How to Stop Being an Absent Parent

toddler reading a book

Image by Daria Shevtsova

Our kids know when we’re not checked in with them. When we’ve got one eye on the news or one ear on the conversation in the other room when our thoughts are a million miles away or worse when we have one hand on the smartphone. Technology is seductive. We like it. We like the connection that it makes us feel with others and the feeling of control that we get from being on top of the latest information and the fun that it is to keep in constant touch with our friends.

And technology is really useful for us as parents – it gives us access to all kinds of useful information and also allows us to share our children with far-flung relatives and friends. The important thing is to keep that in perspective and to be present as parents.

As parents, we are constantly planning for the future. We’re constantly thinking about all of the things that we have to balance – between bills and housework, keeping our kids safe from potential dangers and providing the best resources for them. Checking out organizational tips on Pinterest or reading the latest blog on riding toys is a real way of supporting our kids. But the thing is that it has to be kept in perspective. So here are a few tips for how to stop being an absent parent.

Be honest

Really be honest with yourself about your time. No judgment, but no wiggling out of it either. Take a step back and imagine how your children see you. Are you often on your email when they’re standing next to you, asking for attention? Do you stare off into space worrying about work? Are you glancing at a magazine when they’re eating dinner? You can’t change absent behaviors if you don’t realize they’re there! Don’t feel bad about them, but do commit to changing.

Undivided time

Set aside at least thirty minutes of undivided time with your child every evening (with each child if you have multiple children). This might sound like a lot, but it’s really not so much as you might think and you’ll find that you really enjoy it! You can do an activity or just talk, but what’s important is that this is the time that your child knows that you are with them 100%, and it’s absolutely essential to their feeling loved.

Woman carrying girl smiling

Image by Brett Sayles

Ignore other things

Intentionally ignore other things in front of your kids. When you both hear that text buzz or that phone ring but your children see you choose them over it, then that sends a powerful message to them that they’re the most important thing. Because after all, they are the most important thing!

Want some great use for technology that you can access right now? How about these great ways to interact with your young kid that you can find online, but that will take you away from the screen and pull you into your baby’s world.

For Kids of All Ages

Name             How to Engage
The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition
  • Dear Abby first recommended this book in 1982
  • Teaches you skills that will last your child’s whole lifetime
  • Reading aloud forms great bonds!
  • Includes stories and directions
Melissa and Doug Jumbo Coloring Pad
  • Don’t just let the kids color – color pages together
  • It’s important that you model skills for your child – your child will love watching you
  • Get down on the floor and color a huge page together, then hang it on the wall together
Everest Toys Crazy Forts, Glow in the Dark
  • You’ll do most of the building, but your child will do most of the crawling.
  • Throw a bedsheet over for making a cave!
  • Tell a story with your structure, and climb in yourself!

For Kids Under the Age of 3

Name           How to Engage
Thinkfun Roll and Play Board Game
  • Practice taking turns
  • Get into the motions with your child!
  • Follow your child’s lead
Hello Sunshine Game
  • Hide and seek with your child!
  • Be creative
  • Learning with fun
Nickelodeon: Team Umizoomi: First Look and Find
  • Go through once with your child to show them how
  • Let them lead the next time
  • Talk about things not on the seek and find list

For Kids Over the Age of 3

Name           How to Engage
Learning Resources Mini Muffin Match Up
  • Help with fine motor skills
  • Model counting
  • Change it up with addition or subtraction
Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Bowling Set
  • Gets you both moving together
  • Let your child show you new ways to play
Twilight Hunt: A Seek-and-find Book
  • Point out an area where the object is, don’t give it away
  • Have a race to see who can find it first

Bottom Line 

It really doesn’t matter what you do with your kids, as long as the time is theirs and theirs alone! What your children are really after is your engagement. You can be looking at cloud shapes or making the room together. The bonus is that the more that you make a time that’s fully present, the easier it will get and the happier your whole life will be!

One Comment

  • heather

    This was super informative for parents to read. I really liked the tip about ignoring other things – put the damn phone down and away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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