kitchen or family room, join them with either a good book or your own work. There is no pressure to talk or to teach them dazzling life lessons. Instead, just be together doing your own thing. Companionable silence is a beautiful thing.
2. Take a timeout.
Feeling stressed from your work day or overwhelmed after that noisy birthday party? Take a little time for yourself before you try to connect with your kids. Sometimes even just five minutes apart helps ALL of you chill out, re-center, and enjoy time together so much more.
3. Quit being so hard on yourself.
Beating yourself up will never make you a better parent. NEVER. You're human; it's allowed, even preferable. Children know when you're stressed and would rather have reassurance that it's not about them and all will be okay, versus you trying to fake-enjoy time with them. Hint: they don't enjoy that time with you either. Definitely don't dump your worries on your child, but it is okay to have an off day.
4. Remember, there is no "magic" amount of time to spend together.
The ideal amount of quality time needed varies from family to family and from situation to situation within your own family. But the emphasis is on quality, not quantity. In fact, a few studies suggest that not only is there no ideal amount of time, but that too much time may actually be detrimental to our kids. Find the right amount that works for your family.
Still worried that not spending enough time with your kids might ruin them for life?
Well, yet another study suggests that no correlation between time spent together and how well kids turn out even exists. (Yes, there is a slight correlation between not enough time spent with teens and troublesome behaviors, but it was very slight.)
Otherwise, making peace with the amount of parent/kid time your family shares is crucial for happy relationships with our children. Do the best you can based on your circumstances and accept that.
Happy parents lead to happy children, so take care of yourself first so you can show up with energy and truly enjoy your children. Your family is worth it!