An elementary school principal was recently asked why her school had not implemented the no-homework policy that had been announced at the beginning of the school year. She replied that she had received too much resistance from parents. “They see it as a kind of day care,” she said. “Their kids are bent over their books and don’t need looking after for part of the evening.”
In many ways this is understandable. To say that being a modern parent is exhausting is putting it mildly. Costs are high, salaries are low, and constant worries about bills, retirement, health care and more just make it difficult to create real quality time between parent and child. However, studies consistently show that benefits of “family time” are immense and far-reaching, especially for the child.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of parent-child quality time is improved self-esteem in the child. This helps create a young person who is happier, more relaxed, and better equipped to handle life’s hurdles. They also learn about relationships, which helps them navigate the often choppy waters of social life in school and beyond. Improved self-esteem can be a key path to better academic performance.
Building the bond between parent and child has other benefits too. A 2012 study found that kids who regularly eat meals with their parents got better grades. What’s more, young people who spend more time with their parents are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Best of all, simply sharing food can lead to happier, healthier family relationships. One mother tried baking cookies for her teenage daughter and her friends, and found that while, at first, the girls were only interested in the treats, over time they hung around and chatted casually.
Kids who spend more time with their parents also feel safer. It can be a rough old world, especially in this digital age. Being able to relax with parents can create a feeling of peace and protectiveness. This can also, perhaps, open lines of communication that might not otherwise exist, with the young person sharing details of their life and struggles that a parent would want to know about (and help with).
Students with exceptionalities such as ADHD, Dyslexia or Anxiety can also benefit hugely from extended family time. Society often imposes judgement and shame on young people with exceptionalities, especially if they struggle in school. Being able to be with their loving parents and just being human (as opposed to just a label) can have huge benefits for their mental and emotional health.
It’s true that setting aside time for casual, no-pressure family time can be extremely difficult these days. Facing that struggle is normal, human, and should not be judged. But if it is at all possible to expand on those family connections, the payoff is definitely worth it.