Over 200,000 children under 14 years of age are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries each year, and children will take risks regardless. Researchers noted that children are more likely to take those risks when their parent is distracted.

Distracted parenting occurs when parents go from being “on” top of things to being distracted and “on” their phone maybe a little too often, this is called distracted parenting.

You may not have heard this term before, but you’ve likely seen it in action. Here are some examples of distracted parenting:

1. An entire family on their phones at a restaurant, not even making eye contact.

2. At a playground, a child is misbehaving and would likely be corrected if their parent was not texting.

3. At an event and one kid is running out of the door with no adult present and you think, “Where is the adult?”

Children and teens are aware when the important people in their lives, like their parents, are not paying attention to their needs physically or emotionally. In those moments when a child feels a disconnect from their caregiver, they will test what they can get away with, whether it’s jumping from the highest point of a jungle gym, sneaking out at night, or skipping school, among other risky behaviors in the hopes that someone will notice them.

Ask yourself these five critical questions to determine whether you are a distracted parent:

  • When was the last time you played with your child or teenager?
  • What was the last conversation you shared as a family?
  • Ask your kids if they feel you are distracted. Honesty can go a long way in opening up communication, just avoid responding defensively and ask more about what they need from you.
  • Think about the last conversation you had with an adult: Were they on their phone? Did you make eye contact? Did you feel heard?
  • What makes you feel heard? The same probably applies to the children and teens in your life. Have an open conversation about what listening looks like in different settings.

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