Manic: Time….there are just not enough hours in the day to get it all done and I have to remind myself to let things go, so I can spend precious time with my kids…who are growing up so fast now!
Managed: Managedmoms.com writer Lisa Walton knows the importance of this, so check out this awesome post she wrote about the value of spending time with our children! Plus she has some creative ideas on how to spend quality time with kids of all ages. I especially like some of her teen tips, too!
The quantity of time that you spend with your children matters just as much as the quality of that time. Many parents feel tremendous pressure to make special time with their children. Sometimes guilt leads to buying gifts, giving them treats, or taking them on trips in an attempt to make up for lack of time with them. Parents don’t realize that the day to day opportunities are just as important. Here are some simple tips to help you give the gift of time to your children and family.
Tip #1: Put specific times on your calendar each week when you will spend time with your children. During that time, focus your love and attention on your child. Make this time away from work, cell phones and computers, so your child knows that they truly have your undivided attention. Make this a time where you plan your schedule around your family’s life; don’t squeeze family time into your busy schedule.
Tip #2: Try to eat at least one meal together as a family each day. The dinner table is wonderful opportunity for family interaction. If schedules are getting in the way, change your schedule so you can eat dinner together more days than not. Consistency is crucial. During the meal, turn off the phone and t.v. to allow for uninterrupted time. Give each family member time to talk about their day. Try to keep the conversation light and stress-free. Most importantly, make dinnertime fun and cooperative.
Tip #3: Use car time to talk with your children. My rule is that unless we’re on a long trip, no phones, movies, or video games in the car. This is a great opportunity to talk with your kids. They can’t get up and leave, and they don’t even have to make eye contact. Teenagers are especially more open when they don’t have to make eye contact when discussing sensitive issues. In the car they know they have your ear and your attention. Don’t interrogate your children—talk to them. Instead of asking, “What did you do at school today?” tell your children about your day. This is one of the easiest ways to model and invite great conversation. Teenagers in particular, need to know they can bring their problems to you. If they think you are going to react (or over-react) every time they share, they will simply stop sharing.
Tip #4: Make household chores a group effort. If you’re overwhelmed with chores, ask your kids to help. There’s something about engaging with others in rote activity that invites conversation and connection. Children love routines. What seem like just chores for you can often be fun activities for younger children. Start them early, young kids love to help out. Simple jobs instill the importance of being a contributing member of the household. It also develops a solid work ethic along with a sense of gratitude. An optimistic, team approach to housework has the added benefit of decreasing the time that you spend doing chores and often eliminates the need for nagging.
Tip #5: Establish a fun bedtime routine: Creating a fun bedtime routine is something children look forward to and allows you to bond with them on a daily basis. Routines help children develop feelings of sameness and security. Having a routine for bedtime can help children go to sleep more easily. A set routine signals to the brain that it’s time for our bodies to unwind and prepare to sleep. Get the chores like teeth brushing out of the way before cuddling, stories or getting tucked in. Smooth bedtimes also give you some alone time, much needed rest, or special time to connect with your spouse.
Tip #6: Try to spend some time alone with each child. One mother takes a daily walk with one of her children. They have time to talk and they both get some exercise. If you have several children, try to spend at least one hour a week alone with each child. In busy families with hectic schedules, children will treasure those moments when they have you all to themselves. In years to come, kids may forget the toys you bought them. But they’ll never forget the gifts you gave of yourself.
Tip #7: Holiday time, give every child a task for the celebration. Holidays are best when everyone takes part. Make spending time together a special part of any holiday. Tell your children how important they are to you. Involve children in planning birthday parties, social events, weekly schedules, vacations and family holidays. Children love exploring brochures and writing out wish lists. If children feel they are part of the planning, they not only feel important but tend to be committed to making it a success and have a much better time.
Tip # 8: Set aside one evening per week for family night and make it a tradition. Have dinner together, play at the park, or go out for ice cream. In our home we do pizza and movie night. Friday evenings often work best, as homework and weekend commitments don’t interfere. The goal of this time is to catch up, unwind and have fun together. Board games and card games are a great way for the family to interact. Don’t be shy about creating your own games; make music, create a puppet show, or a scavenger hunt. Get everyone involved in choosing your activities, or take turns, and don’t be afraid to try new things!
Tip # 9: Focus on the positive. A common complaint of children, especially among teenagers is that their parents nag too much. No one wants to be around someone who is constantly criticizing. Focusing on the positive is often the most effective way to reach out to them and to get them to do more of what you want them to do. So lighten up and make a point to recognize and appreciate your teenager or child when they are being helpful. Simply saying “thank you” can help bridge the gap that may occasionally divide you from your child. Taking a minute each day to tell your child that you love them is very powerful and an easy way to start or end each day on a positive note.
Tip # 10: Be spontaneous. If you look back on the best moments of your childhood, chances are the things you remember most fondly were unplanned. By being impulsive and doing the unexpected, you can create memories that last a lifetime. Spur of the moment events, like a Saturday morning pancake eating contest, a dinner picnic in the family room, or camping in the backyard help create lasting memories that you all will cherish. Sometimes it just means doing everyday activities with a twist!
Learn to make time for the people in your life. Have days or at least moments when you freely give your time. Don’t worry that the laundry isn’t folded or that you have a million things to do. Put all that aside and give your children and your family time. By doing so, you’ll be giving them the most valuable gift you can give them.
About our writer, Lisa Walton:
Lisa Walton–Parenting tips, Valley Teacher and Mother
Lisa Walton has been a teacher in the Valley for over 18 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Deaf Education from Illinois State University; and Master’s Degree in Special Education from Arizona State University. She currently works as an itinerant teacher, collaborating with regular education teachers in the public schools.