We seem to be swamped with this new school year. We have gone from the endless, carefree days of summer, to the busy routine of school and after school activities. Back to packing lunches, carpools, pick ups and busy afternoons of homework.
Even though school has only been in session for two weeks, I can already see it take it’s toll on our time together as a family. When we get busy our time together suffers. We put off family time because it isn’t pressing, like homework and soccer practice and work. But the fact of the matter is, it should be pressing. It should be a priority.
Amongst all that goes on in our family life, we need to make more time for family togetherness. This time together is what keeps our homes strong and our relationships sharp.
Here are a few suggestions for ways to find more time to be together as a family.
Schedule family time. Face it, when we write it on our calendars, it is much more likely to happen. We need to schedule family time just like we schedule dentist appointments and make time for homework. Schedule a time each week for your family to spend at least an hour doing something together. Just like you respect your other appointments by keeping them, respect your family time and make sure it happens also. Be sure everyone in the family knows they are expected to respect your “planned” family time also.
Let go of the stereotypes. Society implies that for our families to do things together, we have to spend a lot of money and that the activities have to be extravagant. That is not true, don’t believe it for one minute. Don’t let money determine your families happiness. You don’t have to spend a lot to have a good time together. Playing a game together, taking a walk around the block, and making cookies together, are all activities that will bring you closer together. Take a minute to explore what your community and city has to offer. Use your resources and your creativity.
Don’t over schedule your family, or yourself. Limit your kids to one, maybe two, after-school activities. Shoot for one. This may be a harder decision for you than for your kids. We tend to want our children to be involved in everything and learn every skill and talent, but choices have to be made. Remember: Teaching your kids to make choices is an essential part of a parent’s job. These activities build skills and give kids a sense of what they can do. But time spent with the family gives them a sense of who they are. Plus, if your kids are always away from the family at their different activities, they can’t be spending time with the family.
The same goes for us as parents. As parents, we need to limit our activities. A good rule of thumb is no more than one night out for each parent, per week. When we are gone all the time we can’t be there for our families when they need us. The rituals that build closeness- walks after dinner, bedtime stories, talking and playing games, can’t happen when Mom and Dad are always gone. Don’t over schedule yourself.
Eat dinner together. Eating dinner together, or any meal together is a great way to spend time together as a family. We all have to eat, right? Why not make better use of that time and eat together. If you can’t make dinner work, try for breakfast before everyone leaves for the day. Eating together is a time to reconnect, rejuvenate, and refresh your relationships. Don’t let it become a time to reprimand, or discipline (different than teaching). If there is stress and kids are always getting in trouble at the dinner table, they won’t want to sit down and eat. Instead talk about the day, answer fun “what if questions”, share likes and dislikes and use the time to teach important skills like cooking and communicating.
Our family relationships are the most important relationships we have. Don’t let the new school year and the busy schedules get in the way your family spending time together.