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How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately

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How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately

Barbara Bush was speaking very wisely when she said the following about having a meaningful existence in life:

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.

The struggle to strike a good balance between family time and work time is real. This struggle can leave many with deep feelings of anguish and guilt. Am I spending enough time with my kids so that they feel secure in our relationship? Is our family time meaningful and considered quality time?

The good news is that there are solutions and tips you can implement today to strike a good balance between work and family time. Below are these tips for you so you can maximize your family time:

1. Make family events a priority

If you are not a life saving surgeon and currently on-call, then your work can likely wait. Most of us aren’t in the business of life saving. That gives us some legitimate flexibility in our off-work time. You don’t need to be tied to work 24-7.

When your kid has a little league game on a week night, then don’t work late that night. Make your family events a priority. Get there so you can be present in your child’s life. In order to be a good parent, it means you need to be there.

If you are working all the time, you are missing out on the family events that you can’t replace. Kids grow up fast and they don’t get to repeat their childhood.

That little league play off game may be the only time they make it to play offs. Their piano recital may be more than just showing their level of skill, it is their time to shine and show their parents how hard they have worked so that their parents can be proud.

Being present at family events shows your spouse or partner and children that you care. Love is shown in actions. Make sure your actions are showing love, by showing up for holidays, birthdays, family nights, and the kid’s games and performances. These things matter.

Even if they act like it doesn’t matter (like most teens will act), know that it does in the long run. They will remember that you showed up time and time again, that you put family in front of work and you make family your top life priority by being present.

Quality time is a wonderful thing but it is difficult to achieve without having quantity time. Make sure that you are spending time with your family so that you can develop deep relationships that are meant to last a lifetime.

Those relationships will be even more important when life hits rough patches for any of your family. Death, job loss, moves, etc…they all have a huge impact on your lives and you want your family to be the ones you can count on. Developing relationships, as the kids grow up, is what will help each of you when your lives hit rough times.

2. Schedule it on the calendar

We put our work stuff on the calendar because it is important. But what about family time, family events and kid’s activities? If you aren’t putting those things on your calendar, you may want to ask yourself why not?

If you value your family, then the activities that involve your family should be on your weekly schedule. Put in those ball games, ballet recitals, family date nights, holiday parties, and more.

You need to make sure you have time for your family. If your calendar is getting filled up with work stuff every week, then plan ahead. Find out your kid’s activities’ schedules when they start, as most of us get a schedule for the semester or year when they begin practice. Then take that schedule and put the important games or performances on your calendar so that time slot can’t be taken in the future because of a work obligation.

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Making time for your family means making things a priority before they come up. Scheduling can be one of the biggest obstacles, so having things on the calendar well in advance should help you immensely.

3. Establish work boundaries

You need to be a team player at work, but you also need to be a team player for your family. Don’t allow your work to over-run your family time.

When you have family activities on the calendar, then be willing to speak up when you are asked to stay late for the third night in a row. Know your boundaries with your boss, so that you aren’t jeopardizing your job, but you also don’t want to minimize the value of your family and your time that you have scheduled.

This is why it becomes important to place the important activities on the calendar, so you know which nights are more important than others at a glance. If it’s not on the calendar, it becomes easy to forget until that date pops up.

Don’t allow your family to be trumped by your job when it doesn’t need to be that way.

4. Have a weekly scheduled no phone time

One of our good family friends is a CFO of the world’s largest property management companies. He is obviously a very busy guy. Yet he is purposeful about making family time on the weekends.

Every Saturday evening, he disconnects from his phone and does not reply to texts, emails, or phone calls (unless it is a true emergency). He does not reconnect with his phone and communications until Sunday evening, long after the kids have been tucked into bed. This allows for his focus to be devoted to his wife and children during those 24 hours.

He is present during the week as well, but he disconnects from his phone and other electronics for a full 24 hours once a week to dedicate his entire focus to his family.

What he does is a great example to all of us. What if we could dedicate 24 hours of the week to disconnect from our devices in order to reconnect with our families?

There are 52 weeks in the year. That would give us 52 days of true, 100% focus of what is most important to us, which is family.

We can work hard to provide for our families, but if we never connect, nor do we develop strong interpersonal connections, what is the point? Then our work and efforts are in vain.

Work hard for your family, but also play hard with them to make the time count.

5. Have purposeful family time

Make your time with family have purpose. If you are all at home, yet you are all in different rooms doing different activities, it doesn’t count as family time. The best kind of family time is when you are engaged with one another in an activity. This way meaningful discussions can take place.

Other options include side-by-side activities. Either help to create bonds and relationships within the family unit. The goal is time together, doing things together.

