The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: What kids want from busy parents

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What kids want from busy parents

All too often, parents become busy with work, carpools, housework, yard work, and any other activities that separate them from quality time with their children.  So, thanks to my friends at, they have identified ten things that kids really want from their busy parents. My additional comments are in red.

Juggling a hectic schedule with the demands of parenthood can be challenging in itself; deciphering the unspoken needs and desires of your children can be even more difficult. These ten things are the most commonly sought-after desires among children of busy parents.
  1. Affection – Children crave affection from all of the trusted adults in their lives, but they especially want to feel it from their parents. If you spend a significant portion of your child’s day away from home, try to make up for it with plenty of affection during the time you do have together. What kind of affection?  That could be a peck on the cheek, a pat on the head, or an arm around the shoulder.  Touch is a powerful indication of affection.
  2. Acknowledgment of Accomplishments – When you acknowledge the accomplishments and milestones in your child’s life, especially if you weren’t present for them, it shows that you’re thinking of them when you’re away and are proud of the things they’ve done. Consider making an album of accomplishments.  When a new milestone comes along, add a photograph, drawn picture, or verbal depiction of the event.  Then every so often, go back and review previous successes.  Many parents only go back to revisit previous failures.
  3. To Feel That Their Parents Are Interested in Their Lives – Missing out on the largest part of your child’s day-to-day life can lead them to believe that you aren’t interested in the things that are important to them. Even if you have to quiz the nanny (or babysitter!) about the big parts of the day, your child needs to know that you’re interested in their life. Try to use open-ended questions like, "What did you do when you went out for a walk?"  Those kinds of questions are better than the ones that require one-word answers.
  4. One-On-One Time – For working parents with more than one child, making time for some one-on-one time with each child can be an almost insurmountable task, but it’s one of the things that they need most. Finding a time when you can connect with each child individually should be a priority, even though it’s difficult to accomplish. Set a schedule and stick with it, so your child knows when his or her time will come for that special one-on-one activity.
  5. Whole-Family Interaction – While kids want to spend time alone with their parents, they also need to interact with their family unit as a whole. Spending time together will not only fulfill their needs and help to smooth the friction of sibling rivalry; it will also provide you all with invaluable memories. When my kids were little, I made sure we had Sunday dinner in the dining room.  To this day, my girls remember those special dinners :-)
  6. To Feel That They Are Important – Kids may understand intellectually that their parents work hard in order to provide for them, they can still feel like they’re consistently taking a backseat to the “more important” task of working. Letting your child know that you miss them, and that they’re the most important things in your life can soothe these pangs before they become full-blown resentment. This is easier said than done - literally!  Simply observe what your child is doing without judging, either positively or negatively:  "I see your teacher says you finished all your homework every day this month."  This is different from "I like that you did your homework every day this month."  The latter places the approval extrinsically from the parent; the former places it intrinsitically within the child.
  7. Attendance at Events – Over-scheduled kids can have more events than a stay-at-home parent could attend, but there are major events that children are devastated for their parents to miss. An annual recital or championship game might cause a scheduling snarl, but it will make your child’s day to see you there, cheering them on. You may not think this particularly important, but your kids watch to see if you're there with the other parents.  I remember one of  my daughters' friends express regret that his father never made it to any of his ball games or practices, as we sat there watching my girls play softball. :-(
  8. For You to Be Less Stressed – When a New York childcare worker polled children for an upcoming book, she asked them what they most wanted from their parents. Instead of the predicted “more time,” the majority of kids simply answered that they wished their parents were less stressed over work and money. Like dogs, children can sense a person's stress.  When parents are stressed, they yell more, rush around more, and generally make the home an uncomfortable place in which to live.  How do you avoid stress?  By rethinking your priorities, taking time for more sleep and relaxation activities, and remembering that your kids are more important than any schedule!
  9. To Be Listened To – Knowing your time with a child is limited for the day can create the temptation to force all of your parenting lessons in during the course of a conversation, but what most children truly need is to be listened to, without criticism or correction. Listening is a lost art.  Most parents hear their children, but they sometimes don't truly hear what they are saying or the message behind the words. 
  10. Your Presence – Even if they’re sleeping or playing in another room, it’s comforting for your children to know that you’re home and accessible, should they need you. Simply being present satisfies one of your child’s strongest emotional needs. That says it all!
No matter how busy you are, you can always make time for your kids. They don’t always need quantity, but they do need quality. Make sure the time you spend with them is enjoyable and productive for you both.

Happy Parenting!

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