Belfast Telegraph

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How to make time for nearest and dearest

As research shows spending more time with their busy parents would make children happier, the parenting charity Family Lives suggests how to maximise quality time, writes Lisa Salmon

Most parents would like their children to behave differently sometimes, perhaps by being less naughty, doing homework without being nagged, or not fighting with their siblings.

But yearning for a change in behaviour is a two-way street - many children would love their parents to act differently, too.

New research has found there are lots of ways children would like their parents to change, with the number one alteration being that they want them to come home earlier from work.

Somewhat touchingly, the research by IKEA, which asked kids what their parents could do differently to make them happier, found that all the top changes involve spending more time with them.

"Children don't mind what it is they're doing. As long as they've got their parents' full attention," says Sandra Hiller, regional manager of the parenting charity Family Lives.


  • Come home earlier from work
  • Go outdoors together
  • Join in with toy playing
  • Play a video game together
  • Play a board game together
  • Find time to read together
  • Cook and bake together
  • Help with homework
  • Watch TV at the same time
  • Set time aside to talk


The survey found a third of children believe their parents are on mobile phones too much, while nearly half (48%) of adults feel they don't have enough time to play with their children.

Hiller says that much of the problem stems from the pressure of finding the correct work/life balance. "Parents say juggling work and family life is always an issue, especially when they work full-time. They find the parenting aspect of their life is compromised because of work issues, and often they spend a lot of time on the phone trying to organise their daily life."

And while Hiller acknowledges that not all parents' phone time is spent organising things and there's also time for social media and other mobile entertainment as well, she stresses: "Sometimes a parent's stress levels can be so high that using the mobile is a distraction from the reality of trying to juggle work and children."

She points out, however, that she's seen families in restaurants who are all on their mobile phones. "If the children see that as normal behaviour, they'll continue to do it. It's important that parents don't use the phone when they can talk to their children face-to-face."

She suggests that perhaps for at least an hour every evening all phones - including the parents' - should be put away, and the family should talk to each other. And 74% of parents agree they would to introduce a phone-free time at home, too.


The research also found that more than half of children believe they're seen but not heard at home.

Hiller adds: "What children feel, want and need is very important, and for children to thrive, parents should listen to them - and children should listen to their parents."

Hiller suggests it's also a good idea for parents to identify a time when they're likely to be able to give the kids their full attention, and do their best to make the children their priority during that time. The research is accompanied by a series of Teddy Talks video guides featuring children talking to their teddies as part of IKEA's Soft Toys for Education campaign to help raise money for Save the Children and UNICEF education programmes. To watch the videos, visit

For help and advice on family issues, contact the Family Lives helpline on 0808 800 2222, or visit The helpline is under threat of closure, and texting CHAT25 to 70070 to make a £1 or more donation could help keep it open

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