By Raising Children Network
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man and child

The Raising Children Network recently conducted a survey of more than 520 parents to explore how work pressures affect parents' interactions with their children. We're delighted to present the results, along with parents' ideas for improving work-life balance.

Survey results

From the moment a child is born, positive interactions with key adults are critical to how the child learns and develops.

Our survey was designed to discover more about parents' work-family balance and how pressures from work affect the quality of their time and interaction with their children at home. 

The survey was conducted to support a new series of articles developed by the Raising Children Network on the importance of giving children positive attention. The idea of positive attention is captured by Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize Laureate, who says:
'When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else's child, do your eyes light up? … Let your face speak what's in your heart. It's just as small as that, you see.'

How work affects time at home
While 65% of the 520 surveyed parents agreed they are happy with their work-family balance, over half (56%) stated that the demands of work sometimes make them irritable at home.

  • Almost half of parents (41%) feel that their job makes it difficult for them to be the kind of parent they'd like to be.
  • Three in four parents get bothered when thoughts of work distract them from focusing on their kids.
  • Three in four also said they are too tired after work to do some things they would like to do.
Nearly all parents surveyed (95%) find it easy to stop thinking of work when they spend time with their children. In fact, this was the top suggestion from parents for making the mental switch from work to home.

Work-family balance
The survey found that parents who were happy with their work-life balance were very likely to be those who felt they controlled their work hours and schedule. Many parents suggested that establishing flexible work hours is a great way to improve work-family balance.

Overall, women report being happier with their work-family balance. Significantly more women than men agree that they have control over their work hours.

Switching from work to home: parents' suggestions

In the survey, we received more than 430 comments from parents about how they make the mental switch from work to home each day. Here are the top five suggestions:

  1. Spend time with the kids.
  2. Have a shower or bath, and change out of work clothes.
  3. Listen to the radio or music, or meditate.
  4. Use the journey home to switch off and forget about work.
  5. Leave work concerns at the door when you get home. If you work at home, switch off the computer or phone.

Parents said:

  • Doing something enjoyable with family... reading, walks, play, doing some personal projects not related to work. Gardening.
  • Sitting on the floor as then I am at my children's level and don't think so much about what needs to be done around the house.
  • I find it extremely difficult to make the switch - sometimes I find that I simply can't.
  • Seeing my child is enough.

When you see your child, do your eyes light up?

Your emotional responses to your children have a huge impact on their confidence, self-esteem and, in some cases, brain development. But sometimes it's hard to give children the positive attention they need, especially when you're tired and preoccupied from work.

As part of our Do Your Eyes Light Up? campaign, we've added some new articles to our site. These articles have lots of ideas and information about positive attention and how to make the most of time with your children.

The importance of positive attention
Children who receive lots of positive attention tend to be more secure and confident about themselves and their relationships with others.

When it's difficult to be warm
It's hard to be give positive attention all the time. Read about barriers that commonly interfere with parents' ability to respond positively to their children.

After a day at work: finding energy for positive attention  
Work can impact on parents' ability to give children positive attention. Here are some suggestions to help you balance work and family.

Staying positive: things to try
Here are some practical ideas for giving your children positive messages and making the most of everyday moments with them.

What's in a smile?
When your baby sees you smile, it causes chemicals to be released in her body, which makes her feel good. These chemicals help your baby's brain to grow.

  • Last updated or reviewed 09-02-2007