Thursday, August 20, 2009

How do children spell love? T-I-M-E

I know. This is such a timeless piece of advice, isn't it? Making sure we have some quality time can be difficult. We have so many activities to compete with and when parents have to work outside the home, it calls for some serious creativity. One thing that has helped me is to set more boundaries around my work, so that when I am home, I’m “really all there". I have to confess that there have been days when I am spending time with our daughter coloring, baking or even reading, and my mind is busy thinking and planning what I need to get accomplished as soon as I am “done” with her. That’s not what it is meant by quality time. Quality time really means giving your children your full attention, not all day long or even every day, but during the time you are WITH them. It means being present and having your attention on them, mind and heart.

I can already hear some of you saying: …But how? How do we find time when we have more than one child? How do we find time when we work outside the home? How do I find time when our partner doesn’t help with the housework? How do I find time when I am tired and exhausted? Well, that is one question that comes up time and time again with the parents I coach. I wish I had a magic answer that would fit all the possible reasons why finding time for your children can be a challenge. What I do know is that, once you find a way to incorporate quality time into routines and activities you already do, it becomes much easier and less of a to-do and more of a “ta-daah”! (can you hear the drum rolls?)

What I am suggesting is that you make those 15 minutes at the dinner table count. Maybe when you are ready to do laundry, you can ask your youngest to help you carry some clothes to the washer and you can talk to them about was their favorite thing from that day. Or maybe when you are driving your 10 year-old to a play date you can sing together in the car to a song you know she likes. Maybe you can play “I Spy” in the car on the way to the dentist. Maybe you can sit down and write a short note to grandma to send her your children’s latest art work. With very young children, days of the week can have cool names like Magic Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wondrous Wednesday--and so on. Pick a Saturday during the year when children can make gifts for each other and celebrate what's special about their sister or brother. Celebrate a butterfly sighting or geese flying south, a fresh snowfall, a field goal, a lost object found, a new haircut, Picture Day at school. Our 3-year-old neighbor Hunter who lives on our cul-de-sac loves how fun it is turning on the vacuum cleaner for his mom, then pushing the button that magically "eats" the cord when he is done. Have a family Valentine's Dinner--lots of red candles, lacy doilies, little white lights wrapped around the room, and heart-shaped food. Even President's Day is an opportunity to come together as a family. You might talk about what makes a good leader, read stories about Washington and Lincoln, and say what each of you would do to make the world a better place if you were president. Think of what you loved doing as a kid and try to build on that.
These are all ways to incorporate “one-on-one” time without having to spend money or carve huge amounts of time for them.

For those of you ready to leap into designating more specific family time, turning off the TV or computer is another way that helps you create that special time. When I was growing up, my family parents were big fans of board games. We spent many a night playing Monopoly and Life, or trying to keep quiet while playing old fashioned Operation. These days, we have new games that my family enjoys and my daughter loves the popular ‘theme” games; Princess Monopoly or Sponge Bog Life. We also like crafting together – just being inventive with the stuff around our house and seeing what we create. I have learned that our daughter and I can always have some quality time doing some scrap booking together, something we both enjoy immensely. My daughter loves to help cook, so we let her drag her stepstool over and work alongside us. The bottom line is that you can make everyday life routines a family-focused activity. One of the things our daughter enjoys most is reading, so I try to spend at least a few minutes a day reading to her and we also make sure we have a family game night  every week. We play the computer games or pull out the UNO cards or get a board game.

Another great opportunity to have time together is to sit together at the table and eat dinner together. Dinnertime conversations (either at our table or at a restaurant) are always a great opportunity to connect, regardless of what’s being served. Get creative: Have an indoor picnic on the floor. Serve banana splits for dinner or pasta for breakfast. Choose a day and announce that you will be having dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. Serve boxed macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets and fries in the morning and make pancakes or eggs and toast for dinner. You might have dessert before you have dinner and serve the main course afterwards. Kids love this one.

Make time to have fun with your children. It will pay off in a 100 different ways and is worth every minute.

"Your children need your presence far more than your presents."   Jesse Jackson 

The Soulful Parent


  1. Great article Sandra. So many great ideas to incorporate into our everyday lives to facilitate more connection with our families, throughout each day. Keep up the good work:)

  2. Thank you Daphne.. I appreciate your thoughtful comments!!!

  3. Very insightful.. Thank you for such a great article and ideas!

  4. I love when dinnertime is a priority for families! That has always been a priority at our house, and with 3 kids now it makes it even more difficult. But we try as many nights as possible, it is amazing what conversations develop around the dinner table! Thanks Sandra!