By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools for Havre Daily News
Parents and children agree they want to spend meaningful time together, but tend to disagree on what it takes to make family interaction meaningful, according to the National KidsDay Meaningful Time Survey, recently conducted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The telephone survey of nearly 1,000 parents and children from some 500 families found that one in five children (20 percent) say that they have "too little" or "hardly any" meaningful time with their parents. The majority of parents also are dissatisfied with the amount of meaningful time they spend with their children, with 54 percent admitting to spending "too little" or "hardly any" meaningful time with their children.
The survey also reveals that more than half the time, parents and children from the same family disagree about activities that constitute meaningful time. Although, in general, parents and kids list many of the same activities, they differ in the emphasis they place on fun-focused versus instructive activities. More children say fun-focused activities rather than instructive activities (49 percent vs. 35 percent) constitute meaningful time, whereas the vast majority of parents place instructive activities at the top of their lists over fun-focused activities (62 percent vs. 35 percent).
According to the survey, children also are more discriminating than parents about the activities they consider meaningful. Thirty percent of parents believe all the time they spend with children is meaningful, regardless of what they are doing. Only 11 percent of children feel the same way.
"The National KidsDay Meaningful Time Survey demonstrates that parents need to recognize that what we consider to be meaningful and memorable time with our children may be different from what our children really want or need from us," said Roxanne Spillett, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "We learned that simply spending more time together is not always the answer. We need to look at how we are spending time with our kids."
The results also reveal that parents and children agree that spending casual time at home together, such as talking and playing games, is one of the best ways to spend meaningful time together. Sports and other outdoor activities was the second most popular choice for both parents and children.
"If I were to advise parents about how to create meaningful time with their children, I would suggest two things: First, carve out real time each week and make this time dedicated exclusively to activities that are between you and your children; and second, do your best to choose activities where you can participate with your kids in ways that allow for true listening and back-and-forth communication, acknowledgment and positive feedback, and lots of hugs," said Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.