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 are asking parents to reflect on. Distracted parenting is on the rise and Christakis believes, we can’t afford to ignore the signs.
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.
Christakis and other child development experts know that the effects of distracted parenting can manifest in children as anxiety, ADHD, and various psychological distresses. There is much societal evidence pointing to just how true this is.
Today, the United States has the highest number of anxiety disorder cases in the world. From that same study, we learn that 31.9% of adolescents suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. That’s nearly one-third of all adolescents!
Much like other types of mental health problems, it’s never one thing that causes anxiety. Genetics and older children’s social media habits can contribute to their experience of anxiety. These may not be things that parents can do much about, however, there are behaviors that you can affect.
- When children don’t get enough time outdoors, they don’t get to counter the effects of overstimulation that is all around us or get the corrective benefits of being outside.
- Parents can invest more time in their children to ensure they get the emotional attention that they need to feel safe and develop healthy minds.
- And parents can teach their children how to live efficiently and effectively based on what they, as parents, prioritize and how they spend their time.
Now that we know the risks of distracted parenting, let’s look at 5 things you can do to mitigate those risks.
1. Take 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. When you’re taking care of yourself, you will find it easier to carve out alone time with your kids and being present when you’re with them.
2.Creatively carve out time.
You can carve out time with your kids by looking for opportunities that you can both benefit from. One example is shooting hoops together once a week. You get to spend time together, get a workout in, and enjoy the mood-boosting effects of working up a sweat.
3. Make a regular date.
You don’t need to spend heaps of time with your child, you just need to be consistent about spending time with them. Let your child know how important they are to you by making a weekly date with them (a daily date if you have younger ones). With older children, you can watch a TV show like The Voice or Masked Singer together, and with younger ones, you can spend one on one time right before bed every night.
4. Be their teacher.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, as their parent, you’re also their first teacher. Think about the qualities of the best teachers and do the work to embody those qualities you want your child to have. You can also use your teacher-parent role to teach your child a life skill, a sport, or something they’re interested in learning.
5. Help your child make friends.
The ability to make friends is one of the most important life skills your child will ever need. Kudos to you if you’re already setting them up with playdates, encouraging them to find hobbies and join after-school activities. Take this one step further by spending a healthy amount of time around your children’s friends and getting to know their parents. Being involved to a healthy degree can decrease incidences of bullying and help to increase your child’s social welfare.
The question many working parents have is: Can I have it all? In a manner of speaking, yes, you can. With the right strategies and how you prioritize your time, you can love your job and work hard at, and be emotionally attuned to your children’s needs.
Christakis reminds us that being a parent is more than just meeting our children’s physical needs. “You have to show up for them in mind, body, and soul,” she says.