You remain glued to the TV when your child is speaking to you, check messages at mealtimes, update social media during family outings — chances are, you are a distracted parent.
By Aarthi Arun
Gone are the days of parents complaining about their children being inattentive. Today, the situation is reversed; an increasing number of children now state that their parents are always distracted, especially by technology. Messages and emails on our mobiles, social media or an interesting programme on TV, often take up our attention while we are trying to spend time with our children.
This phenomenon has been studied in detail. Radesky et al observed how caregivers, absorbed with their devices, behaved when children tried to attract their attention. They published their study, 'Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals in Fast Food Restaurants', in the journal Pediatrics (2014). According to them, caregivers who were distracted by technology often responded harshly to their child. They also found that, "many children started to exhibit limit-testing or provocative behaviors during adult device absorption."
Are you also a parent who struggles to fully focus on or pay attention to your child? If so, here are a few tips to help you cut down on the distractions, and connect with your child.
1. Schedule time for gadgets: Screen devices like mobile phones and tablets are now an integral part of our life. We carry them wherever we go. As a result, some of us have begun using them frequently or compulsively. This distracts us and makes us pay less attention to our surroundings and our children. This not only makes our children feel neglected, but can also compromise their safety, especially when we take them out to parks, swimming pools or shopping malls.
2. Play with your child: Zig Ziglar, the American motivational speaker, once said, “To a child, love is spelled T.I.M.E.” How profound! In simple words, when you play with your child, you make him feel loved, cared for and special. It also helps your child develop new skills, widen his imagination and, learn about strengths and weaknesses.
3. Have dinner together: Eating together as a family is considered one of the most important everyday rituals. It has a therapeutic effect on everyone. In fact, research shows that having a family meal can improve a child’s grades. Eating together also reduces stress and promotes healthy eating habits.
4. Be there for your child: When a child feels that his parent is there when he needs them, it can be extremely comforting and encouraging. It makes him feel secure and valued. Parents who make it a point to be there for their children leave a lasting impression on their minds.
5. Honour your commitment: Our busy lifestyles don't always allow us to attend to our children's needs. So, we make excuses to get away with it or, tell our children that we will make up for this, some other time. But, some of us forget or do not honour the promises we make. This leaves our children feeling disrespected, unimportant, and disappointed. Above all, they also develop the habit of not keeping their promises.
6. Take care of yourself: Our list of responsibilities keeps increasing with every passing day. And, in trying to attend to our duties, we keep pushing back our own personal priorities, one of which is to take care of ourselves. And our health.
There you go. It only takes a few simple changes to transform yourself from a distracted parent into one who is always present with your child. Remember, your child deserves you and your complete attention.
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