We lead increasingly busy lives these days. Extended working hours, long commutes and too much time spent online, can often mean that we don’t have enough time to spend with our children. When we do we’re often anxious, lacking in sleep and mentally fatigued. Kids pick up on our emotions and our stress levels which, in turn, can affect their emotional health and our relationships with them.
Aisling Killoran of AccomplishChange.ie, a health and wellbeing expert with almost 20 years’ experience, agrees it’s a major problem and one that needs to be addressed. “It’s important to spend intermittent time with your child, even if it’s just 15 minutes at a time,” she says. “But it must be 100% quality time, with no interruptions, and children need additional attention when they’re distressed.” So how can you manage this if, like most modern parents, you find yourself worn out and stressed?
Choose a Quiet Environment
Parents should focus first and foremost on quality, not quantity of time, says Aisling. “It’s better to spend less time with your child and be completely present than longer periods when you’re distracted.” This is best done in a quiet environment. “Children need to be listened to,” says Aisling. “It’s easier to ignore what they’re saying when you’re in a busy place, so choose somewhere quiet and relaxed.”
Step Away from Your Phone
If at all possible, leave technology out of the picture when spending time with your child. This applies to both parent and child – children need to be present too. “Children are currently experiencing issues around socialising because they spend an average of two hours a day on digital devices,” says Aisling. “This makes them less able to interact with their parents, as well as other adults and their peers.”
Spend Time in Nature
Doing something together in an outdoor environment is a great way for both parents and children to release built-up stress and spend time together. “Children are not designed to sit inside all day. They need to run, play and explore nature,” says Aisling. “Let them get dirty. Let them roll around on the grass, climb trees and get their knees scraped!”
Walk the Dog Together
If you don’t have time to go to the park, walking the dog together is the next best thing. “Use the time to check in with them and talk about their concerns. Being out in fresh air and away from the distractions of home means they’re more likely to be open and relaxed,” says Aisling.
Do an Activity Together
Another way to spend quality time with your child is to involve them in activities. For example, if you play a sport, start to teach them. If you enjoy painting, then do it together. Maybe you like to garden at the weekend? Children love to get their hands dirty in clay – get them involved.
Make Your Time Together Count
Positive feedback is important too. “Give them praise and acknowledge good behaviour,” says Aisling. “This helps to build their confidence and gives them a sense of security. Hugging is important too. It provides reassurance and strengthens the bond between parent and child.”
Visit www.AccomplishChange.ie for more information.