Redefining the ‘Absentee Parent’


Why am I writing this blog post? I am writing this post because I realize that many roles played by parents in the lives of their children are being diminished by the influence of their busy lifestyles and by the influence of social media. Selected roles played by parents are: teacher, friend, confidant, playmate, disciplinarian, caregiver and comforter. I realize that an absentee parent may be challenged to play several of the roles I just mentioned.

OOPs!! I got it wrong again!! I used to believe that when parents are absent, they are not physically in the same place as their children. However, I know that parents are not as ‘present’ for their kids even when they are physically available because of the influence of social media. I therefore needed help as I tried to redefine the term ‘absentee parent’.

So…. I went in search of a definition. In the article ‘Absentee parents: Why would some neglect their own blood’, by Donah Mbabazi and Dennis Agaba (July 10, 2015, The New Times, Rwanda), the following is written:

‘Experts describe an absentee parent as a parent, who either wanders in and out of the child’s life providing a disruptive, inconsistent presence, or one who was an active part of their child’s life before abruptly ceasing contact or a parent who has never been involved in the life of their child.’

I like the above description of an absentee parent. However, if the flip side is to be considered as the definition of a parent who is present, then I must admit that there are many parents who are physically present who are neglecting their children. These parents are constantly on social media sites; constantly speaking with friends on their telephones; often continuing office work at home; and often studying or completing their assignments for their advanced degrees. So, these parents are at home. Are they absentee parents? No, they aren’t. Yes, they are. How do you answer?

I needed a new definition for ‘absentee parent’. I needed to expand the definition above to include those parents who are physically present but who are continuing to neglect their children due to the negative effect of social media associated with too much phone/or computer use.

Parents – when your social media engagement starts affecting effective parenting, you need to stop and do some introspection! If your child asks you to pay him/her some attention because you are too busy texting or checking Facebook and Instagram, you need to do some introspection!

What happens when a parent continues to reduce his/her interactions with his/her child? Your child will miss out on valuable conversations. You, the parent, will miss out on several of your child’s developmental milestones. Children like to tell stories. Without conversations, they are unable to tell their stories. Encourage conversations by telling your stories.

Parents – do not diminish the influence you should have on your children. When you are at home, put down that phone. Spend time with you children. When you are out at dinner with the family do not place the phone on the table. Leave it in your pockets and pocketbooks. You will never regret this. Happy trying…..

P.s., for those who want to read a scholarly document on the topic, I found one at the link below.

Talk soon……..

Claire Spence











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