Being at the same place, but not together is not helpful to creating relationships. Therefore, if you go someplace outside the home, such as a museum or art gallery, make it a priority to stick together to experience things as a family.

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Below are suggested activities for you and your family to do together. Create variety to make things interesting and fresh for everyone. Schedule these activities on your calendar, so that work doesn’t come up and take you away from your family time together:

  • Play board games
  • Go hiking
  • Do family yoga
  • Go indoor rock climbing
  • Pick a family movie to watch together
  • Visit a state park
  • Visit a national park
  • Go to a museum
  • Go to an outdoor concert
  • Go to a play
  • Take an art class
  • Go to a make-your-own pottery studio
  • Get manicures or pedicures
  • Check out local events in your community
  • Go fishing
  • Play a backyard sport like softball or soccer
  • Attend church
  • Go swimming
  • Rent a boat
  • Go camping even if it’s in your own backyard
  • Go biking
  • Go to a beach
  • Take a scenic drive
  • Go to a park
  • Go on a picnic
  • Play lawn games like croquet or badminton
  • Go to an art gallery
  • Plan and cook a meal together
  • Make holidays and birthdays a celebration
  • Read books aloud (especially great for families with smaller children)
  • Complete craft and art projects (there are at least a million ideas on Pinterest)
  • Go to a fair or theme park
  • Attend a craft fair

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Many times in life, we allow the small stuff to get the best of us. We get upset about things that won’t matter a year from now, or for that matter, even a week from now.

If it doesn’t matter in the long run, then let it go. Some things are not worth getting upset about which in turn get the rest of the family upset. Usually if one parent is upset, it creates an upset in the entire family. Don’t let your time together as a family get upset by things that shouldn’t.

A bad day at work? Leave it at work, don’t bring it home. A fight with a friend? Forget about it for now, and commit to have a conversation with the friend after your family time. Your teen is not completing their chores? Let them know they will do it after family time, but don’t guilt them so that it ruins your family time.

If it isn’t something that must be dealt with immediately, then don’t allow it to interrupt your family time. Chances are the problem will still be there and in the same condition when you get back to it later. Deal with emergencies, but let other stuff slide and get to it later.

Make your time and focus intentional on the family, rather than extraneous junk that can be dealt with later.

7. Make kindness and forgiveness a policy

It becomes difficult to have quality family time if there is arguing, anger, hostility, and other negative emotions going on between family members.

If you have serious issues that impede on family time habitually, then it’s time to get some family counseling. If it’s bickering, lack of forgiveness, and/or general lack of kindness, then a policy needs to be established so that family time is a time for everyone to get along.

Meanness or lack or kindness will not be tolerated. The example begins with the parents. Teach your kids by talking about kindness, but also by being an example of kindness to your fellow family members.

If things start getting unkind, then have a key word that helps family members remember that they are supposed to be kind to one another and not to bicker, argue, name call, or be unkind. Our family’s key word is muskrat. You can think of your own word and perhaps make it funny to lighten the mood when undesirable behavior does arise.

8. Make sure time away from work is time off

Are you taking your work home with you every night? Are you playing catch up after hours? Are you still returning work calls and emails after work? If this is your daily habit, then you may need to access your situation.

Can you begin to wean yourself from bringing home work and doing work activities after work hours? If you can’t stop cold turkey because the panic that rises inside you is too overwhelming, you can begin to wean yourself from afterhours work. This means you find ways to cut these things more slowly from your evening routine, so that you are giving more time and priority to your family in the evening.

If you are working tirelessly in your job and it is not humanly possible to get it all done during a normal working day, maybe it’s time to talk to your boss. Make sure you have legitimate examples and a breakdown of how your time at work is spent, so that they can see your point of view. Present it in a way that they can step into your shoes and see things from your perspective.

Not all bosses will understand, but there are also laws surrounding work hours and wage. If you aren’t certain if your employer is violating wage and hour laws, but you think there is likely a problem, then you can contact the US Department of Labor, Division of Wage and Hour via their free hotline at 1-888-487-9243.

9. Use family meetings for deep discussions

When tough topics come up, like setting rules and dates for family time together, make it a family meeting at the dinner table. Sit together and discuss things, free of electronic distractions, so that you can all understand one another and the goals.

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When you say “family meeting time”, everyone should know that it’s time to gather around the dinner table for an important discussion. If you have never done this before, then you can call your first family meeting to discuss your plans to have weekly family time and come up with ideas together.

Our twins are only four years old and they are always included in the family meetings. These meetings can start at a young age, that way each family member knows that they are valued from a young age. Their opinion and inclusion in discussions is important, because they are part of the family, regardless of age.

