By Anja van den Berg
According to a new report from Project: Time Off, which surveyed a representative sample of over 700 kids between 8 and 14 years of age and their parents, our always-on habits are reshaping our children’s lives.
Project: Time Off is an organisation promoting the value and necessity of taking vacations.
Three quarters of children surveyed said their parents don’t fully disconnect from work when at home, and over 80% of kids have noticed their parents bringing work stress home with them.
By 2014, 42% of Americans were telling pollsters they had not taken a single day off in the past year. A recent Ipsos poll shows that South Africans are taking fewer and fewer leave days, and – literally and figuratively – can’t switch off from work.
The soaring rates of smartphone-usage coincide with a sharp decline in taking time off from work, even if we are supposed to enjoy a holiday with the family.
“What worries me the most is we’re not only telling kids that working all the time is acceptable behaviour, we’re creating a new norm,” warns Katie Dennis, Strategic Director of Project: Time Off.
“And if that’s the case, our kids are going to think it’s OK — and it’s only going to get worse.”
On the one hand, a busy parent might point out that kids today seem to have an endless number of awards ceremonies and many schools don’t seem to make even a token effort to accommodate working parents’ schedules. However, on the other hand, working parents often find it psychologically difficult to ask for leave due to family responsibilities.
One particular troublesome finding from Dennis’s research is that when their parents miss important events, children suffer. Nearly six in ten children said their parents had missed events like school plays, soccer games, and awards ceremonies – even major holidays – for work. A majority of the children (59%) were upset by their parents’ lack of presence in their lives and 58% ‘could detail the last activity their parents missed’.
Your children don’t want an all-expenses paid trip to Disneyland. In fact, the most popular activity the kids in the PTO survey mentioned was a parent simply joining their school field trip. As one 11-year old girl put it: “It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, it only matters that we’re having fun.”
Simple gestures have a huge impact on children’s wellbeing. While only 19% of the kids in the survey said that they’re typically in a good mood on an average day, on days their parents took time off to spend with them that number shot up to 60%.
Don’t let the dark numbers in these studies stress you out even more, Dennis says. Just put down your phone and make something happen. “It doesn’t have to be amazing. It just has to be something.”
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2015/10/the-ripple-effects-of-parents-not-using-their-vacation-time
Project Time Off: https://projecttimeoff.com/the-latest/
Business Tech: https://businesstech.co.za/news/business/268947/south-africans-are-taking-fewer-leave-days-and-cant-switch-off-from-work/