Quantity vs. Quality: How to Make the Most of Time with our Children

As parents, we often feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to attend to all of our responsibilities, or to spend as much time with our children as we would like (and feel we should).

According to Brigid Shulte of the Washington Post, despite American parents spending more time with their children than parents in any other country, between work and carpools and doctors appointments and preparing dinner, many parents are left feeling as though their children are suffering as a consequence of lack of time with their moms and dads. Shulte attributes much of this concern to the “widespread cultural assumption that the time parents, particularly mothers, spend with children is the key to ensuring a bright future.”

Hopefully, American parents can rest a little easier in light of an April 2015 article in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which reports that the quantity of time spent with children has virtually no impact on their academic achievement, behavior, or emotional well-being from the ages of three to eleven years. For adolescents, however, more parental engagement does appear to promote less risky behavior.

In addition, mothers who spend more time with their children yet feel anxious and stressed as a result, can actually have a negative impact on their children’s well-being. The important part to keep in mind is that once again, quality trumps quantity.

So when we are able to be with our children, we should remember to be truly present with them; turn off cell phones, avoid checking emails, and just take time out to relax and read a book or have a conversation over dinner. Then we can worry a bit less, and enjoy time spent together a bit more, knowing that we’re doing what’s best for them.