Are You Spending Enough Quality Time with Your Child?

Admit it: You’ve probably felt guilty for not spending enough quality time with your kids. Should you? It turns out that your kids might not need your undivided attention quite as much as you thought.

Are You Spending Enough Quality Time Together?

Honestly, you probably are. Research shows that, despite common beliefs, our society is not facing a drought of parent-child time.

For one thing, a 2007 University of Maryland study revealed that modern mothers spend about 14.1 hours per week focused on their kids, up approximately four hours from mothers in 1962. In the 1960s, even though mothers were home more, their time was often focused on cooking and cleaning, rather than on one-on-one time with their children. Today’s mothers, even if they work outside the home, are more likely to spend their at-home time with their kids than in the kitchen.

More recently, a 2015 study from sociologist Melissa Milkie and her associates found that there is no direct correlation between the time that kids ages three through 11 spend with their parents and how successful they will be in the future. In other words, hanging out with your kids 24-7 isn’t going to guarantee their Ivy League admission.

So Why Bother with Quality Time?

First of all, even if your kids’ future success doesn’t depend on how often you hang out with them, quality time still can’t hurt. Children certainly do benefit from being with their parents; it’s just that the actual amount of time they do so isn’t all that significant. Plus, you may find that you benefit from time with your kids just as much as they do. In a 2013 survey, 62% of parents ranked caring for their children as a “very meaningful” experience.

Furthermore, Milkie’s study did find that, unlike for young kids, there is a link between the time adolescents ages 12 though 18 spend with their parents and their future success. It takes an average of about six hours of parent-adolescent time per week to achieve these benefits. By starting when your kids are young, spending quality time them may simply be a natural part of your family life by the time they reach adolescence.

What Counts as Quality Time?

There’s no set formula for achieving quality time with your kids. The key is to find time where you can be both present and engaged with your children. Your kids will know that you’re paying attention to them, and they’ll pick up on your values, too.

So what can you do for quality time? Consider the following ideas and use them as a springboard to come up with a plan that fits your family’s interests and available time.

  • Play in the backyard.

  • Read or look at books.

  • Help with homework.

  • Do puzzles or play a board game.

  • Chat about school, your family or whatever interests your child.

  • Work on a project, whether it’s a household task, an art masterpiece or a service for others.

  • Eat a meal together.

  • Enjoy nature – go on a hike, have a picnic, or spend time fishing.

One other piece of advice to take away from Milkie’s study is that in order for the time you spend with your kids to count as quality time, you can’t be a stressed-out mess. The researchers found that spending time with overtired, stretched-thin, anxious parents can actually be harmful to children’s development.

So take a deep breath. Rather than stressing over spending every possible moment with your kids, enjoy them when you can, and realize that you’re actually doing a pretty great job as a parent.