How Much Time Should We Spend
with Our Kids?

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November 20, 2014

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist






How much time do you spend with your children – and do
you worry that it isn’t enough? Parents today are under
pressure from all sides – to earn money, to provide a
healthy, nurturing home environment, and to spend time
with their children. All too often, something’s got to give.
After paid work, housework, leisure activities and exercise,
how much time is left for the kids? And should it be more?
How much time should mom or dad spend daily with their
children for their optimal development? 1 hour? 5 hours?

How Much Time Do Parents Spend With Their Kids?

Most studies concentrate on the time parents spend directly
caring for their children, not simply the time when the child
is in the same house and playing with friends, sleeping, or
watching TV. The amount of time spent looking after
children predictably varies depending on whether the parent
has a full-time or part-time job as well as childcare
responsibilities.

Working mothers in the US spend 94 minutes a day with
their children, according to a 2011 report from the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Time spent with children in this study included time for
mealtimes, bath time, playing games, dressing and changing,
and reading stories, and excluded the time when mom or
dad’s main focus was on another task – and it also included
weekends, which suggests that parents are spending even
less time at the end of the working day on their children.
Working dads in the US spend 62 minutes a day on the same
tasks.

The report compiled data from 21 industrialized nations
between 1998 and 2009, and highlighted significant
differences between time spent on children around the world.

For example, in the UK
working mothers spend less time - 81
minutes a day with their children, and in France it’s just 62
minutes.

The shortest amount of time is 31 minutes in Korea, and in
Japan it’s 53 minutes. In Ireland working mothers spend
150 minutes a day with their children, in Australia 137
minutes, and in Canada 97 minutes.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development survey showed that UK stay-at-home moms
spent 155 minutes a day with their children. French stay-at-
home moms spend 114 minutes a day, while SAHMs (stay-at-
home-moms) in the US spend 155 minutes a day on
childcare.

Are We Spending More Time With Our Children Today?

In 2010, a researcher from Oxford University, UK reported a
dramatic upwards shift in the time men and women spend
with their children today compared to 1975.

In 1975, working women spent just 8 to 21 minutes on
childcare while men gave 8 minutes of their time (how did
they ever get their children fed?)

Whether the figures are based on different activities now
than in the past, it still shows that we are apparently
spending more time now on our children, especially at the
weekends. Activities tend to be child-chosen and led rather
than parents hanging out and the kids tagging along. There
is an increased emphasis on mom-and-baby activities, and on
the time dad spends with his children. But is it enough?

How Much Time Do We Need to Spend With Our Children?


























Counting the minutes and creating a spreadsheet of optimum
engagement doesn’t work, according to experts.

There is no “minimum” or “maximum” best amount of time
to spend with your children, as long as they are healthy,
safe, and well-fed. A better question might be, how much
time should we spend truly engaged with our kids? And
what does engagement mean when it comes to “quality”
time with our children?


Psychologists responding to the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development study guarded against
making working moms feel guilty for not “being there” for
their kids, and claimed it is more important how the time for
childcare is used. If fun, child-led activities are included
within the 94 minutes a day, the time is better spent in terms
of the child’s emotional development, and for bonding with
parents.

Time spent with children, as any parent will know, can be
intensely rewarding or incredibly stressful – often both at
the same time. And the payback often depends on the
activity in question.

According to a 2014 study from Bar-Ilan University, shared
meals and leisure activities were beneficial to parents'
emotional well-being while routine childcare was associated
with increased stress and lower engagement.

A Lot of Time Can Be Too Much Time

And it seems that spending too much time with your children
can negatively impact their emotional development.

A 2010 study from Keene State College shows overly
protective “helicopter” parents bring up children to be more
dependent, neurotic, and less open adolescents.

And a 2013 study from the University of Mary Washington
discovered that the more parents were involved in
schoolwork and homework, and the selection of college
major, the less satisfied children felt when they were college
students.

Perhaps the trick is to ask yourself if your children seem
happy and fulfilled, and whether you are doing the best you
can to manage the time you have available for your family.

Then, take a step back from feeling guilty and focus on
making the time you do have with your children the best it
can be.







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