By Clinical Nurse Specialist Anna Katzman
Here’s our chance. It’s nearing summertime. The days are longer and our kids are freer.
I’m excited with the anticipation of getting into the purple-clip-on-hair-extensions-covered head of my ‘tween daughter and hearing what comes out of the blue braces-bejeweled mouth of my pre-teen son.
I have been busily studying up on their slang, (“Sick!” I know – I’m so “G!”), so that when that magical hiatus from school mornings arrives, I will finally be able to morph from a human megaphone into a person that has more to say to my kids than, “It’s 7:45! Out the door!”
One of summer’s many gifts is the chance to spend more time with our kids. From late June until September, time – or more time, for that matter – is finally on our side.
Or is it? When it comes to making the most of our time with our kids, is quantity the answer?
Experts – and our own kids – say no. When it comes to spending time with our kids, quality is key.
What exactly constitutes quality time with our kids? The answers may surprise you…
Here’s what we believe: Parents generally believe that any time we spend with our kids is meaningful, no matter what we’re doing together.
According to the National KidsDay Meaningful Time Survey, while fathers and mothers differ about what’s most meaningful, (fathers spend more time engaging in athletic activities or events with their children and mothers spend more time engaging in unstructured interaction), most parents (62%) consider doing instructional activities with our kids to be meaningful time.
No matter what the activity, when spending time with our children, we parents seek to enrich our parenting experience.
Here’s what our kids think (according to the survey): Our kids do not agree that any time we spend with them is meaningful.
Our children view time spent doing fun activities with us (49% vs. 35%) as most meaningful.
When asked, “What do you consider the best meaningful time spent with your parents?" kids have chosen “talking about my day”and watching t.v. together.
Dr. Amy Hsin, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Queens College, CUNY, states, “We find that educational time” (reading, doing homework, etc.) “and structured time” (sports, music lesson, art and craft, etc.) “have a positive and significant effect on children's cognitive” (how we think and learn) “and behavioral outcomes.”
She notes, an “excessive amount of unstructured play relative to other types of activities that are more productive (i.e. educational time or structured play) is associated with worse child outcomes.” Dr. Hsin clarifies that “unstructured play” refers to “t.v. time and unspecified activities when kids say they are ‘doing nothing’ or ‘hanging out’" – not to free play.
This summer, any season, or any day, no matter how much we have of it, time is on our side – if we use it well. When it comes to spending time with our kids, just make it count.
Anna Katzman is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in psychiatry, certified in child and adolescent mental health and a freelance writer and an intern for GalTime. You can visit her blog for additional information.
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