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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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“Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

2. Teaches the Value of Family

Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

“Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

“If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

5. Creates a Safe Environment

If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

6. Reduces Stress

This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

How to Make Family Time Happen

Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

1. Family Dinners

This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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“Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

2.  Regular Movie Nights

This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

3. Game Night

This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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4. Sharing a Hobby

If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

Final Thoughts

Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
[2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
[3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
[4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
[5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
[7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
[8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
[9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
[10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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Rossana Snee

Rossana is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She aspires to motivate, to inspire, and to awaken your best self!

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Published on September 29, 2021

How to Talk to Teens And Have Real Conversations

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How to Talk to Teens And Have Real Conversations

Normal teens tend to desire privacy, space, and independence. It is a normal part of their development. These desires can make having genuine conversations with them more difficult, especially as a parent. Below are some things you can do to help you have genuine conversations with teens and get them to open up with you.

Here are 12 tips on how to talk to teens and have real conversations.

1. Be Authentic

The first thing about knowing how to talk to teens is being authentic. Teens are very perceptive. They can detect when someone is not being authentic or genuine with them. Authenticity is the key to having a relationship with anyone, especially teens. Be yourself, be honest, and be open to what your teen has to say about life. They will eventually feel that you are being authentic and may open up to you.

2. Let Them Know You Care

If you act like you are indifferent, or worse yet, show disdain toward a teen, they are going to detect your sentiments. If you want a teen to open up and have a conversation with you, then you need to let them know that you care. Listen to them while also showing positive regard.

For example, nodding as you listen, putting down your phone, and making eye contact. Let the teen know you care through these actions, not just words.

3. Ask Them About Themselves

Letting a teen know that you are by actively listening is a good way to open the door to connected conversations. It is also helpful to ask them questions about themselves. For example, if you have a teen in high school, ask them regularly about their day at school. Change up the questions by using some of the thoughts and ideas below:

  • What is your favorite class right now? Why is it your favorite?
  • What was the best thing about your day today?
  • Was there anything difficult about your day today that you want to talk about?
  • Which of your friends do you share classes with and do you get to talk to them or sit by them?
  • Whom did you sit with at lunch and did you talk about anything interesting? If so, can you share?
  • Who is your favorite teacher and why?
  • Was there something that you looked forward to doing today? If so, what was it and how did it go?
  • What was the hardest part of your day today?
  • What was something you did today that you are proud of doing?

Here are some additional questions to ask your teen as conservation starters:

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  • What do you think makes a good friend?
  • Do you think the rules at school are fair or unfair? Why or why not?
  • Do you think homework is beneficial? Why or why not?
  • What is something you are really great at?
  • What is something you would like to be great at doing?
  • What is your favorite thing to do outside of school?
  • What is one of your greatest strengths?
  • What is the best book you have read and why?
  • What is the best movie you have seen and why?
  • Who do you look up to as a role model and why?
  • What are three words to describe you?
  • What was your favorite vacation of all time? What made it so special and memorable?
  • What is your greatest achievement in life so far?
  • What is the greatest challenge in your life right now?
  • If you could remove one obstacle in your life what would it be?
  • What is the most difficult thing you have had to overcome?
  • If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?
  • Where do you see yourself three years from now?
  • If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
  • What is your favorite time of day and why?
  • What is your favorite time of year and why?
  • What is one of your best memories?
  • What do you think of bullying? Do you see bullying ever happen at school?
  • What makes you laugh the most?
  • Who do you think knows you the best?
  • How do you think your friends would describe you?

4. Make Time With Your Teen

Showing teens that you care also means that you should make time for your teen. To get your teen to open up to you and talk genuinely, you must make time with them. Schedule dinner out or meals together at home. Put away devices of all kinds, especially phones, as they are a major distraction and prevent uninterrupted communication.

Look for activities where you can share time together. These activities should be conducive to having conversations. Such activities include walking, going hiking, working out, shopping, cooking, and gardening. Make sure that it is something that they enjoy doing as well. Use the time together to create meaningful conversations. If you don’t know how to get started, use some of the questions previously mentioned.

5. Listen Attentively

As parents, we want to teach our kids and tell them what is best for them. This can be less than helpful when our teen comes to us with a problem and we do more of the talking than they do. We need to allow them to vent, share, and speak their mind. This will help them process their problems and, hopefully, realize some solutions as they process their thoughts. If they don’t come to the solution, you can always help talk them through a variety of options for their solution.

The key is taking the time to listen fully first, without interruption. Allow them the space and time to express themselves, so they can fully explain their situation, problem, or experience. In some instances, they simply want to share and aren’t looking for solutions. We should be sensitive to what they want from the interaction and conversation.

For example, if you teen comes to you because they fought with their boyfriend or girlfriend, allow them to share what happened. They may need to process the argument and the exchange of words that occurred. Talking about it with you will help them process their thoughts about the exchange. Don’t be hasty to jump in and provide a solution. Let them come to their thoughts and conclusions about the situation. If they ask for your opinion, you can share, but again, try not to jump in and provide solutions when they may simply be coming to you so they can talk to process their emotions.

6. Model Openness

Learning how to talk to teens means learning how to be open. If we want our teens to be able to come to us with a sense of openness, then we need to model openness with them.

For example, perhaps you had a work project that didn’t go well. You can share with your teen what happened and that while you were disappointed in the result, it was a good lesson in life. Sharing this with your teen and showing vulnerability and openness with them can help them become more open toward sharing with you as well.

