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TRIVIA: On average, how much quality time do American families spend together per day???
(Scroll to the bottom of the post for the answer!)
Families in our world today face many challenges- but none so great as the lack of time together.
- Moms and dads work,
- kids are involved in after-school activities or sports or clubs,
- the house has to be maintained,
- someone’s got to make dinner,
- the laundry needs washed,
- the dishes need cleaned.
There are so many things competing for our attention that it’s easy to get distracted and forget those people who are most important to us- our kids, our spouse, our parents, our siblings, our cousins, our grandparents…
If you fall into that category, don’t fear! You can keep your family together by making whatever time you do have with your family QUALITY time. Even if it’s just an hour each evening after work.
It’s just like a puzzle- if you have all the pieces, everything fits together naturally. BUT- If you’re missing one of the vital elements, you’re not achieving your end goal of having successful quality family time.
Here’s the recipe: four vital attitudes and three vital activities to incorporate into your family time to achieve QUALITY family time.
Attitude 1: Respect
Now, don’t stress if you’ve got teenagers at home. Sometimes it seems like you’ll never have respect in your family time with teens around.
Remember that the only person you have control over is you. If you set the example of respect, people around you will follow.
Ideas to show respect at home:
- Try to see from your children’s perspective. Every child, no matter their age, has real reasons for why they act the way they do. If you can see that, you can respond in a respectful way that meets their needs.
- Pay close attention when your family members talk to you. That means eye contact! I know, it’s so much easier to listen while you scrub the dishes or throw a load of laundry into the wash. But doing other things shows the child or your spouse that they are #2 in your life. And they’re not! They’re #1 all the way!
- Value their opinions.
- Treat your kids and spouse like you treat your friends. The other day, I fell asleep on the couch after a long day. My poor toddler was potty training and had a bit of a sick tummy. She tried to wake me up, but I told her mommy was sleeping and she needed to let me rest. When I woke up a little bit later, I found out that she had an accident because she needed my help to go potty!! Poor girl!!! I am quick to offer help to my friends, and I NEVER ignore them (even if I were sleeping!) but I didn’t help my child and ignored her legitimate need. It’s ok because I learned from it and I’ll be a little better tomorrow than I was today.
Attitude 2: Forgiveness
Have you ever felt like it’s easier to hold a grudge at home than in other relationships? I guess you kind of HAVE to forgive people at work because you’ve got to come in to the office and be civil every day or you’ll be fired.
Nobody’s going to fire you from being a parent.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t big consequences for holding grudges in the home.
Ideas to show forgiveness at home:
- Never being up old offenses. If you’ve truly forgiven, then they’re gone from your mind completely.
- Don’t keep score. Families aren’t about winning or losing. Tallies of good and bad behaviors are hurtful. We love each other equally no matter what the score board says.
- Show love quickly after a family member hurts you. The faster things are solved, the better. Make it happen!
- Always believe in your family, invest in them, show interest in them, sacrifice for them- even when it feels like you’ve given enough. You haven’t. You’ll always be giving and they’ll always be giving back. Take a minute to see all the ways that they are giving back to you! You’ll be amazed!!
Attitude 3: Love
We all know we should love our family. And we do!
But sometimes the feeling of love in the home gets lost in the shuffle.
Things have to be done, we’re on a time crunch, it’s hard to keep patience. But when we recenter on what’s really important, it’s not so hard after all.
Ideas to show love at home:
- Speak in a kind voice. Your tone and volume can convey love even when you are disciplining or correcting a child… or even during a disagreement with your spouse.
- Read up on love languages and do something special for each member of your family that fits their love language! I love Love Languages. Basically, it’s a way to tailor your expressions of love in a way that will be well-received by the person you are showing your love to. And I totally believe in them!
- My husband is a “words of affirmation” guy. I’m not. So he was always giving me lots of compliments and I never realized that I needed to compliment him back to make him feel loved!
- Make time for each other. I know, the whole goal here is to make the most of our limited time together, but the fact is- the more time you have with your family, the better! Families are just too important to leave up to chance. We don’t just sit back and hope our marriage will make it. We make it work! We don’t just hope our kids will turn out ok. We actively teach them to be responsible citizens! The more family time you have, the better.
- By the way, everyday family time is WAYYY more important than once in a while family time (like family vacations). Try things like:
- Taking your spouse on a date every week (even if it’s an in-home date).
- Having a “family night” once a week and plan a special activity (even if it’s something cheap or FREE).
- Get involved in your kids’ after school activities, clubs, or sports.
- Help your kids with their homework.
- Involve the kids in the household chores. They’ll get done faster (which means more fun time together) and the kids will learn important skills.
- By the way, everyday family time is WAYYY more important than once in a while family time (like family vacations). Try things like:
Attitude 4: Compassion
Compassion is understanding other people’s problems, feelings, concerns, stresses, and misfortunes.
It’s caring enough to ask, and knowing enough to thoroughly relate.
It’s true empathy.
Ideas to show compassion in the home:
- Create a Love Map of each family member’s life. This is a concept developed by John Gottman (see the link) that initially applies to your significant other, but it totally works for kids too!! Basically, if you really love someone, you should know the ins and outs of their life. Things like:
- Who are your kids’ best friends?
- What are your kids’ favorite foods?
- What are your kids’ fears?
- What are your kids’ goals?
- Be an Emotion Coach to your children. Another awesome Gottman concept! If you don’t know about emotion coaching, you’ve got to check it out! It’s a scientifically proven method to teach your kids about emotions so that they can understand their own feelings and other people’s feelings. It’s great practice for adults too!
