You may be physically present but are you being emotionally-attuned to your children’s needs? This is a question child development experts like Erika Christakis say parents must be asking themselves these days. Distracted parenting is on the rise and we need to pay attention to it.
Being a parent is more than just meeting our children’s physical needs, Christakis reminds us. “You have to show up for them in mind, body, and soul.”
In an article in The Atlantic, Christakis, an early-childhood educator and the author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups writes:
When it comes to children’s development, parents should worry less about kids’ screen time—and more about their own.
As these experts have shared, the effects of distracted parenting can manifest in children as anxiety, ADHD, and various psychological distresses now or later. There are some tangible examples around us of just how true this is.
Today, the United States has the highest number of anxiety disorder cases in the world. From the same study, we also learned that 31.9% of adolescents suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. That’s nearly one-third of adolescents!
Like other types of mental health problems, it’s never one thing that causes anxiety. Genetics and your older children’s own social media habits may be a factor in their experience of anxiety. And there are behaviors, which you, as the parent, can affect.
- By spending barely any time outside, children don’t get to counter the effects of overstimulation that is all around us or get the corrective benefits of being outside.
- Children of distracted parents don’t get the amount of structure and emotional attention that they need to feel safe and develop healthy minds.
Now that I’ve gotten you to think about this potential issue in your family, let’s look at what you can do about distracted parenting.
Take better care of yourself.
As parents, making sure you’re eating well, getting the emotional support you need, and balancing work and family time, is essential to you being a more connected parent. Once you’re taking better care of yourself, you will find it easier to carve out alone time with your kids and being present when you’re with them.
Creatively carve out time.
Look to create win-win routines and ways to spend your time together. For example, shooting hoops once a week together will get everyone outside and check off time for physical activity. You and your kids will benefit from the mood-boosting endorphins released by your body and other benefits of this single activity.
Make a regular schedule of it.
What’s going to clinch the deal and let your child know how important they are to you, is if you make a weekly (daily date for younger ones) date of it. You don’t need to spend heaps of time, you just need to be consistent about it.
Tips to help you carve out time to be with your kids:
- Have a weekly date with your child doing something with just the two of you — sharing a sport is great for this.
- Be their teacher; teach your child a life skill, a sport, or something that they’re interested in learning.
- Make watching a TV show like The Voice or Masked Singer a family-event that you never miss.
- Set aside ONE night a week as family time; make this time sacred and something you never miss.
- Have a specific face-to-face time with younger kids every day; right before bed, during your after-dinner walk, etc.
- Have device-free mealtime; have a rule that phones are not allowed at the table.
- Help your child make friends and monitor from a distance, their social welfare.
Remember, you (kinda) can have it all. Now that you’re aware of the potential problems of distracted parenting, take steps to prevent it. Because you can love your job, work hard, and be emotionally-attuned to your children’s needs.
Moka is an aspiring Psychologist and yoga teacher living in New York where having a big exuberant personality like hers comes in handy.