The importance of quality family time

Our time is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Here’s why you should make quality time a priority…

 Families who share everyday activities together form strong, emotional ties.

Family time is an important building block for happy and healthy families. Parents who take time out to eat as a family, play, read, and talk together, teach children that they matter, that relationships are worth nurturing, and that strong family bonds breed success.

We chat with Elena Neitlichthe owner of Moms on Edge (www.momsonedge.com), on proven ways to improve family time.

The ideal way to spend family time is to eat together

Studies have shown that the family activity with the greatest positive impact on children, is sitting down together to dinner each evening. Benefits for children include learning patience, (family members should wait for everyone to be served before eating and remain at the table until everyone is through), sitting quietly and calmly to eat, and listening attentively and participating in the conversation.

If an evening meal is impossible to schedule, families can find a different way to gather later: a fun idea is to set the table later in the evening when everyone is home, and have dessert together. Children should be included in meal preparation, setting the table, and clean-up. Although table manners must be taught and reinforced, mealtime should be a pleasant experience with a focus on togetherness. Quick behavioural reminders will reinforce good manners and then conversation can be resumed.

Parents should choose to be in a good mood and not let the day’s issues weigh down the meal. After all, this is family time! Creative planning can make the evening meal easier to put on the table and clean up afterward. Simple meals, and meals prepared in advance and frozen, are good ways to ease the evening scramble and help keep the focus on family time, not on cooking and cleanup. Instead of spending an hour cleaning the kitchen after the meal, simple meals free up some time in the evening for togetherness.

Turn off the television and computer

Switching off the television in the evening helps to place the focus on the people in the house instead of the strangers on the screen. The evening hours spent interacting as a family instead of staring at the television will benefit everyone greatly and will help create warm and lasting memories.

Shutting off the television and the computer eliminates the risk that children will be exposed to damaging levels of violence and sexual content. Experts claim that violence and sexual imagery negatively change the brain chemistry of children, resulting in permanent changes in the brain’s wiring.

Create a laid-back atmosphere for family time

Bathe young children and put them in their pajamas. Put on some light music that isn’t jarring or offensive: this often cues a little impromptu dancing from children, always good for a laugh. No arguing, bickering, or crabbiness. Family time should be warm, joyful, and happy. Parents should be demonstrative and giving, snuggle, hug, and kiss the kids and each other. Family time like this is ideal for modelling loving, kind behaviour.

Set the tone for family time by creating a comfortable atmosphere

The nature of children is to be fun-loving and flexible and open to many ideas. Colouring, board games, guessing games, acting, playing with dolls or cars, and reading are all fun things to do together. Allow children to help set the evening agenda. One idea based on the Montessori principal of learning suggests observing the child and leading by following the child.

There are other opportunities during the day for family time

The evening is not the only option for family time. Parents should seek out other times to be together. Take the kids on the morning and afternoon dog walk, invite them to join in on gardening, ask them to help wash the car or help with the laundry. It is probably true that activities will be completed slower with kids as helpers, but their happiness far outweighs the inconvenience.

Parents will have plenty of alone time when children are grown up

Parents who zone out each evening in front of the television or computer for hours and hours rob children of the necessary family time that they need. It is stingy of parents to choose to channel or web surf over spending time with their kids. In a blink of an eye, the kids will be up and out of the house and parents will have the rest of their lives to stare blankly at a screen, alone.

Making a conscious effort to spend quality family time together is vital to the health and welfare of children. Children do not thrive if parents don’t interact with them daily. When parents choose to have kids, they automatically choose to sacrifice their time to raise their kids. Family time is a parenting tool that helps to regulate the content that children are exposed to and introduce healthier activities. Developing strong relationships with children also will build bonds that last a lifetime.