As families, we are busy in today’s world. Between work schedules, school schedules and extracurricular activities along with hobbies, church, and family commitments, I often wonder how families keep the rhythm of the family going while keeping everyone connected and happy! It would be easy to be ships passing in the night.
Experts say it’s not about quantity of time, but rather the quality of time spent with children that impact their happiness. Researchers have found that even 5-10 minutes a day of reading or playing with children can have a profound impact on the child’s feeling of connectedness with their parent(s) and their developing self-esteem. A researcher also found this is true especially for adolescents. In other words, spending time with your loved ones matters.
Here are a few easy ways to do that:
1. Cook with your kids and family.
You’re going to be in the kitchen anyways right? Pick meals together, grocery shop or cook together. Make it a big deal if this is an unusual thing for your family. If the kids won’t set foot in the kitchen let alone be seen with you, try it with your spouse. In other words, do something different, go back to a spending a short amount of quality time together. Even 10 minutes of talking while driving to the grocery store can be quality time spent together.
2. Share a meal together.
Set up a routine to have a meal together once a week. Make it special. And turn off the all media!
Letting go of distractions and just being together can be a nurturing experience not only for the family system but also for the soul. It also models for your children how we as a culture maintain our relationships, by spending time together and showing a genuine interest in each other.
Parents: Don’t take it personally if the kids complain or don’t want to participate. Stay the course and keep the routine going. It’s still modeling. And they’ll remember this. I am guessing for some families, this will sound like I am asking you to jump over the moon. It’s not about the task; it’s about the intention. Add the intention to have the family together into the meal and bring it to the table. If you don’t have anything to talk about, talk about food! Everyone loves food. Ask what someone else likes, why they like that, and talk about likes, dislikes, favorite dishes etc.
3. Get outside and play!
Play is one of the healthiest things for children (and I would argue for adults too!).
This is not just about playing a sport; this is designated time away from the regular routine, commitments and demands. It’s shared free time together, unscheduled, random, open time. (Yeh, I know, remember what that is?)
Don’t plan during this time, except for the time itself. Turn off devices and be together. See what comes to mind, ask your children what they would like to do, or come up with some creative ideas together about how to spend your family time.
Walks are great, games are fun, maybe there’s a project that needs family attention and would be more fun to do together. Have each person take weigh in or take turns providing suggestions. Make it fun, then sit back, relax and enjoy your time with your family. You deserve it!
The Right Way to Do Family Time by Jennifer Breheny Wallace, WSJ.com, April 3, 2015
Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity. by Brigid Schulte, WashingtonPost.com, March 28, 2015
Quantity Time Begets Quality Time, and Parents Spend Enough of Both by KJ Dell’Antonia, Motherlode blog on NYTimes.com, MARCH 31, 2015