The Case For Real Family Time
Five ways to build family attachment in a digital world.
Children of all ages want to be an integral part of their family unit and want to be surrounded by fun, humor, security, and a caring family. So how do you build a family that chooses to spend time together and enjoy it? How do you build solid relationships within your family? The first requirement is that you have to spend quality time together. Common sense, right? “Relationships don’t fall from the sky!” I tell my kids.
Spending real time together listening, sharing stories, and physically being together is key to building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your child and teen. Using the screen as a babysitter, texting, online group video games or checking social media all day will not build solid family relationships. These activities are very isolating for children. Simple activities like playing board games, doing yard work and cooking together build relationships. Parents can develop together time by encouraging activities that bring the families together and by discouraging activities that isolate. This has become more difficult in our fast paced, digital world, and will take some purposeful decisions on your part.
Here are a few examples about how we encourage family time:
1. Keep the same schedule.
Make it a goal to spend time with the kids in the morning and evening during the school year and the summer. Morning routines together make your children feel secure and loved. Children learn to depend on bedtime routines too to talk with parents when something is on their mind. Don’t let summer change that scheduled time together.
2. Do chores together.
You can’t beat chores for bringing people together! Indoor chores can get knocked out quickly when everyone pitches in.and outdoor chores are bonding especially if followed by a swim in the neighborhood pool.
3. Take neighborhood walks.
After dinner in the summer take a “popsicle walk.” When dinner is over and the kitchen is all cleaned up, head out for a short leisurely walk without screen distractions (yes, leave the phone on the kitchen table). Bring a frisbee or football and throw while walking or just enjoy the summer night together. In many homes after dinner the kids head to their bedrooms with their electronics and the parents head to their screens. Something as simple as a family walk will help bring your family together and keep you connected to your neighborhood.
4. Play games.
Board games are a great place to build family fun. You can be loud and competitive and laugh a lot. All ages and abilities can play and it is amazing how quickly the youngest becomes an equal! Outdoor games are just as important. From shooting hoops in the driveway to throwing the frisbee or baseball if even for a few minutes. Games and sports are naturally fun and encourage physical fitness. Keep the end goal in mind; children learn how to be in a relationship from you, their parents. Playing together builds memories, trust and deepens family relationships.
5. Bond in the car.
We travel a lot and actually enjoy long car rides. Think about making your car a no-screen zone as the car provides a perfect place for talking about things that generally don’t get talked about. Kids really don’t need to be entertained all the time. Read maps, read books, do mental math problems, snack, play cards, nap, do puzzles, play music (one family iPod that is crammed with a wide variety of music), talk at length, laugh riotously, and daydream while looking out the window. Car rides can build patience, communication, imagination and family fun.
Building family relationships is one of our most important parenting jobs and it is getting harder in our digital age. Our best family times come when we are working and playing together in person; this will never happen if everyone is on a screen. Make an effort everyday to spend time with your kids. Remember, family relationships don’t fall from the sky, they take real time!
For more ideas on spending non-tech family time together go to familiesmanagingmedia.com.