10. Make the time enjoyable and not a punishment

Don’t ever use family time as a threat. Time together as a family should never be perceived as a punishment. If it is, your approach or the activities together are not right.

Find activities that everyone can enjoy to some extent. You will never find something everyone loves to do, but you can find activities that all will like to do. The goal is an enjoyable time together where you are bonding together through activities and interactions. The more face to face interactions the better. Games can be of great value because they require more immediate interaction.

Make your goal of family time to be enjoyable and fun, so that everyone looks forward to that time together. Include your children (especially the teens) in your discussion of how family time should be spent, so that you have an idea of what everyone finds enjoyable.

You will end up with great family memories because your family activities were a positive experience. You will also be forming bonds that will help strengthen family unity.

11. Be committed to regular family time

Making time for family shouldn’t just be reserved for birthdays and holidays. If those are your guidelines for defining family time, then you are missing out on the rest of the year.

Time with family should be a regular weekly commitment. If you want family ties and true family relationships, you need quantity time and not just quality time on the rare occasions.

Showing up for birthdays and holidays is simply not enough to make meaningful connections and deep relationships (ask any kid who has been in a divorced situation and only sees one parent on those special occasions). The relationships lack depth if everything is always on the surface level.

In order to develop relationships below the surface, time must be invested. Making a commitment to things like dinner as a family several nights a week can make a huge impact on family relationships in the long run. If you can’t all be home for dinner, think about other options that don’t take long periods of time, such as half hour family walks in the evening several days a week.

The time commitment isn’t huge, but doing it consistently is what makes an impact. You get to talk about what is happening to your kids throughout their week and not just highlights on the weekend when they may have forgotten about what happened during their week.

12. Family dinners are a wise investment of your time

If you can make one thing a priority in family time, it should be doing family dinners at least several times a week.

Michigan State University examined research studies about family dinners and found that kids from homes that did family dinners at least three times a week had better grades, were less likely to develop eating disorders, had better language development skills, and better health.[1] They also stated the following of importance:

Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs. Additional associations include lower incidence of depressive symptoms, suicidal thoughts and better grades in 11 to 18 year olds.

Dinner time not only helps form relationships and meaningful conversations during the week, but also has overall benefits that affect the development of children and teens.

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You have to eat meals anyway, so its something that won’t cost your family anything extra to do together. Don’t allow electronics to be a distraction at dinner time, keep them away from the dinner table to keep the attention on family conversations and interactions.

12. Put distractions aside

The biggest distractor from family time is the phone. If you have teens with smart phones, it becomes an easy distraction from family time, which means family relationships are being disrupted. The quality time needed to form meaningful relationships is non existent.

Make rules, for adults and minors to abide by when it comes to phones and other electronics. Make family time as distraction free as possible. They can check their email and texts after family time. If an emergency comes up, you will know it because the person will likely call repeatedly.

Everything else can wait until after family time. It likely will not affect your life, work, or social life if you have to pause your phone activities for a few hours. If you can have a basket in the house for everyone to place their phones during family time so that you all are completely distraction free, then you are truly winning!

Keep the devices away and you are likely keeping the distractions away, so that everyone can be present in mind and body during your family time together.

13. Make family time a judgement free zone

Life is hard enough. We get judgement from the rest of the world all day long. Time with family should be a safe haven from judgement.

Make a rule about passing judgement on one another when you are having family time. If there is a serious issue that needs addressing, call a family meeting to discuss the issue. Otherwise, let it be.

Let your family be themselves, warts and all, and let them know they are accepted and loved for just the way they are. Because isn’t that what family is supposed to be about?

At the end of your life

Friends tend to come and go, but the people who tend to stick the closest from birth to death are family. We don’t get to chose them, but we can make relationships stronger, closer, and more positive by implementing these above tips on creating positive family time together.

The bonds created when your children are small can last a lifetime. The key is making meaningful bonds and loving relationships that are built on positive experiences and quality time interacting together.

Time in the same home, yet never interacting makes you roommates. Doing activities together, having meaningful conversations, having quality weekly family times and doing life intertwined together makes you a family with bonds connecting you for a lifetime.

Kids go from zero to 18 quickly. If you are buried in your work, you may just miss out. Make family a priority today by choosing family time and getting it on everyone’s calendar right away.