- Ask each person how their day went, dig deeper, and really listen. That old question “How was your day?” is a great start! It can lead to understanding more about the details of your child’s life. But don’t stop there- ask more questions! Dig deeper! Get a real conversation going! And of course, make eye contact and give the child your full attention when they tell you.
- Make one-on-one time with each person. Personal topics don’t always come up in front of a group. Even if the person wants to share, the group setting can cause them to stay quiet. If you make time for each child to have one-on-one time with you, they are more likely to open up about their individual struggles.
Ok, let’s get to the nitty gritty!!! You’ve got your family all gathered together. You’ve got the TV off. You’re all staring at each other…
Activity 1: Discussions
Family time doesn’t have to be full of excitement and packed with activities.
Some of my best memories as a kid are of my family gathered in the living room. We’d all be strewn all over. Some of us laying on the floor, some on couches.
There was never enough sitting space for all the people present, so there’d be a few of us on the arms of the couch, a few on the headrests, a couple on other people’s laps, just lounging anywhere we fit.
And then we’d just… talk.
That’s so hard to do nowadays because the TV or our phones keep us entertained. We almost HAD to be bored before we had the best conversations.
And these were amazing teaching opportunities for our parents! They got to talk about the things that are most important to them! They discussed religion, politics, our future, family goals, what things are important to them and why, how to be successful in life, and much more.
Here’s some ideas of topics to discuss as a family:
- Religion. Or even if you’re not religious, discuss what you believe and why. Don’t forget to let each child form their own opinions and express them!
- Politics and current events. It’s important for kids to understand specific issues in the world around them. They can start forming opinions of the best solutions and grow to be adults who passionately (and respectfully) defend their political views.
- Your children’s future! What do they want to be when they grow up? Do they want to be parents? How will they make a difference in the world? Who will they help? What do they need to do or become now to reach their goals?
- All about your kids!! This is a great time to develop those love maps! Ask all kinds of questions about your kids’ day to day life! Click here for some great Get to Know You questions.
- Set family goals. My family decided we wanted to go to Disneyland together. There were a lot of kids, so that was no easy task to save enough money. But we set that goal together and then we worked hard to meet that goal! We saved pennies, we contributed money we had earned, we gathered change in WalMart parking lots, anything to gather the money! And then we finally got to go and had a blast!!!
- What qualities we want to have. Set personal goals, with a whole support system in your family to help you meet those goals! Decide what you want to become, and work toward that goal- but you don’t have to do it alone! And you can inspire the others in your family to be better too.
- Personal struggles. You’ve got a perfect, loving, non-judgmental, supportive community to bounce ideas off of! Need advice? Need to think through a solution? Family time is the perfect time! It’s amazing how often the kids have the perfect solutions to big adult problems. They really are clever!
Activity 2: Work
Yes, family time can be used for work… and SHOULD be used for work!
Life isn’t always fun and games. It’s important for kids to learn how to handle difficult thins too. Who better to coach them through that than mom and dad??
So get your kids involved in the work at home, and you get involved in their work tasks!
Here’s some ideas to include work in your family time:
- Help kids practice! What are your kids involved in? Sports? A musical instrument? Chess? Try it out with them! They can teach you something, you can help them out, and you’ll have family time while checking one thing off the to do list! Not to mention that showing interest in something your child is interested in (even if you’re NOT interested in that thing) really goes a long way!!
- Do homework together. Even if you don’t know how to do the problems, you can all research it together or maybe one of the other kids know the solution. 🙂
- Get the chores done. Your kids can and should help with household chores. It’s great for them to learn how to clean a house! They are going to have to care for their own space someday, and it teaches them respect for the things they have. It also creates empathy for you and all the hard work you do for them every day.
- Take care of the yard. Same story- just outside! Help your kids learn important skills and learn to value what they have!
- Let older kids care for younger siblings or pets. Most people will become parents some day. Caring for younger siblings is great practice! But there’s an even bigger lesson-caring for siblings teaches kids how to sacrifice for the well-being of another person.
- Help out a neighbor! When you teach your kids to work hard, help them learn to care for others outside the family too. You are a vital part of your community. You can build your neighborhood up and make it better! Your children will learn the magic of helping out someone in need.
- Cook dinner together! Follow these links for all you need to know!!!
Activity 3: Fun
This is usually what I think about when I think of family time! FUN!
And it is a great piece of the puzzle- but now we know, it’s not the ONLY piece of the puzzle.
When you have fun, make sure you’re doing something fun for everyone in the family. Choose an activity that will reach out to a struggling family member. Choose an activity that will teach a new skill! Choose an activity that will require family members to work together cooperatively!
Here’s some great ideas of fun family activities!
- Over 60 Indoor Activities for Families on a Rainy Day
- Ultimate List of OVER 50 Family Board Games- Family Bonding, Survive the Winter, Learn Life Lessons, Endless Fun, and Great Gifts!
- DIY In-Home Mom and Daughter Spa Day!
- 8 Ideas To Make Valentine’s Day (Or Any Other Day) Special for Your Man
- Get outside! Go camping, take a walk, go to a park.
- Go to McDonalds, buy a dollar ice cream cone, and play in the play place!
Do you have other great ideas for family time?? Share them in the comments!!!
Well, that’s it!!
Go have fun, learn together, grow individually and as a unit!!
You’ll all be stronger and happier as you spend time with your family… as long as you make it QUALITY time!!!
For more information, see The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
Who is Mrs. S… and why do people call you that?
It’s my favorite nickname! That’s what all my students call me!
I’ve been around the block a time or two. I’ve worked with children from ages 0-18, some with mental illness, some with disabilities, some with Autism, and many with behavioral problems.
I also worked as a parent educator!
All that doesn’t hold a candle to my best experience with children- being a mom. Want to learn more about me? Click here!