When you look at most parents’ personal calendars, you see all the children’s activities filling up their personal time. As a parent, it can feel daunting. And, it can give you a false sense that you are providing a great deal of attention toward your children.
Often, the time you are giving is administrative and logistical. You shuttle Jill to a friend’s house for a birthday party, and if she’s young enough that you’re in attendance, then you mingle with the parents throughout the party. Or, you pack up Jack with his soccer gear and whisk him off to soccer practice and cheer him on along the sidelines on a weekend morning. These take time, and they are memories your child will cherish for having had you there. No question there.
But, is that quality time? Children benefit from quality time with the family, when it’s simply you (and your spouse) and the kids. As well, spending time with your children benefits you with overall reduced stress levels.
So, what can you do to create quality time with the family. Here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing!
Game Nights – Quality Time with the Family
One night a week should be the most fun night of every week for the family. Full stop. For those of you who have had game nights with family, or friends, know the value these activities have in creating quality time with the family. And, like most great events, it all comes down to good planning and execution.
First, pick a night that works for the whole family and make sure everyone knows how important this is to you (the parents) to have this time dedicated in each person’s calendar. This can be particularly difficult with teenage children, who start to separate their identity from you and rebel from authority. Don’t let that deter you from creating a stable time and sticking to it. It’s about psychological safety; those children should know that game night is going to happen and they are always welcome to join in the fun.
Next, select the location, games, healthy food, and communicate the purpose of game night. These logistics really make game night valuable to each member of the household. Get each child’s suggestions, recommendations, and feedback–make sure they feel heard and listened to. They will not buy into game night if they feel like a “second class citizen” in their home.
Choose several games that are fun and educational, locations that comfortable to fit the family and matches the type of games, and foods that are enjoyable but also teaches the children to eat healthfully even when snacking.
If you choose to have a meal during game night, and, say, you decide on pizza, perhaps buy the ingredients and teach your children to make pizza so the ingredients are fresh and healthy. There’s no reason why game night can’t be multi-faceted and expose your children to new experiences.
Last, establish boundaries and rules of play. Make playful consequences for cheating so children know that cheating won’t be tolerated, but you keep the game play positive. You can encourage positive, frank discussion and questions; you never know when children will question important ideals and values and you shouldn’t be shy to answer them as a family.
When will you take bathroom breaks? Will the TV be turned off for the night? Is it imperative to finish every game, or is there a hard end time for game night if your teenaged son or daughter has plans with friends? Will phones be allowed during game play? Again, make it fun; stack the phones and the first person to take their phone has to clean the dishes tonight.
Game night can be really quality time with the family, if you plan properly and execute well, consistently.
One-to-One Time With Each Child – Quality Time with the Family
If you have an only child, it’s likely a bit easier to have one-to-one time with that sole child. However, when you have more than one child, then complexity arises intrinsically. That doesn’t mean you can’t find time to have quality time with the family one by one. Whether you make it a “Dad/dy Date” or “Mom/my Date” just like you have date night with your spouse, or you schedule mother-son, mother-daughter, father-son, and/or father-daughter trips with your child or children, it can be a valuable bonding experience. Making one-to-one time with each child builds your “unique relationship,” as Dr. Kyle Pruett notes in his article. These help mend bad interactions and miscommunications, they build greater relationships, and they set up your child to be more resilient and have stronger relationships down the line with their own children (your future grandchildren).
If you need ideas for Mom Dates and Dad Dates, check out websites like KidFriendly DC that provide ample, timely activities for family-friendly fun in your area.
Create Family Traditions Together – Quality Time with the Family
August is Family Fun Month, did you know that? It stands that many of the activities given here for having fun this month can be turned into family traditions. We all look back on our childhood as a mixture of positive and negative memories, and this influences our outlook for the rest of our lives. Family traditions are one way to really bend those memories toward the positive.
Family traditions help strengthen the bonds that matter, such as identity, values, heritage, memories, and a sense of time (urgency or reference) for you and your children. So, how do you create a family tradition? Look no further than activities you and your family enjoy doing. It’s these activities that you should codify in your schedule. Repeat them every week, month, season, or year. Personalize family traditions to the needs and wants of your unique family’s circumstances.
Creating quality time with the family is a challenge. But like most things worth doing, the challenge outweighs missing out on opportunities with your children before it’s too late. In our hectic work and personal lives, it can seem impossible to find time to create these opportunities. You must make the time. And, I promise you, you won’t regret doing so.
How do you create quality time with your family? Let us know in the comments. You never know when your idea will spark a potential fun family activity for someone else, or start another family’s tradition for generations to come.