Calling a family meeting is the best way to get the ball rolling. Don’t forget to ask your children what they would like to do for family time to get started on the right foot.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Michigan State University: The value of family meal time

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on September 24, 2021

How to Teach Children About Respect When They’re Small

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How to Teach Children About Respect When They’re Small

When we enter into the journey of being a parent, we go through a rollercoaster of thoughts, looking a little ahead and worrying about keeping our kids safe. There’s that loop about wanting to be able to provide for them, giving our kids the things we wanted but could not have. But there’s also this nagging worry at the back of our minds about what will happen when our kids become teenagers. Do you remember Kevin and Perry and the moment Kevin turned 13 years old? Kevin went on the spot from this great kid to a monster that talked down to his parents all of the time.

Think back to what you were like as a teenager. Was there a power struggle with your parents or was there mutual respect? The idea of having our kids respect us is usually at the back of our minds while our kids are young. It’s not usually a problem. Outside the occasional tantrums, there are just rainbows and unicorns. Learning about respect is probably less important than learning to tie shoelaces, right? Hell, no!

The reality is that respect is one of the most important values that a young child can learn. It can help build good friendships with other children in the neighborhood and at school. Learning to be a little more tolerant of differences makes them more understanding when people do not act or behave as your kids expect them to. Respect helps children to focus more in class. Most importantly of all, it can build a stronger relationship with the immediate family.

These are all qualities we want for our kids, and they are also the qualities of a leader. Teaching respect to our kids sounds great. But first, what is it and how do we teach children about respect?

What Is Respect?

Respect is a way of recognizing and appreciating the rights, beliefs, practices, and differences of other people. It’s a little more than just being tolerant of other people. It’s a feeling that comes from within about how you should treat other people. It’s about how you should think about yourself, too. More recently, respect has also become more visible with the idea of respecting other people’s personal space due to the pandemic.

When our kids apply respect, they’ll make better decisions and avoid things or people that will hurt them. They are more likely to take care of the gifts that you’ve bought for them. Most importantly, they are more likely to earn respect from their parents as they become teenagers, rather than demanding it.

How Do We Teach Children About Respect?

My personal opinion is that you should not outsource teaching respect to other people. As parents, we have to own this responsibility. Even from a young age, there are a lot of poor influences on our kid’s attitude towards respect, such as terrible role models in the movies like Frozen. In this movie, Elsa takes no responsibility for managing her powers, hurts her sister and kingdom, and avoids demonstrating any respect throughout the story. So, where to start with teaching children about respect?

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1. Teach Your Children About Sharing

My earliest memory where I learned respect was at the age of four. I had an incredible red trike. It was epic, has a custom design, has faster wheels, and a decent steering lock. Then, one day, my dad took the trike and handed it over to my nursery. Other children were using it! This was a culture shock as it was one of my favorite things, but now I had to share it. It took a little time, but I was okay with the sharing as my dad rewarded me with cake for sharing.

Sharing is one of the best ways to teach kids about respect. Our kids learn that if we give a little to others, we can sometimes get some of what we want as well. Kids will watch what the parents do. At the dinner table, do they pass things around like the ketchup or share items of food? Or does everyone have their phones out, sit in a silo, and quickly disperse? The dinner table is a great place to learn about sharing, but so are playing games with the kids.

Playing games like Lego is a great way to introduce sharing and respect. You can build a tower together, something simple and fun, and take turns adding pieces onto the building or swapping pieces if you are building your own world instead.

2. Let Your Children Answer for Themselves

My job is as a martial arts coach, which is a fun job, by the way. We’ll get to this in a minute, but I wanted to share a really common observation that we see at the academy.

When children come for their first class, they may be as young as four years old or as old as 12 in our kids’ programs. All the coaches are interested in why the kids want to try a class and what the parents want their child to learn. When we first meet a child, we’ll get down to their height level, as it’s not respectful to tower over the young kids and talk down.

Now we’re at eye level, we’ll smile, greet the child by their name, and ask them a question like “who is your favourite superhero?” so we can build a little rapport before the bigger questions. After only a few seconds, the parents will often step in and answer for them.

This can happen regardless of whether their child is four or 12 years old. To be honest with ourselves, we’ve probably all done this at some time with our kids and even our partners. It’s well-intentioned, but the problem is that when we step in.

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We’re not showing our kids respect, as we’re not valuing their opinions. It may be that it just takes them longer to have their say in a new situation. We rescue our kids because we think of them as shy or low in confidence. But if we’re doing this a lot, we’re stopping the flow of respect.

Let them struggle, let them think for themselves, and show them some patience. They won’t always reply, but you’ll be amazed to see that they’ll persevere more often than not to communicate in their preferred way.

The problem is that when we interject for our kids, two things can happen:

  • We reinforce that their opinion isn’t valued, and/or;
  • We rescue the less socially confident (shy) children from an uncomfortable situation that inhibits them from developing skills for the future.

