How many minutes per day do children communicate with their parents? According to a survey by The National Family Institute in 2002, the average child in America receives only 12.5 minutes per day in communication with his/her parents. Of that time, 8.5 minutes are spent with parents in correcting behavior, criticizing behavior, or engaged in various arguments. This leaves only four minutes a day for the instruction of values, morals and ethics. Therefore, the study suggests that parents should look for GEM’s, otherwise known as Genuine Encounter Moments, with the goal of focusing their attention directly on finding time for their children at specific and defined intervals of time. Subsequent research points to the importance of parents spending quality time and focused attention with their children, with the goal of increasing these ‘GEM’ moments.
While the number of 12.5 minutes can most probably be debated and rationalized due to many different reasons and circumstances, no one can dispute the powerful effect of GEM moments with their children. Quality time, communication and focused attention are all ways that parents can engage their children in GEM-like moments. Here are a few examples of how parents can create GEM moments with their children:
Engaging in their day: Parents can ask their children about their day in many different ways and in very creative moments. If no formal moment exists, then parents can find informal moments to ask their children about their day. Furthermore, a question such as “How was school?”, which may yield the typical answer of “Good,” may not lead to any real conversation. Utilizing topics such as recess, lunch foods, snacks and “tell me about the bus” may produce more information and more GEM-like moments.
Spending targeted time: It is recommended that parents isolate one activity with each child per week. There is no specific activity or amount of time that is recommended. The idea is simply to create an experience where the child feels a sense of connection to his/her parents.
Joining in their hobbies and interests: All children love when their parents take an interest in their daily activities. Beyond being in attendance at school events or athletic competitions, it is important to talk to your children about their interests. Showing interest and curiosity can often be the initial building blocks to feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy.
The upcoming holiday season allows parents to spend time with their GEM’s (their precious children) and allows parents to reflect on how to utilize their time to develop more GEM-like moments with their children. I want to extend my best wishes to everyone for a Ketivah V’chatimah Tova, a happy, healthy and sweet new year.
By Mark Staum, LCSW