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7. Communicate Expectations

Having openness with your teen helps create meaningful conversations. However, we must keep in mind that we are still the parent. There is a fine line between being friends with your teen and being their parent.

Having clear rules and boundaries can help your relationship with the teen. Teens like to know what is expected of them. Establish rules that are clear, such as curfews, chores that must be done daily, and rules about gadget use.

Communicate Rules Clearly

Rules should be clearly understood so teens know the boundaries that are in place. This can help your child in knowing where the boundaries are for them. For example, telling your teen that they should be home at a reasonable hour is not clear. They may come home at 1:00 am and think that is reasonable, whereas, you as the parent were thinking that 10:00 PM is a reasonable time. Have the conversations in advance so they know exactly what is expected of them.

When boundaries and rules are not clear, resentments can form. Your teen will not like getting scolded or punished for things that they didn’t know were expected of them. Resentments are like walls that go up in a relationship. They do not help create open and real conversations with your teen.

With the example above, perhaps they were given a one-month grounding for coming home at 1:00 am. They didn’t know what you expected of them, so the month grounding will seem completely unreasonable to your teen, and they will resent you and the consequences you have given them for something they didn’t even know they were supposed to do.

Communicate Chores Clearly

Give your teen a clear list of chores, and list them specifically according to what you want to be done on which days of the week. For example, if you want them to wash the dishes every day after dinner, then put it on the list of their chore chart that you can put on a family bulletin board or the kitchen fridge. If you want them to mow the lawn every weekend, then add that to the list, too. Make the list and hold them accountable to that list. Using a blank printable Chore Chart for Teenagers is helpful, and this one is free!

Be reasonable with your expectations as well. If they don’t know how to do something—for example, make lasagna from scratch—and that is what you are asking of them, then perhaps you need to spend some time teaching them first. This is also a great opportunity to talk to your teens and create meaningful conversations and interactions as well.

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Set the tone for your relationship by setting reasonable expectations and rules that are clearly laid out for them. In many homes, having the rules posted somewhere in the house is helpful for all family members.

8. Control Your Own Reactions

Our teens will screw up and make mistakes. Some mistakes will be big and some small. Regardless of the infraction or situation, we need to remain calm, so we can control our reaction. Screaming at our teens when they screw up (and they will) will not help the situation and will likely only alienate them.

Overreaction can create barriers between you and your teen. It is like a wall going up, much like resentments can cause. Control your reactions toward your teen and their bad behaviors, so that you can maintain good communication and avoid saying things that you will regret later. Consequences can be conveyed in a calm voice and are often more effectively communicated in this manner than yelling or using raised voices.

9. They Need Some Privacy and Space

When kids enter into adolescence, it is developmentally normal for them to desire more privacy, their own space, and independence. It is a natural part of their development as they mature and grow. As parents, we need to recognize these needs. We should allow for some privacy and time alone in their own space so that they feel both respected and comfortable in the home.

However, it does not mean that we need to allow our teens to lock their doors and that we are not allowed to enter their rooms. Parents should have the ability to check in with their kids and know what they are doing in their room. Knocking first is always a good policy, along with respecting their time alone in the bathroom.

Technology and Allowing Privacy With Limits

In this age of technology, parents must be aware of what their kids are doing online, as our job is to protect them. If we don’t know what they are doing online because we allow complete privacy, then we are not protecting them adequately.

Predators online exist everywhere. There is also sexual and violent content that may not be appropriate for our teens to view online. As parents, we need to communicate that while we may trust our teens, there are content and people online that we don’t trust, and it is our job to actively protect them. When we communicate this role as a parent, we must also let them know the parameters for checking in on their viewing content. A popular app that many parents like to use for monitoring their teen’s online activity is Bark.

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10. Validate Their Feelings

Allow your teen to express themselves and validate their feelings. For example, if they break up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, it is helpful to allow them to talk about things and vent to you. Don’t minimize their feelings by saying, “well, it’s only a high school relationship.” This relationship is important to them, and a breakup can be earth-shattering for them. Listen, empathize, and validate their feelings.

11. Praise Your Teen

Teens may act like they don’t need praise or approval, but they still yearn for it, especially from their parents. Give them praise, even if their reaction may seem like they don’t care. Most care quite deeply, but their teen facade masks their true feelings. Praise them for their achievements, success, and especially their hard work on whatever it may be. They need praise as much as they did when they were small children.

12. Be an Authoritative Parent

Authoritative parents are sensitive parents who are receptive to their kid’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Yet, they are still the parent, and they clearly establish rules and boundaries.

Authoritarian parents, on the other hand, are much like dictators. They aren’t interested in hearing about the thoughts and feelings of their teens or children. Their word is the law and must be followed at all costs. It is hard for anyone to have a good relationship or meaningful conversation with a parent who acts as a dictator.

Be the Parent You Needed When You Were a Teen

Think back to what life was like when you were a teen. Did you have a parent or adult who listened and had great, open conversations with you? If not, work toward doing better for your teen by being the parent you needed when you were a teen.

Make time for your teen and listen to them attentively, so you can create openness and positive communication and learn how to talk to them. This communication will help establish a healthy relationship. Patterns of good and open communications will help you reap the benefits of a healthy relationship well after they reach adulthood.

More Tips on Communicating With Teens

Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebon via unsplash.com

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