Parents are often pulled in several directions at once: work, friends, family members and hobbies.
But if parents are “too busy” to spend quality time with their children, or if they are working full time and are struggling to find extra time in the day – what are the impacts?
According to Dr Jade Sheen, Associate Professor School of Psychology at Deakin University, this all depends on how the family manages their time and family connections.
Focus on quality time
“Parents are doing the best they can with the resources they have and we need to be careful of shaming them if they have to work or are busy. Parents feel guilty enough! There are however, ways that busy parents can make sure their children’s needs are attended to while also, hopefully, managing their workloads,” Dr Sheen said.
“At its best, full time work can support the development of better quality time with children as parents recognise the impact of time apart and actively seek to manage it. Full time work with a family also necessitates strong organisational and time management skills, problem solving and flexibility, all of which are being role modelled to children.”
Parents would all agree that working from home with children can be tough. But there are ways parents can get the children to work “with them" - or to occupy themselves without being noisy or disruptive.
“Have some form of routine to the day that is predictable (but flexible if the wheels fall off!). Discuss the routine with the child each day so they know what is happening. Within the routine consider the child's physical, creative and educational play needs and try to find time for each,” Dr Sheen said.
“Have specific free play materials that are desirable to the child but only available during work hours. Have a desk nearby with the child's "homework" in case they want to be close and role model from you. Also, make time for expected connection points through the day, such as having lunch together.”
Dr Sheen suggests that when parents are extremely busy, they could focus on quality time with young children, rather than quantity.
“When busy parents are mindful to create good quality time each day, with each of their children, they can support connection and promote children’s self-esteem. This time needs to be free of distractions and the general ‘noise’ of life. The age of the child also factors in here as younger children are likely to need more of these connection points through the day,” Dr Sheen said.
And should parents try to explain the reasons why they are very busy, so it will make sense to their child? Dr Sheen said there are two schools of thought when it comes to an explanation for young children.
“An age-appropriate explanation is reasonable but don’t expect this to work every time! Younger children for example, are typically egocentric and may struggle to see beyond their own needs,” Dr Sheen said.
“You can explain what you are doing and assure them that you are interested in them and care for them. You can also make them wait only for a length of time appropriate for their age group. Set up a task for them and activities nearby so they can role play/role model from you.”
“This may decrease the need for interruptions and build a foundation that makes work from home easier in later years but it takes time.”