Many parents can feel guilty, and this was emphasised in the The Play Report, referred to in my previous posting. Since its publication I’ve been interviewed and consulted about this aspect in particular. I think some parents do feel self-doubt about the way in which they bring up their children, and they also feel that they should spend a lot of time playing with them. The report showed that parents feel guilty that they are not spending enough time with their children, with nearly half, 45%, reporting that they feel they do not have enough time to spend playing with their children, and 55% feeling that they do not spend enough quality time with their children, with 3 out of 4 parents feeling they would like to have more time just to chill out with them. Cash rich and time poor parents feel a constant strain on their time, but I think it is interesting to put this into context. Parents today are actually spending more than four times the amount of time looking after their children than they were in 1975 according to a report from the Future Foundation in 2006. Other research has shown that in industrial societies, adults invest more time in children’s play, and generally aim to help their child’s educational ability.
Another aspect I’ve been asked about is whether t.v. has become the substitute ‘nanny’. I think that like adults, children sometimes need some light relief, and TV can provide this! Like anything to do with child rearing, some things are OK, but in moderation. It is simply not possible to play with your children all the time, you would each be very bored! So TV watching is OK – but of course not all the time!
I’ve also been frequently asked whether parents put too much pressure on themselves and their children when it comes to their child’s development. I think that many parents enter ‘parenthood’ in the same way they might tackle a new job. They plan, schedule, dictate in the same way they might at work, and this is probably a symptom of parents getting older. There is so much information, media interest, and ‘educational toys’ available that it can put pressure on responsible parents. There’s a sense that once a baby is born we have to rush out and buy educational dvd’s that they should be watching, that they should develop earlier than other children, that they should walk by 12 months and talk by 18 months. In reality each child will develop in different ways. I think parents need to be reassured, told to relax, you are doing a good job, engage emotionally with your children, try not to worry about it too much, try to keep your own concerns separate from the kids when you are with them – it will do you both good! Accept that each child will develop in a different way, and as long as parents are emotionally there for them and they know they are loved and cared for, they will develop resilience, and will grow to be healthy individuals.
The sponsors of the Playreport, IKEA, welcome debate about this and other aspects of children, family and play on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/playreport.