How much time does your family spend together each day? Don’t count the time spent watching TV together, or the time spent sitting near each other while on smart phones, laptops, or tablets. Just tally up the minutes you spend each day actually being present with your family, talking or playing with them, and giving them your full attention.
If you spend at least an hour each day interacting with your family in a meaningful way, that’s great. If you’re not quite up to a full hour yet, make that your goal. There’s no question that it can be hard to find the time to do so. What with differing schedules for work, school, and extracurricular activities, it can be very difficult for every member of a family to be free at the same time as everyone else. The benefits of quality family time are so dramatic, however, that it’s definitely worth the effort.
First of all, setting aside that quality time actually increases your family’s health and well-being. Studies have shown time and time again that families who spend time together, even if it’s just eating dinner together each evening, have children who are happier, healthier, and who do better in school. Family time also promotes good emotional health in children, which is linked to a greater likelihood that they will avoid risky behaviors such as drug use.
Secondly, providing a child with adult time and attention is important in a child’s healthy development. Children who don’t get regular attention from the adults in their lives will find a way to force them to pay attention – usually through negative behavior. Acting out in this way leads to added stress on the parent-child relationship, which can cause a vicious cycle of emotional and behavioral issues. Spending quality time with the family is just as important a health factor as nutritious food and plenty of exercise.
Finally, making time for family members to be together and interact in positive ways strengthens the relationships within your family. Quality time could mean father and daughter working on a project together outside, or a mother reading a bedtime story to her son. Any activity that allows for real, mindful interactions between family members will work towards strengthening those bonds – and strong family bonds influence a child for life.
So how can you make time for your family to be together? Check your priorities. Do your children really need to take part in every one of the after school activities they’re currently enrolled in? Are there any commitments you have that can be dropped? Even if making changes here is not possible, try shuffling your schedule around, so that some extra time is available.
It’s also a good idea to proactively schedule quality family time. If you decide on an activity and make an appointment for it in advance, you’re much more likely to follow through.
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to find any extra hours in the day – but that’s okay, too. You can squeeze quality time into everyday moments, like running errands or doing chores together. If you take every opportunity to spend quality time with your family, everyone is sure to benefit.
Take a look at the Y’s national website for more tips on how to incorporate quality time into your family’s daily lives.