The Work Life Balancing Act
As a parent perhaps our greatest worry is “am I spending enough time actually raising my child?” It’s tough. We must provide for our offspring while rearing them in a rewarding relationship, but the concerns and duties of everyday adult life—employment, housing, domestic chores, etc.—all conspire to pull our attention away from our wee one(s).
Relax. This is normal. Instagram, Disney movies and glossy magazine spreads are lying to us. Even the most organized and financially secure people struggle with child-rearing. So for the other 99% of us, the challenge is to find a work-life balance.
Raising Emotionally Secure Kids
Children naturally reach out to their parents when they need or want something until they are taught to do otherwise through admonishment or neglect. What children need most of all is our attention and our approval/acceptance. When we spend time focused on our child, they feel worthwhile and worthy of love and respect. These concepts are something best modelled for them, as even adults struggle to define and explain them.
Amy Morin states the obvious: the rewards of undivided attention between parent and child are mutual. The Peaceful Parent Institute tells us that a deepened empathy for our child brings a deeper, truer understanding of who they are as an individual; as a little person finding their way through this big scary world.
When we can really be attentive to our children, we get to share their experiences and learn what they need from us. As we learn what they need, we can guide them and teach them life skills, and this guidance becomes a platform of accrued knowledge beneath them. That platform gives our kids a bigger, more stable base from which to launch their next stage of development. And humans never stop developing. With few exceptions, our thoughts and beliefs change with the input of facts and experience.
So how do we create these ideal conditions when we’re being pulled away by work and other responsibilities?
Here is the happy news—parents can accomplish this focus time as they go throughout their daily at-home routines. Erin Ollila suggests that you can readily prioritize family time simply by incorporating your child’s assistance with age-appropriate household chores. Toddlers pick up toys while you chat with them about their favourite ones. Elementary school-age children set the table and clear away dishes while unpacking their day. Teenagers make dinner while expanding on their latest dream career.
And don’t just listen, ask questions. By using this “tasks while talking” approach, the child knows that they are a part of the household unit with something to contribute. They feel recognized and valued and snuggly woven into the family fabric.
Reading to your children and having them read to you is a vital quality time activity that reaps huge rewards. Books contain ideas that can be the springboard for endless conversations between the two of you, and reading aloud may help in the detection of a learning difficulty.
Reading Eggs lists the benefits to reading aloud with your children. Aside from enjoyment (most kids relish the physical and emotional bonding that reading time provides), increased attention span and building cognitive skills, Reading Eggs suggests that there are three big advantages your child will gain through reading:
A stronger vocabulary through listening to new words being used in context. You have heard that small children are little sponges, soaking up everything they hear. Their environment and experiences are reflected in their communication skills.
Stronger connections between the spoken and written word. Reading aloud brings clarity to what letters in various arrangements sound like and mean, and illustrates the difference between the structure of text and speech.
A safe method for exploring particularly strong emotions such as jealousy or grief. A tale with characters who experience deep and overwhelming emotions in scenarios that allow for them to play out helps children to understand and accept their own feelings and those of others, and this facilitates discussion of their emotions with others.
Staying active with a regular evening activity like a walk is good for the whole family and removes the glowing screen element from your together time. The passing scenery can be fodder for comments, or your conversation can flow from whatever is on the child’s mind.
The important part is that the child recognizes that this is their time with you, so Morin advises absolutely no phone calls or texts during this time. Demonstrate clearly that you place your child at the top of your list. Obviously, you don’t want a little time tyrant on your hands, but through daily active interaction with your brood, you prevent those devastating feelings of unworthiness that can set a child back in so many ways for so many years.
Tagging in Help
Although there is no substitute for a parent’s love and attention, sometimes we all need to enlist the aid of trusted caregivers. Perhaps because of illness or because you get swamped at your workplace, having a shortlist of competent and loving support people upon whom you can call is a critical resource to develop.
Have your candidates over for coffee/tea and see how they interact with your kids. Ideally, you want someone who won’t impose new standards of behaviour in stark contrast with your household’s established expectations and standards. Children trust you to protect them from rude surprises.
You've Got This
You are what your child wants and needs most. Your very presence gives security on a multitude of levels. Secure children are happy children and, eventually, well-adjusted adults. It is an honour when your children come to you with their fears and woes. By demonstrating that you can be present in the moment with them, they will, in turn, reward you with their heaviest burdens and their greatest joys.
Written by Jane Thornton