Do you ever feel troubled by the lack of quality time that you have with your children? Quality time can be defined as any activity that allows you to: learn about your child’s interests, assess their strengths and challenges, teach life skills, or make them feel special and loved. Only 33 percent of parents were satisfied with the amount of time the spent with their children, according to a recent poll. Full-time employed fathers spend an average of 1 hour a day with their children, working moms spent just 2 hours. But more important than the overall time with your children is the quality of that time. Quality time can help to promote a child’s self-esteem, cognitive development, and school performance.
Many of us (myself included) struggle to find more quality time with our children. Below are a few tips gathered from my personal experiences, the parents I work with, and my wise friends and colleagues:
Making time for the kids:
Put away your smartphones and computers, at least until the kids are asleep. You’ll be mentally present and a much better listener.
When doing chores or working at home, ask yourself: “Do I REALLY need to do this right now? Or would this time be better spent with my child?” Sometimes the laundry can wait until tomorrow. Sometimes your work emails can be read at a later time. But if you don’t stop to ask yourself this important question, work and chores will always seem to be more urgent.
If you can afford it, hire help to manage some of your chores! It will be money well spent. For example, hiring someone to clean your house just once a month is a great investment. Instead of thinking, “Aww man, I’m wasting money on a cleaner”, say, “I just purchased six hours of time with my family!”
Dinner-time check in’s:
Ideally, you should have dinner together, as a family, every day. It this is not possible, a once weekly dinner is a great way to catch up with the family. Ask each person to share the highs and lows for the week. “What were the three best and worst things that happened to you this week?” You can learn about how your children are processing these experiences by adding, “How did that make you feel?”
Take advantage of your time in the car:
Transit time, especially with teens and tweens, is an opportunity to check in about the events of their day and about sensitive issues. The lack of sustained eye contact can make it less awkward for your child to open up to you.
Staying fit as a family:
Exercise with your children. Walking, running, basketball, soccer and dancing are relatively easy ways for children of all ages to exercise. Important conversations can take place during these activities. If going outside is not an option, consider working out together at home to an exercise video or dance routine (many of which are readily available on you tube). Of course, check in with your child’s physician before beginning any exercise regimen!
Silly and fun!
Have a sing-off (or rap-off) with your children! Learn the lyrics of their favorite songs, and vice versa. Sing together or in competition. You do this at home or in the car. If you really want to be silly, you can also have a dance competition.
Use the media to your advantage:
While I’m not the biggest fan of media exposure for children, it is possible to make the best of it. For example, if your child owns a video game system, consider spending some time playing an age-appropriate game with them. Choose a game where you can play on the same team. Check out commonsensemedia.org or speak with a sales rep at your local video game store to learn more about which games would be appropriate. This is a great way to bond over an activity that usually separates children from their parents.
If watching a movie or television show together, be sure debrief afterwards. For example, you might want to ask, “What was your favorite part?”, “Wasn’t that so crazy when...happened?”, “What would you do if you were in that situation?”, “What do you think will happen in the next episode?”
Remember, watching media really isn’t considered quality time unless it allows you to engage in some form of meaningful conversation.
Use chores as an opportunity for quality time
Cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, house cleaning can be fun if you engage your children in the process. For example, grocery shopping can turn into a fun scavenger hunt (“I need you to bring me 4 oranges and 4 pears”) or even a math lesson (“can you count how many eggs are in the box?”)! Of course it will take you longer to get the chores done, especially with younger children.
For more ideas about quality time, check out this great website from the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium. What ideas can you suggest?