It’s 6 am Monday morning and you’re already rushing the week away. Breakfast, getting kids ready for school, car line, lunches, after-school programs, dinner, bath time and bedtime… and don’t even mention on homework that takes any chance you thought you’d have for meaningful family time!
You’re exhausted after a long day of work and you have just enough energy left to tidy the house for 3.5 minutes and drag yourself to bed. All to start over again tomorrow. The repetitive time- and energy-consuming days of adulthood leaves you little time to slow down and cherish the precious moments of your kids’ childhood.
This is the typical life for most families. Even for parents of toddlers and homeschool families like mine, time still feels like it’s slipping away all too fast! My kids and I really love an app called Parent Cue. It coordinates daily lessons at home with their lessons in bible class at church on Sundays. Every time I log in to the app, the home page gives me a countdown of how many weeks I have left with each of my kids before they turn 18. It blows my mind every time. I’ve lived more weeks with my oldest than I have left with her. 612 weeks gone already and only 326 left- and I feel like we’ve only just begun. If your child is 6 years old- typical kindergarten age- that’s 312 weeks gone already!
The good news is: spending quality time with our kids has more to do with ordinary daily life than extravagant birthday parties and a room full of Christmas presents every year. Instead of focusing on how much time we have left with our kids- it’s good to be aware but don’t let it soak in too deep- we can focus on how many moments we can create with them each day. It’s simple and meaningful interactions, like bedtime stories and family dinners, that are essential for your child’s healthy development and future relationships.
As a parent, you’re preparing them for friendships and relationships. You’re teaching them to make sound decisions that help themselves and their communities; to be kind, honest, self-disciplined, trustworthy, and so much more. You’re helping to set the patterns for academic success and rewarding careers.
If you’re a parent, you’re certain to often feel like you’re short on time and juggling more responsibilities that you can handle. there are many opportunities to incorporate quality time into your daily routines. Start with these practical opportunities to cherish every moment you have together.
General Principles for Quality Time:
- Be authentic. Do you feel a little guilty when you see Instagram posts from parents who take their children on exotic vacations or treat them to expensive hobbies? Comparison is a joy-killer. It’s more beneficial to your family to, instead, focus on activities that suit your family budget and lifestyle.
- Pay attention. Let your child know how much you care about them. Listen closely to what they have to say. When you’re together, try to be fully present instead of looking at your phone or thinking about your to do list.
- Show appreciation. Give your child plenty of praise and positive reinforcement. Thank them for being patient with their younger siblings or for setting the table without being asked. Congratulate them when they grow into new responsibilities and celebrate new milestones.
- Discover their interests. Find out what your child likes to do, so you can participate too. You may both enjoy painting or playing video games or kayaking.
- Make updates. Remember that your child’s needs will change over time. As they grow from a toddler into a teen, they expect more independence, but they’ll probably still welcome an invitation to practice driving or watch a favorite sport.
- Remain available. Quality time can happen anywhere. You’re bound to find promising opportunities as long as you make yourself accessible.
Practical Examples of Quality Time:
- Eat family meals. Dine together as often as possible. If you run into frequent conflicts with weekday dinners, try gathering for breakfast or catching up on weekends.
- Share chores. Ask your children to join you when you’re shopping for groceries or painting the garage. You’ll have a chance to talk, and they’ll learn valuable life skills.
- Schedule one-on-one time. Arrange to spend some individual time with each of your children on a regular basis. You’ll learn more about them and enjoy meaningful conversations that you would otherwise miss.
- Travel together. Family vacations and driving to soccer practice both provide time to talk while you’re on your way to your destination. Check in with each other and let the conversation flow naturally.
- Volunteer as a family. Helping others can draw you closer to your children. Support a cause you both care about or browse online for a local volunteer clearinghouse where you can explore your options.
- Take pictures. Face to face communications are the most significant but sharing pictures can help you stay in touch too. Send each other funny or moving images you come across during your day. Build an album you can look through together.
- Connect daily. Even if you work outside the home and see your child for only a few hours most days, quality time pays off as long as you’re consistent. Make it a habit to chat for about 15 minutes when you arrive home or before you go to bed. Be slow to anger and communicate with your kids in a way that shows them they can trust you with their hearts. Plan time to cook, read or learn a new hobby together.
Use quality time to build a positive relationship with your kids and give them a solid foundation for becoming a happy and productive adult. Savor the moments you spend together and create memories you both will cherish.