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Time With the Kids the Best Gift

A new report underscores the importance of family time in terms of child development. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer
A new report underscores the importance of family time in terms of child development. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer
November 30, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – In this season of gift buying and giving, some family advocates and support groups want parents to consider the power of the gift of time.

A new report from the children’s support organization Search Institute underscores the importance of family time for child development.

Researchers found time has a greater impact than such other demographic factors as race and income.

Peggy O'Mara, former editor of Mothering Magazine, says the study confirms basic principles of how humans develop.

"We really learn by mimicking and by modeling rather than by being told what to do,” she states. “So when parents interact with their children, when they show interest in them, when they help them realize their potential, the children do that themselves, with their families and with themselves, when they grow up."

The report recommends parents take five essential steps to foster development in children – express care for the child, encourage personal growth, provide support, share in decision-making and connect the child to opportunities.

Enola Aird, founder of Mothers for a Human Future, says the report validates long-held societal values of the parent-child relationship.

She adds it's also important to acknowledge the impact outside forces can have on raising children.

"No matter how much we may want to foster relationships, no matter how much we want to foster connectedness in our individual families, we live in a culture that is radically individualistic and radically consumer-driven, and those are forces that really do undermine relationships," she states.

While social programs often focus on improving household income or increasing the amount of child care available to working parents, O'Mara says supporting parents to spend more quality time with their children is the most valuable way to further child development.

"In this country, oh, it's just like the wild frontier as far as what parents are so out on their own, and I think supporting families financially in different ways would really be something to take home from this study," she states.

The report also recommends that schools do more to engage families and support their efforts to be better parents.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY