In our busy schedules, it can sometimes seem impossible to keep up with the things that are really important. For parents of young children, this can be especially difficult, especially when one considers that so much developmental progress takes place in the first decade of life.
Every day can bring a huge number of changes in a child’s life, from physically learning things related to their academics, to some of the more subtle influences that shape and guide a young person’s perspectives.
Between modern parenting styles where often times both parents may be working full time, the amount of time kids spend in school and in extra-curricular activities, and the demands of domestic upkeep that are shared between parents and children, how do we learn to slow down and dedicate time to family?
We’ve got 6 ideas we’d like to share, have a few of your own, be sure to send them over to us!
1) Themed Dinner Nights
One of the best ways to maximize time with family isn’t so much to set aside extra time for activities, but utilize the time you have to incorporate a number of activities. Dinner is a universal communal events – rather than regarding it as something habitual, set up a calendar or have a family meeting where you can all agree on one or two days of the week where everyone joins in to help make dinner.
Easy recipes or cuisine that affords kids to the ability to ‘build-their-own’ like tacos are great for this. In fact, in Japan this is a common occurrence, with all members of a family organizing themselves around a table to eat temaki, a form of ‘poor man’s sushi where you have to construct your own rolls.
2) Avoid Driving Everywhere
In the daily grind, it can be easy to fall into the habit of driving everywhere, just to shave a few seconds off. But more often than not this has the opposite effect of creating an atmosphere in which a child may feel as if they’re not getting the parental interaction they need.
Rather than driving to a nearby park, use the opportunity of walking with them to help build on your relationship with your child – it can also lead to spontaneous conversations, games, and other little adventures that really bolster a child’s imagination and feeling of interconnectedness.
In the same vein, you can also try implementing a pajama walk: this basically involves taking a walk around the neighborhood after dinner and before bed.
3) Bedtime Stories
Utilizing the idea of integrating some family time into the usual events of a schedule, bedtime can be another great opportunity to slip in a few extra minutes of time with a child.
Although it sounds clichéd, reading bedtime stories does double duty, not only serving as a good way to maintain and grow with your child as they begin to learn more about the world and form their own opinions, but has also been shown to statistically impact their educational success and scope of imagination by introducing them early on to reading.
4) Always Make Room For Play
Playing is crucial. Across cultures, the idea of ‘play’ is an innate phase in a child’s growth, and that makes it even more important for adults to have a participatory role in this playing.
Whether it’s a sport like soccer, or some wildly imaginative role-playing, allowing yourself to get sucked into their fantasy worlds can be just as therapeutic for you as it is for them.
Hands-on activities are the best, and if possible organizing an arts and craft day can get everyone involved (and if it all possible limit or restrict the use of computer games that do the imaginative work for a child; this will help encourage them to think on their own and work towards their own solutions).
5) Phantom Time
For parents who simply can’t find the time to take out of their daily schedule, or who get caught up with extra work unexpectedly, and for those kids who are already super motivated and divide most of their time between sports, school, and clubs, you can always supplement actual one-on-one time with phantom time.
Kids naturally equate their feeling of being loved with how much attention they receive, so even if you can’t physically be there, there are still ways to let them know that you care. These include leaving notes in their lunch boxes so they can read them when they open them, or even going so far as to record little video messages for them over breakfast.
6) Getting Off Your Smart Phone
One of the biggest expenditures of time – whether or not it feels like it at the time – is actually attributed to our use of devices, be it in the form of an iPhone, checking our email, or making that last Facebook status update. Most technology falls into that old credo: a tool is neither good nor bad, it depends on how it’s used.
This isn’t to say that spending some time on a laptop can’t be productive, but especially for working parents this is something to take note of. Rather than check your Gmail account, use that time to interact with your child by asking questions and showing an interest in their responses.
It is also possible, as we’ve seen, to integrate activities – if you do find yourself on the computer or glued to your phone, incorporate your child’s interests by showing them one of your favorite songs and dancing together, or directing their focus toward educational or interactive websites you can both participate in.
Regardless of method, time is the most valuable thing you have when it comes to raising a child, and with the speed at which they grow up, most parents don’t realize this until after the fact.
Combining different strategies and allocating time to working and playing with your child will help to bring you closer together, and give them the tools they need to succeed in school and later on in life.