Play dates. Music lessons. Sports practices and games. Clubs. Before and after care. Camps. Electronics.
These are just some of the tools we use as parents to help keep our kids busy and safe. As I mentioned in my last blog, there has been a major shift in society since I was a child as children are not really given much unsupervised time. There are pros and cons to this. One big con, though, is the effects on parents.
Parents are expected to be ever present and watchful of their kids while also tending to household needs (such as cleaning, cooking, maintenance, laundry, helping kids with homework, etc). Imagine this: I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my eldest and attempting to help her with her math. Meanwhile my seven year old and four year old want to play. My husband is not home yet. My solution is usually to have them play in the living room (which is near the kitchen table) or play downstairs. This seems reasonable although I do know a few people who don’t feel I should even let the kids play downstairs without supervision.
It would be great if I felt comfortable letting them go outside in the yard, yet I don’t. I would let them go in the back yard as it is fenced in but there is too much chance one of them will go out front. Of course, they would receive a consequence if they do that but I fear other risks. The possibly unreasonable fear of being kidnapped, the fear of injury, or the fear of having the authorities called (which based on articles I read about this occurring it might not be an unfounded fear).
This means many parents have to add the unrealistic expectation of finding ways for their children to be entertained. Of course, it is okay for children to be bored and find ways to entertain themselves, but being real, if I’m trying to help my other kid with her homework, I don’t want to deal with the distraction of her siblings. A solution I might use then is tv or a tablet. L
This type of pressure to be ever present shows up outside the home too. If I take my kids to the park, I feel they should be able to run around and play on the playground without me. This doesn’t mean I just sit and play on my phone the whole time (I like a big slide and swings) but it also doesn’t mean I won’t be on my phone at times. My kids have been known to fall down and get scraped or interact with another kid in a less than ideal way (push or yell). Before I jump in as a parent, I want kids to try to solve the problems (wouldn’t it be great if the kid pushed said “hey, that wasn’t nice” and then my kid apologized without any adult making him). I have noticed, though, that other parents do not always agree with me. They are quick to jump in, frequently follow their kids around the playground, and give me the “stare” (you know the one where they are saying with their eyes, why aren’t you watching/playing/handling your kid). This is a lot of pressure on the parents and is not necessarily best for the kids. Of course, there are some kids that need more support than others but if we don’t let our kids be challenged a little, they won’t learn as well.
I’ll end with saying sadly I don’t have a solution to the pressures parents face. Other than to say keep doing the best you can. I will keep working on finding the best balance of supervision and independence for my kids and you can do the same. Maybe my grandkids will have a better balance that way.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.