Finding more time with your kids

In a new British study, 80% of parents admitted they don't spend enough time with their children, notching up an average of a mere 36 minutes a day with them. Trying to balance work and home life has created a generation of "maybe later" kids whose parents never have enough time to spend with them.

oost working parents would like to believe they spend enough quality time with their children but, in reality, cleaning, cooking and working at home often comes first – children get parked in front of the TV and told that playing a game or reading a story has to wait. If you feel this is your situation, here are a few tips for planning your days so your kids can get more of your time:

  • Sit down and go over your diary for the past week. How much one-on-one time did you spend with your kids? Not eating a meal or just being in the same room, but actually involving yourself in an activity with them such as kicking a ball around, playing a game or helping with their homework? If it’s half-an-hour or less you may want to rearrange your diary and clear some time for your kids.

  • Build some boundaries to clearly define what is work time and what is family time. If you are spending time at home on the computer clearing work emails for, ask yourself if you could have done this in work time, and whether or not you really need to be working in your own time – which is also your children’s time with you. Everyone has to work late sometimes, but making clear commitments to be home, to be at that sports game or just to be free to spend some time with your children can help you manage your work-life balance better.

  • Ask your kids how they feel. Do you think they get enough time with you? Would they like more? Sit down with them and make a list of the activities you’d like to do together. Put them in your diary as time that is spoken for and not available for work or housework.

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to the housework. If both parents are working, then you will need to do washing, cleaning and cooking in the evening. But lower your standards a little so it doesn’t take all night, every night. A bit of mess is okay if it means your kids get more of your time.

  • Consider hiring some outside help for household jobs. Worked out at an hourly rate, you might find that getting someone else to do the cleaning or the ironing is money well-spent in terms of having extra time with your children.

  • Involve your kids in housework and cooking. oaking a simple meal with the kids can count as quality time, and helping each other make beds and tidy up with a reward at the end of the week can also work well for some families.

  • Remember that playing games with your children is a stress-reducing activity for you. Leaving work at the office and taking your kids for a walk or game in the park can work wonders for your own mental health.

  • Be clear with your boss that you’re a working parent and family comes first. oany people feel their bosses will think less of them if they aren’t available 24/7 but this is an very oldfashioned attitude. oost bosses realise that an employee with a happy family life is a much better worker than someone who is miserable.

  • If you do often say “maybe later” or “not now” to your children, realise that while those statements buy you a little time, you are essentially rejecting your kids unless you actually follow up on the promise. How would you feel if someone you loved and wanted to spend time with continually fobbed you off? You’d feel rejected and unloved, so instead try saying, “I just have to finish this but I’ll be with you in 10 minutes. If I forget, come and remind me.”

  • If you find that you really do have limited time to spare during the working week, make up for it at the weekend. Instead of lounging around watching TV or checking emails, plan family day trips or weekends away to stockpile quality time together.

  • It’s true that one of the reasons you work so hard is to give your children a nice life with everything they need, – including healthy food, suitable clothes, a comfortable home and a good education – but love, fun and communication also have a value, even if it’s not a monetary one. Learn to invest your time, as well as your finances, in your family.

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