We all know quality family time is important. Good news: it doesn’t have to involve an expensive trip across the country or a fancy night out at the theater. It can be as simple as a walk around the block. Or getting your haircut together at KidSnips!
I confess: Even though I know family time is important, sometimes it can feel like just one more thing on my “to do” list. And as much as I’d like to think all that juicy bonding time is going to happen naturally, the truth is, the only thing that happens naturally is me falling fast asleep at the same time my son does every night because I’m wiped out! I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. I hear and read about other parents dealing with this issue all the time. You too? Then this blog is for you! We’ve put together a few hacks that make family time feel a little easier and a lot more fun.
Hack #1: Eat together.
The first rule? No screens. The second rule? Light a candle. I don’t know what it is about a candle lit in the center of the table, but it instantly makes the meal special, no matter what you’re eating. Which leads us to rule three: It doesn’t matter what meal you’re eating as long as you’re eating it together. And having fun. Conversation, games, catching up….it’s all good.
My son and I like to invite whoever is at our table to join us in making up a story collaboratively, out loud. One person starts: “It was a dark and stormy night. She had just made her way back home when suddenly…” then we pass the story mid-sentence to the next person and they add to it from that exact spot. We always end up with a table full of laughter and a really funny story!
According to a New York Times article on the family table, children who regularly eat dinner with their families at home (do you know that 70% of our meals are eaten outside the home and 20% of those in our cars?) do better in all sorts of ways: They eat more fruits and vegetables, drink less soda, have lower rates of obesity both as children and adults, have less behavioral problems, better grades, better test scores… The list goes on and on. Who knew that having a meal together at home could be one of our greatest parenting tools?
Hack #2: Clean up together!
It doesn’t have to be all fun and games to count as family time. Though fun and games count too! Doing chores together creates teamwork and helps everyone feel like they’re in it together. “Many hands make light work” is a phrase I heard a teacher use, and I liked it so much, I use it at home. Doing housework together teaches a sense of responsibility. And pride. This is our home. We live here together and we take care of it together. A regular schedule can make it less overwhelming so you are not trying to do everything on one day. And of course, planning a family “reward” afterwards is definitely encouraged. Saturday sundaes? Yes!
And here’s another bonus of cleaning up together. You’ve probably noticed this in your own family. You can’t plan great conversations with your kids. They have to just “happen.” One thing I’ve noticed with my own son is that the best talks begin when we are just working together, side by side, in a flow. It’s like our flow helps his words flow more deeply and easily. He doesn’t feel under the spotlight of having a “talk.” We’re just connecting and it feels good. And more talking between us and our kids is a really good thing. In fact, it is the best way to help our kids stay connected to themselves and us and who they want to ultimately show up as in the world. So go ahead and chat while you clean. It’s definitely a parenting win-win!
Hack #3: Take care of yourselves. Together.
A mom I know pretty well (me!) shared some thoughts about this last month. And when we extend this to not just modeling self-care for our kids, but sharing it with them, it becomes twice as powerful! A bike ride together, a walk by the lake, a family baseball game (that’s a big one in our house!), these are simple and fun ways to share time AND take care of ourselves. Together. And don’t forget to add this to your list: a trip to your favorite KidSnips for a family haircut! KidSnips was started by two moms looking for a better way to take care of their families. How powerful is that? And families that style together, smile together. I mean, who knows where the day will take you when you’re looking this good?
The most important thing about “family time” is finding what works for your family. It’s not “one size fits all.” In fact, this can be your first family activity: Order a giant pizza, pull up a chalkboard and write down everyone’s favorite things to do, and which of those can be turned into family activities. Time in nature, volunteering together, learning a new skill (does my son teaching me all the things I didn’t know my phone could do count?) The list is endless. Keep it simple. Have fun. And enjoy your new family togetherness!