Many parents have demanding jobs which take up a lot of their time and energy. Work can put twenty-four-hour demands on many people, pressuring them to answer emails and do work outside the office. When parents come home from work and are not fully present, children sense this. They may be disappointed and feel that they are not important enough to warrant their parents’ attention.
Alberto Marante, MD offers some solid strategies for enhancing family time while accomplishing work responsibilities.
How to Decompress
When parents return home at night, it is understandable that they often need to decompress before fully re-entering family life. Too many parents fall into the trap of using their smartphones and computers to relax. Smartphones and computers can capture their attention, keeping their focus away from their children.
When people come home from work, it’s much better to have a designated area where devices are put away. Perhaps a charging area could be set up in a central location. Children are often just as busy on their devices as their parents. Enforcing “device-free time” when parents come home from work can help to foster communication and bonding time.
Playtime for Parents
Children need playtime after school. One great way for parents to disconnect from work is by getting into the habit of playing with children. A simple game of make-believe or even a board game will help parents relax and will give children the feeling that they are important. Over time, parents and children alike will look forward to this special time spent together. Even teens can be drawn into family role-playing games.
Another important time when all smartphones and tablets need to be put away is around the dinner table. Ideally, families should not watch television at mealtimes either. Children and parents alike will focus on their meals and on each other’s company. According to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating while distracted by televisions or smartphones leads to excessive weight gain. It is better to model healthy eating habits for children.
Family dinners need to be preserved. Young children have the opportunity to talk with their parents and older siblings, and everyone has the chance to share what was good and bad about their day. Especially when children and parents both have commitments at dinnertime on school nights, the nights when everyone is together at the dinner table need to be protected.
The benefits of family dinners are far-reaching. A study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that teens who share family dinners more than three times a week are less likely to use alcohol and marijuana.
How to Keep Up with Work?
Ideally, a parent would not have to engage with work while at home with their families. Unfortunately, the reality is that many people have to answer calls and emails while they are out of the office.
One easy way to filter emails and to receive notifications is by using a smartwatch. Parents can set their notifications Using email filters so that they are only interrupted by crucial messages from work. The watch will notify the parent that an email has arrived, and the parent can decide whether or not to respond. Using a watch means that a parent can excuse themselves from the room if necessary to respond to the work message.
If at all possible, parents should try talking to their supervisors and asking whether emails and calls are truly necessary outside work hours. This may be easier said than done, but it’s worth looking into the problem.
Connecting with Family
While every working parent has several competing demands on their time, it is important to foster family connections. Parents do need time to relax after work, but it is best that they do not use their smartphones or tablets to do so.
Alberto Marante, MD reminds parents that the benefits of decompressing and connecting with family after work can be traced to better health outcomes for children and teenagers. Bonding with close family members will bring families closer and create happy memories that will last a lifetime.