Question: Sometimes I feel like I am not making enough time for me and my children to spend time together as a family. It feels as though we are caught up in a rat race and our family bond is the thing that suffers. Do you have any suggestions on how to slow down and make time for “us”?
Answer: It sounds like you are on the right track. Making time for family is sometimes challenging when you are caught in a routine of making time for everything else. Once you find routines that work for you, you and your children will appreciate the fact that you did.
Here are some tips to help get you on the right track:
1. Limit kids’ activities: Just say no to overscheduling. This may be harder for some parents than kids to consider. Teaching kids to make choices is an essential part of your job as a parent. Activities build skills, giving children a sense of what they can do, but time spent with family gives them a sense of who they are.
2. Limit yourself: As a parent, you too have your limits. Simply put, you can’t “be there” for kids when you’re not around. The rituals that build closeness — bedtime stories, cuddles in front of the fire or a favorite TV show — can’t happen when Mom and Dad use the front door like a revolving door. Limit time away to one evening a week.
3. Kill the TV: Start by turning off the TV during meals. Sitting down to watch a particular show or video can be a great way for families to relax together, but having the TV on in the background just adds another level of noise and stress
4. Candlelight dinners: Have a standing dinner time or agreement that when dinner is made, everyone in the house sits down to eat. You can light candles each night for a calming effect. You could even set a table rule that while the candle is flickering no discipline issues are discussed and no phones get answered.
5. A reading tree: Make a “Reading Tree.” Find a tree in your backyard or local park; claim it as your own. Bring a book and a blanket, and make it a regular spot for story time. It’s a great way to savor fall foliage or the warm breeze of an Indian summer night.
6. Pick your own: Go apple-picking with your family (or any fruit or veggie, for that matter). If you’ve got kids of different ages and temperaments, it’s sometimes hard to find a movie everyone wants to see, or a game everyone has the skills to play. Picking apples or pulling carrots is something everybody can do well and do together, and these outdoor activities provide another chance to savor the waning warmth of the fall season.
7. Catch some winks: Get some sleep! When you feel rested, you feel calm. Period. Pay bills in the morning, and turn on the radio to catch the news you missed from the night before.
8. TGIF fun night: Friday night is one of the best times to focus on family. Let kids take turns each week setting the agenda: Video? Monopoly? Scavenger hunt for loose change? Whatever ... it’s a time to remember that our home is not just our castle. In the 21st century, home and family is our fortress, our best protection from the onslaught of the 24/7 world.