Being a parent in this day and age: What is rarely discussed?
At the beginning of July, the first International Congress on Parenting Support was held. It served as a platform for therapists and researchers around the world to convene and discuss the most effective intervention programs to assist parents. The congress featured numerous works and presentations on various topics. I, along with two of my doctoral students, also attended the event and delivered a symposium.
The congress was delivered online – meaning, I was at my home during the time it was running. While I was caught up in the chaos of managing three children after dinner, as there were numerous tasks to complete at home, I pondered what crucial aspects were not addressed during the congress? As I sit here in the midst of my private jungle...
This is my answer.
Let's imagine two couples of parents, each with a child or teenager facing the same difficulty – a difficulty that your child is currently experiencing or has experienced in the past, such as excessive frenzy, social or academic difficulties. The only difference is that one couple of parents handles these challenges more effectively, resulting in their child experiencing less anxiety, fewer social difficulties, and a more fulfilled life.
Now, what do you believe is the primary factor that determines which set of parents copes more effectively with these difficulties?
Is it the parents' level of education?
Their financial resources?
Perhaps, it's their willingness to make an effort (because it's common to inject a bit of guilt into the narrative)?
While all of these factors are valid considerations, in my opinion, they fail to encompass aspects that relate to the main element that determines which child receives the best support.
The foremost and crucial element is the capacity that parents have to address their child's problems - parental space.
The parental space consists of two components: The time parents dedicate to being fully present for their child and the quality of that time – whether they are not disturbed by other matters.
The problem is that our parental space is under attack.
First, we face the economic attack. With the rising cost of living, it has become increasingly common for both parents to work full-time. In the past, it was more common for mothers in the Western world to work part-time and have more time at home with their children. However, the current economic pressures have necessitated a shift towards dual-income households, leaving less time for parental involvement. This has resulted in a collapse of the time available for parents to dedicate to their children.
Another attack is the erosion of attention. The demands of multitasking can often lead to distractions and divided attention, making it easier for parents to resort to allowing their children to spend more time with screens, which by themselves presents endless addictive opportunities. Screens can provide temporary relief as they occupy the children's attention, allowing parents to attend to other responsibilities. However, this reliance on screens can undermine the quality time and meaningful parent-child interactions that children need for their healthy development.
Importantly, when parents face difficulties with their children, it is more than often not an issue of knowledge or materialistic resources. It is rather a result of lack in time to be a parent.
This should be taken more into account when we think of evidence based parenting support. And hopefully, we’ll get to talk more about it in the next congress.