Nikki Bush, in her ‘Parenting on the Run’ presentation at Henley Business School Africa’s MBA Family Friendly event, said there are techniques that can help busy parents become more effective, more connected and more fun-to-be-around for their children.

Henley runs regular Family Friendly events for its MBA students and their families to assist in maintaining a balanced work and home environment when studying at Henley.

Mrs Bush says it is possible to have quality time with children when driving to school, cooking and at the dining room table. “Children want more of our happiness and not our stress. Quality time does not necessarily mean having to spend hours on an activity.”

She says children tend to misbehave when they are tired, hungry, thirsty, getting ill, wanting attention or bored. “Often parents consider basic activities such as cooking and household chores as ‘wasted time’ in the family context, but the opposite is true.”

“We usually send our children away when we are busy. But getting children to help with the cooking, for example, can help develop life skills at an early age. A child can help with chores or a parent can incorporate a game while cooking, spreading flour on the worktop and letting the child draw or do multiplication tables or spell words using their finger to write in the flour,” she says.

Children can also help fathers with chores around the house and learn different skills. For example, they can learn with dad how to care for the pool, change a light bulb, clean up grass after mowing and sweep leaves. Mrs Bush adds: “We spend a lot of time driving and there are games parents can play with their children in the car.”

It is important not to feel guilty about the amount of time you spend with your children. Guilt is not constructive and puts children in the driver’s seat, often leading them to manipulate their parents. Parents should rather reframe the time they spend with their children by turning ordinary everyday activities into extraordinary memories’. Make whatever time you do have with your children count.

If you ask your children how they would describe you in one word, would it be ‘Rushed’, ‘Busy’, ‘Angry’, ‘Stressed’?

“Children don’t really mind whether you are working or busy, as long as they get more of your happiness and less of your stress when you are with them. They want more face-to-face time, which can be a real challenge, unless you invite them to do normal every day things together,” says Mrs Bush.

She says most of the face-to-face communication that busy parents have with their children is often spent telling them what to do, chasing them to get dressed, eat, do their homework, bath and get to bed.

“We need to try to communicate with our children in constructive and creative ways. For example, playing games while you are busy can encourage creativity or arithmetic skills. There are many visual games we can play in the car that can include spelling or counting from a visual perspective. Children just want your time and attention and when you play with them, they get that.”

Spending dinner time together as a family is the perfect time to honour, celebrate and acknowledge each other as human beings, face-to-face. Discussing the day’s events and challenges, always with a positive angle and with one family member explaining how a particular problem was solved, helps children work through their own challenges and learn from each other.

“The message is to make fun out of nothing. This means being 100% present wherever you are, shopping or driving,” concludes Mrs Bush.