It is still dark outside as you roll over and look at your alarm clock beside you, only to find out that it is 3:30 a.m. and you are awake because you must use the washroom. You lay there, trying to will yourself to ignore the sensation, because you know the moment you get up to actually go that you will not be able to go back to sleep. Ten minutes go by and you can’t fight the feeling any longer, so you get up and use the washroom.
Hoping this morning will be a bit different, you quickly return to bed hopeful for a few more hours of blissful sweet dreams once your head hits the pillow. Your husband is lightly snoring beside you, you can hear the fan from the furnace, and you think, “I better remember to write that I need a furnace filter on the grocery list” and that’s it, your mind is off and running; it is officially awake and now the day ahead is running through your mind like a race car on a track.
Perhaps you are thinking about an upcoming work assignment, an email that you have been putting off sending, trying to find time to make a hair appointment and of course, you think “Wow, how did another week go by and I barely had time to spend with my kids?” Oh sure, you wake them up in the morning, you make them breakfast, send them off to school, see them afterschool, cook them dinner, eat with them (well you think you did that at least once this week), hustle them into the car as you race to get them off to their hockey, dance, or whatever evening program they had this week, help them with their homework, a few kisses as you tuck them into bed (you promise to read a book tomorrow evening when you have more time) and that is it, the day is over. Well, to be honest, the day is over for your children, but not for you!
Does quantity of time equal quality time?
This scenario is all too familiar to many moms and as moms, you may be wondering that with such hectic schedules how do you find enough time to spend with our kids and is the time you are spending with them really making an impact on them? Is there a difference between quantity versus quality time with our children and do you need to spend several uninterrupted ours with your children for it to be considered quality time? Spending quality time with your children doesn’t mean that you must spend over 3 hours with them without any distractions. Quality means that when you are with your children, you are truly making yourself available to them. Here are a few meaningful ways that can help foster the quality time that both you and your children need.
Focus and listen when they’re sharing
When our children are sharing with us, avoid the typical head nod with “Oh yeah” statements. This does not help to promote and encourage your child to elaborate to extend the conversation. Instead, try to engage in more active listening. This means stopping what you are doing for a moment, position your face and body in their direction and rephrasing what they said and ask questions to help keep the conversation going. Children will learn that you value what they say, you are making them feel important and that they can obtain positive parental attention.
Turn chores into quality time
As much you and your children may not like doing chores, you can turn this less preferred activity into something fun. Play simple games while you get your little ones to help you clean. You can whistle or hum a song and take turns guessing. Try playing eye spy. Have you ever thought about dressing up in costumes, playing some music and dancing around while you clean together?
No need to break the bank
You don’t always have to spend money when it comes to quality time with your children. Why not dedicate one evening a week to family games night? This is a great opportunity to spend a few hours together, laugh, build strategic problem solving skills all while having fun.
Get creative… but keep it simple
Do something out of the ordinary, something they will remember. One time, I asked my children if they wanted ice cream. When they said, “yes” I told them to grab a spoon and then we sat on the kitchen floor and we finished the entire tub of ice cream. To this day this continues to be a favorite moment for both of my boys.
Take advantage of the evenings
Why not have a family sleepover? You can all pile into one bedroom where you sleep on blow up mattresses, eat some yummy snacks, have fun telling stories or enjoy a family movie. You might also want to try this by setting up a tent in your living room. I promise you your children won’t forget this!
Don’t let family dinners slip away
Coordinating our children’s own personal schedules with our own can be difficult to say the least. Thus, family meal time is something that is becoming more obsolete. Increasing quality time with your children means making dinner time matter! Schedule them, if you must, and make sure it is a technology-free zone, including not answering the phone.
Dinner time is a great way to find out about what is gong on in your children’s life so make sure to structure a positive conversation. Try going around the table and each person share the highs (positive) and lows (negative) about their day. In my house, we call it “poopy-positive.” This has become such a regular routine in our household that even if we are out at a restaurant, my children say, “Okay, who wants to start poopy-positive”. Here is a link to a fantastic video that helps prove this point.
Devote one meal a month to each family member. This a great opportunity for your child to choose their preferred meal, help grocery shop and prepare the meal. Then during the meal, each family member needs to say at least one affirmation about that person. This is a great way to develop a positive self identity in your child.
Dinner time is also the perfect time to discuss what has happened during the day. Instead of asking “How was your day?” get more specific and ask questions such as “Who did you play with at recess and what did you play?” You’re more likely to get quality detailed answers instead of a simple “My day was fine.”
Some of us can spend a whole day with our children, but not really spend any quality time with them. Everybody may be physically in the same house or even in the same room but no one is really spending that quality time with one another. Twenty minutes of real quality time beats out a whole day of quantity time, any day.
Find the right time for your family
Finding the right time to spend with your children is key. In the morning, in my household, my girls may want to tell me about their dream they had last night or what they are going to do at school today. However, as I’m preparing lunches, packing backpacks and getting myself ready for work, it is difficult for me to give them my full attention. So, for us, any morning conversations happen in the car on our way to school. Often in the mornings I will say “Save it for our car ride.” This way the kids know they will get a chance to share what’s on their mind and I will be able to give them the attention they deserve!
These are just a few priceless ways to interact and spend quality time with your children while creating lasting memories. So, just like a race car on the race track, ready set, go and your off!
This post was contributed by Janet, Arnold, mother of two boys, and Francine McLeod, mother of two girls, from Finding Solutions