Quality family time. This is a phrase I hear often, and it is frequently referred to as an area that is lacking in the average American family. Many parents, including myself, sometimes confuse quantity of time with quality of time, and therefore become frustrated when there rarely seems to be enough of it to spend with their children. Yes, there are vacations, family meals, attending church together, family rituals/traditions, and other quality time that can be planned.
We are all busy. Time can easily get sucked up by the stresses and commitments of daily life! So what happens to all of that time??? Here’s a thought…It could be that those moments we tend to view as “eating away at quality time” can actually present opportunities to connect. We just need to look deeper to find them….
Since research has shown that quality of time tends to have a bigger positive impact than quantity of it, how we use those minutes makes a difference. It has been said there is too much focus on extracurricular activities and this cuts into the fabric of family life. Therefore, on your 15 minute drive to the athletic field, turn the radio off and talk to your child about the best and worst parts of his/her day. Or, take that opportunity to discuss whether or not he/she is loving what he/she is doing and how you can support him/her better as a parent.
Some researchers say our dependence on technology jeopardizes real connectedness between people. However, there are ways to minimize the negative impact technology has on family time. Maybe your son wants to download a new game to his iPad-you help him do that and ask him questions about the game. Maybe he could even show you how to use it and you play it together for 15 minutes.
It is often said that kids only want to text and it is difficult to get them to talk. Take 2 minutes and send a corny joke to everyone in the family or text a question for everyone to talk about at the dinner table later that night. Another great idea is to start a “talking book” with your kids, where you take 10 minutes a few times a week to write to them. Tell them a concern you have or something you noticed about them that made you proud. Ask them to write you back.
Ideas like these may deviate a bit from what we traditionally think of as “family time”. But in our ever changing, busy lives, getting creative and using those minutes to connect in different ways can add up to hours of quality time that everyone in the family needs!
Nicole Kehoe, LISW
Individual, Couples, and Family Therapist serving Urbandale, Iowa