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Parents Are Spending More Time With Their Kids, But It's Not The Minutes That Matter

It's a case of quality over quantity.
Maskot via Getty Images

New research suggests that modern-day parents are actually spending more time with their children. It's time to quit worrying and continue enjoying our kids by maximising the minutes that we are present.

Amid the commotion about too much screen time for children and parents, overscheduling and increased time spent in the workplace by mothers -- the research-confirmed results say that we, modern-day parents, are smashing it.

According to two studies recently published by the University of Oxford and the University of California, the amount of 'quality time' parents spend with their children per day is on the rise.

Outlined in the graph below, the studies showed that in the past half century, mothers spend around double the time they used to with their kids, and fathers more than triple the time, although it must be said that the figure for fathers started from a very low base.

So, with more women in the workplace and more men taking on the role of primary carer, it's about time we parents gave ourselves a break -- scratch that -- gave ourselves a giant pat on the back.

This is a sore point for many parents who spend time away from their children during the working week. Even though those 'child-care' minutes have increased -- and let's call them child-connected minutes -- is it enough?

We all know the saying, quality rather than quantity. The minutes that we spend with our children can be, and should be, carefully crafted to make them count.

And, because each child is different, what happens in those minutes is going to be determined by what that child counts as a child-connected minute. Watching a movie together -- if that's what your child loves, being there alongside that child, giving your time to connect in something mutually pleasurable meets the mark.

It even extends to value adding to the family community -- like doing chores together -- yes, those minutes do count with our children.

The truth -- we're doing just fine -- we need to be less self-critical and celebrate how well we're doing with, and for, our young people.

The advent of the term 'quality time' has been a rod for every parent's back. Time is a precious commodity and whether it's spent weeding together, exploring a park together, doing sparkly crafts together -- the psychological long shot for our child is the banking of moments together that don't all have to be about fun and only the exciting things in life.

Yes, good news, even time spent doing chores or wading through supervising teeth brushing and bath-time, ticks the 'quality' time requirement in child-connected minutes.

Parents everywhere should take time to think about how they make their present and available child-connected minutes matter. Here are some thoughts and practices that help.

Five ways to maximise those minutes:

Put your technology away when you're actively engaged with your child.

No flicking open the screen, checking an email, sending a quick text. If you're reading a story then do that, only. There are quieter side-by-side activities where the quick sneak peek is fine.

Sort out a routine to decrease the arguing and fussing around busy times of the day.

If you arrive after a full day of work, stepping into a home rhythm is kind to you and kind to your child. This means predictable routines. Perhaps it's shower time, dinner time, check homework time, story time and then lights out. You'll know what works for your family. A predictable rhythm works for everyone and stops the nagging, the niggling and the angst.

Plan something special with each child that happens each week.

It might be watching a TV show together, reading the next chapter of a book, building something together. It gives you and your child something to look forward to and will become a highlight of their week. You get double points for those child-connected minutes.

Make the 'have to's' part of collective family thinking.

Chores get grumbles, but when pitched as growing your family community you start to grow a healthy family mindset, which means you can bank those minutes in your child-connected minute account.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Simplify the huge task of keeping on top of a home with children in it. Step out of wanting perfection and really decide on what matters. The rest -- it's just time wasting, angst-producing stuff that depletes those precious child-connected minutes.

Amidst the shaming of families for busy lives, increased screen time for all, more women in the workplace, the list goes on... It's easy to buy in to the hysteria around just how bad modern day parents are at child-raising. The truth -- we're doing just fine -- we need to be less self-critical and celebrate how well we're doing with, and for, our young people.

Parental guilt over their child-connected minutes is destructive -- and sadly very common. Get in there and make the most of those minutes, every one counts.

For the rest of the time, know that houses need cleaning, work needs doing, and relationships away from your child and family, are sustaining and vital to your wellbeing.

High-five, mums and dads -- we're doing great!


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