Nearly two thirds of children aged between six to ten wish they could spend more time with their parents, according to a new survey from the Family and Parenting Institute.
If there is one thing above all else that most younger children yearn for it is attention from Mum and Dad, but if this survey is anything to go by it is in short supply these days. When the percentages are broken down by region, the picture becomes even starker. Children in the south seem to do worst of all when it comes to time with their parents: no less than 74 per cent wish they had more.
The figure is a little less dire in the north – 54 per cent – and more modest amongst children in the Midlands and east of the UK: 45 per cent.
In these figures, I don’t think we have to look too far to see an echo of the long hours culture which has taken root in British working culture in recent decades: the equation made at so many firms between working long hours and hard work. Britons work some of the longest hours in Europe. And it is not just a competitive working culture: job insecurity often motivates people to feel that they must linger in their offices longer than they really need in order to demonstrate their commitment to the job.
Another contributory factor could be the commute, that aspirational desire to live in a pleasant or fashionable neighbourhoods that leads many people to spend hours every working day travelling to and from desks. Some parents have already left for work by the time their children get up in the mornings and return after they have gone to bed: a truly sad image.
It is no way disrespectful to the north to the admit that the crowded south east has a greater number of high pressure, long hours jobs. Combine that with the overstretched public transport systems and bumper-to-bumper computing routes and its no wonder so many southern children don’t see much of Mum and Dad.
As a divorce lawyer I have seen similar stresses and strains bring an end to many a marriage.
Meanwhile, more than ten per cent of the parents of children aged six to ten believe they only have sufficient time to lavish attention on their offspring once or twice a week. That figure leaps to 18 per cent amongst parents with children at the upper end of that age bracket: perhaps many of the mothers who stayed at home when their children were young have returned to work by the time they hit ten.
This survey was launched to mark the start of Parents Week, an annual event held to celebrate the importance of the parent-child relationship. In our stressed, status conscious, economically stretched age, this event places an admirable focus on the importance of simple time spent together with your children:
“Being there for your children isn’t about paying for expensive toys or day trips. It’s about the time and attention you give. Whether you have five minutes, half an hour, or longer, sharing a moment is what it’s all about – letting your child know that you love them and taking a moment to give them your full attention, whatever you’re up to at the time.”
Everyone who has ever been a parent will recognise the simple truth of those words. A few years ago United Nations body UNICEF sparked consternation by placing Britain at the bottom of a league table of developed nations for child welfare and happiness. Last year they attempted to explain why Britain does so badly in this regard. The issue, they claimed, is that British parents place far too much emphasis on material goods and not nearly enough on time and attention. Perhaps it is time the nation’s parents took notice