There's some good news out of the parenting world: parents are spending more time than ever with their kiddos. Moms and dads everywhere are really embracing their roles, and digging into spending time with their little ones. But (you'd knew there'd be a but!), what kind of time are we actually spending with them? Is the quantity of time we spend being mom and dad being overshadowed by the quality of that time? We're living in the digital age, and that means that a lot of our lives are spent staring at screens. It's hard to break away, especially if you're a working parent. A lot of us multitask when it comes to spending time with our kids, more than ever before in fact.
We've entered the age of continuous partial attention when it comes to parenting. What does that mean, exactly? Well, for a lot of parents it means splitting our time and attention between our kids and what's going on in our phones. We don't want to cast any sort of blame. Trust us, we know how hard it is to be a working mom and want to give 100% to both your job and your kids. But kids are very aware of their parents not giving them their full attention. This generation of little ones is growing up sharing mom and dad with a screen, and the bottom line is, we just don't know what the ramifications of that are yet.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the amount of time parents spend on smartphones can undermine their relationships with their kids. It can make the time spent together seem less meaningful, and sadly, kids pick up on that. When a child senses that they're not getting their parent's full attention, either at home or in a social setting, they can act out. This is especially true of small children who can't verbalize their needs.
Even if you respond to your child verbally, that might not be enough if your body language tells a different story. We've all been in a situation like that, right? When someone says they're listening, but their body language conveys a different message. According to Urszula Klich, licensed clinical psychologist and president of the Southeast Biofeedback and Clinical Neuroscience Association, "non-congruent" body language can cause distress and anxiety in small kids.
So how do we put a stop to this continuous partial attention? For starters, we need to be better about putting down our phones. It's helpful to designate family time and phone time, and stick to those boundaries. That email or text message can certainly wait an hour while you give your full, undivided attention to your little people. It's really all about balance. Yes, it's great that parents are spending more time with their kids. But we need to be more mindful of the quality of that time.