I recently read that, “According to a  report by the A.C. Nielsen Company, parents spend only 39 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.” Yikes. That’s less time than it takes me to watch one meaningful episode of This Is Us. Although the report is over 10 years old, I wouldn’t be surprised if this statistic were worse now, given the exponential growth in use of smartphones and social media within the last decade. It makes me wonder how many minutes of meaningful conversation I have with my kids each week, and whether conversations about homework, chores, carpool schedules, spending habits, and sports schedules are considered meaningful. If they aren’t, then I have a lot of catching up to do.
This article is created by Nicole Young, a mother of two children, ages 15 and 18, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is available locally at the Child Parent Institute. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit calparents.org/classes
Dear Child Parent Institute,
My family is doing fine overall – no major conflicts or problems with my kids’ behaviors. But our daily schedule is hectic with school, work, child care, after-school activities, homework, and social activities. Sometimes it seems like we only see each other for a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day, when we’re all too rushed or tired to talk to each other. What can I do to stay connected to my kids and not let our busy lives get in the way?
Good question! In Triple P, Quality Time and Talking or Communicating with children and teens are the first two parenting strategies that are taught, as they form the foundation of strong family relationships and connections. Quality Time can be brief, as long as it’s frequent and focused on things children and teens need or are interested in. This opens the door to Talking and Communicating in both good and difficult times, no matter how busy everyone is. Here are some tips to try:
Give kids brief and frequent attention – it adds up over time. Many times, kids only need or want a few minutes of attention before they’re off to the next activity or task. When your child or teen wants to ask, tell, or show you something, stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, and listen (instead of saying “in a minute”). Giving quality time in this way sends the message that they matter, and you care.
Eat at least one meal together each day. Use this time to reconnect with each other, even if it’s only for a short amount of time at the beginning or end of the day. Turn mealtimes into quality time by turning off electronic devices and talking about things each person is thinking, feeling, or doing. This also helps children and teens learn important communication skills, such as taking turns asking questions, talking, and listening.
Do things together without electronic devices. Turn devices off, or at least silenced and out of sight, for an agreed-upon amount of time. Go on walks, play cards or other games, read books, go shopping, play a sport, cook meals, or just sit quietly together. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or all-day activity – when it comes to family time, quality and consistency matter the most.
Turn everyday routines into quality time. Researchers have found that children view everyday routines and hanging out with parents as valuable family time. Imagine that! Talk with your kids on the way to or from child care or school, ask if they need help with homework (even if it’s just helping them review what assignments they have), talk or listen to music while you do chores together, or “make a date” to watch a TV show or movie together. These small moments may seem insignificant but can create a lasting impression.
Play together. Make up a game using your imagination, or play a structured game with rules. Either way, kids of all ages will enjoy laughing and doing something as a family that has nothing to do with chores, school work, or family rules. Playful moments often create the best, longest-lasting family memories.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Quality Time and Talking or Communicating with children and teens are two of the most effective parenting strategies. Using them can help build and maintain strong relationships with children and teens of all ages, and they don’t have to cost anything except your time and imagination.
Child Parent Institute
This month’s newsletter is all about quality time and positive attention. Both of these go a very long way to reduce challenging child behaviors, which in turn helps parents control their frustrations. It’s a great step in reducing child maltreatment. During the month of April, CPI will be recognizing Child Abuse Awareness Month and will be offering free parenting classes in April with more great tips for parenting positively. For more information or to register please visit calparents.org/classes.