In our fast-paced culture, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many families to spend time together. Parents’ jobs, children’s after school activities, or other obligations receive the most commitment. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institutes of Health urge families to spend more time together and engage in activities that allow children time to create, talk, reflect, and problem solve. Below are some tips families can use to spend more time together:
* Review the family calendar. Take a good look at your current family schedule, and all the activities that take up your time. Begin by taking inventory about what’s important to you and your family. Then prioritize your list, and consider what you can let go. Invite your children into this process so that all of you can start to understand how you value your time. If you make the resolution to spend more time together as a family, it may mean that you will have to rearrange your daily or weekly schedule, drop some of your commitments, or even make changes to your lifestyle in order to be able to fulfill the resolution.
* Have one or two structured activities per child. If possible, try to adopt a no more than “two activities per child” policy in your family. This means that swimming, music, and tennis lessons can happen, but not all at once. Such a rule can also help children prioritize and decide which sports or lessons mean the most to them.
* Create family rituals. Since spending time together is vital for family bonding, pick one day or evening per week for doing something special as a family. It can be going out for dinner, having a movie or a game night, or going for a short outing. For some families it may mean having dinner together every Sunday. Plan something fun for everyone to look forward to.
* Get everyone involved in family projects. A project might be volunteering time as a family at a local social service agency, an animal shelter, or at your church. You can read to sick children at the hospital, spend time with the elderly at a local nursing home, or deliver unwanted clothing and household goods to a local thrift store every month. A family project can be chosen during the family meeting, and agreed upon by each member.
* Schedule weekly family meetings. Take time each week for all members of the family to gather and talk about the week, to ask questions, and plan future activities. It's also a good time to organize the family’s schedule, work out family problems, and allow everyone to be heard. Family meetings should be scheduled on the calendar just like a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment.
* Resolve to have meals together. Make a commitment to sit down for a family meal every evening. Mealtime is a great time for talking together, sharing events of the day, discussing individual challenges and aspirations, and having fun together. Remember to turn the TV off, and put the phone on silent mode.
* By spending time together as a family, parents not only have many opportunities to instill their values, model appropriate behavior, and teach lessons or show how to solve problems at “teachable moments”; they create memories for their children that will last a lifetime.