Instead of jumping in to do things for our kids or answer for them, let them answer, struggle, and think for themselves. You’ll be amazed at how their sense of personal significance will grow. When children are more confident and capable—even in uncomfortable situations—the respect will flow more freely.

The secret is not to make a big deal of it, whether they speak up or not. But let them have a little time to try, then continue if there’s no progress this time. Maybe next time, there will be progress as their confidence grows.

3. The Role Model Soapbox

Of all the ways that we can teach respect, leading by example is the hardest. Let’s face it, we all think that our kids should “just do as I say, not as I do.” But it rarely works like this in life.

I remember taking my daughter out to a pub for lunch when she was of an age that she still used a high chair. We were meeting a friend of mine as he was having a few problems at home and wanted to catch up and chat. Hannah, my daughter, was served first at the pub with her lunch, myself next, and my friend who we’ll call Dave was served last. We were just about to start eating when Dave looked at his food, slapped the plate back at the waitress, and shouted “It’s the wrong order, go fix it now!”

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Dave was tired and stressed, it’s why we were meeting up. However, it’s not an excuse to be a lousy role model not having empathy, respect, and self-control in front of Hannah. In this instance, I felt the need to apologize to the waitress and so did Dave.

However, I appreciate that we all have those times in our lives, like Dave, when everything is going wrong. It’s easy to say, “you should stay calm, stay in control and show understanding to others.” But the reality is that the actions we should take are simple to talk about but harder to put into practice. But we have to try and find the energy to show our kids some respect and dig deep for those times that we need the energy to be patient.

Give Your Child a Little Patience

Many times, when our kids are behaving “out of sort,” they’ve just forgotten or missed the cue to show the right behavior. We’ve all been so deep into a task that we’ve missed our name being called or we’ve been tired and replied in a poor way out of instinct. A little patience with our kids is sometimes needed if this is the case. It’s the right way to demonstrate respect to them—asking good questions, especially if they mess up, rather than snapping and demanding that they listen the first time. We’re their parent, after all, they should do as they are told!

You’re going to experience when your child says “I hate you” or “wish you were not my mum or dad.” You may even hear this from your kids when they are as young as four years old. Remember the movie I was talking about? Kids will mimic what they see and hear. It does not mean that they really meant the words they just used. It’s usually just a gut response when angry. You can reply, “what made you feel like this?” They will usually feel better and get a more useful response than when you use “go to your room, now!”

So, leading by example is a little more than being a role model. It’s also showing your kids respect and treating them as a person rather than trying to completely control them and finding patience. This sounds like hard work, so maybe a little outsourcing of teaching children about respect is okay.

A Little Outsourcing May Be a Good Thing

I mentioned that you should not outsource teaching respect, but some activities can make a big difference. Yes, I’m about to contradict myself and talk about martial arts. When you think of martial arts, men in white pajamas bowing to each other, kneeling, and listening patiently to the sensei “teacher” often come to mind.

Many martial arts clubs have moved on to t-shirts and jogging style trousers but kept the rituals that help build respect and character. There are a lot of routines within the martial arts that are great habits for kids to learn, which will guide them in learning about respect.

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Training with a partner also helps improve yourself. It teaches your kid about being responsible for their uniform, training equipment, and even the academy. Our students all help clean the mats that they train on, tidy equipment away after each activity, and stand quietly at attention. These are great life lessons that teach your children respect as well.

Only 3 Ways to Teach Respect? Is That All You Have to Do?

We all want to teach our children about respect because we know it’s going to help them be more successful and happier in life. There isn’t an age that’s too early to start the learning. Sharing is an approach that you can start at a young age, but it’s okay to value your child’s needs, too. So, if they have a favorite toy and do not want to share it, this is okay as long as they’re sharing overall.

Next, let your child answer for themselves. To be honest, this is the hardest as the silence can get uncomfortable, but you have to persevere and let them try to answer for themselves. This small activity makes a big difference in the long run and kids get better as they grow in confidence.

Lastly, there’s the “role model soap box.” It’s probably the strongest influence on our kids at an early age as they look up to their parents a lot. Just remember that for those days when you feel cranky and tired, practice a little patience, and if you get something wrong, you may need to apologize.

You can always outsource some of your kids’ learning to a great activity, such as martial arts. If you’re going down this route, look for a club that has a character development program. You’ll find that the lessons on respect are more direct rather than being just implied through traditions and rituals. My final remark on teaching children about respect is that if you have kids that are strong visual and audible learners, try to take advantage of them. Sesame Street has some great video lessons on the topic that can help.

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Featured photo credit: Adrià Crehuet Can via unsplash.com

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