Spending quality time with our children is crucial for their development as well as their happiness. But whether it’s the demands of a new job, a baby in the family, or we just need to vacuum or strip the beds, parents always seem to be wishing they had more time for their offspring. Does that mean we don’t love them? Of course it doesn’t.
But a recent survey by The Family and Parenting Institute found that six children out of every 10 long to spend more time with their parents.
So here’s how to make the most of the time that you do have with them.
Even the busiest of parents should be able to find time for a three second hug, whether it’s first thing in the morning, straight after work or a longer cuddle before they settle down for bed. Sometimes affection can be the ¬fail-safe way to stop bad behaviour. It can lift spirits and change attitudes for both parents and their children and it’s been proven that kids feed off affection from their parents. They will carry that special feeling around with them for a long time afterwards especially when you’re at work.
You only need to set aside around half an hour each week to see the benefits of these get-togethers. Kids feel more loved when they are listened to and taken seriously and they are also more likely to follow the rules if they feel they’ve been involved in creating them. It takes much less time to hold a meeting than it does to nag and scold.
ASK FOR HELP
After a busy day at the office, the list of jobs to do when you come home can seem never-ending and setting aside time with the kids before bed seems an impossible task. So try getting them involved in jobs around the house, especially toddlers, who like to help with the dusting or setting the table for dinner.
Ask little ones to pair up the clean socks or invest in a child’s vacuum cleaner. Some types actually do pick up dirt!
SET A DATE
Kids feel special when they know time with them is just as important to you as the appointments in your diary.Very young children need 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time with you every day and after the age of six, 30 minutes to an hour. You shouldn’t feel guilty at other times when you’re too busy or too tired. Wake them 15 minutes earlier so you can do something together. Try to persuade teenagers to go out with you once a month – but don’t be disheartened if they shun you for their mates!
When tucking your child into bed at night, take a few minutes to ask them about the happiest and saddest parts of their day. Don’t try to find solutions, just listen. Then share yours. You may be surprised to hear the things they say.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, every day I think about you…” Write short notes and slip them into a child’s lunchbox, or leave one under their pillow. It will remind them that you’re never very far away and they’re always in your thoughts.
TAKE THEM FOR A RIDE
You get home, the kids are bursting to see you, but you quickly realise there isn’t a slice of bread or a drop of milk in the house. Cue glum faces when you head for the shops. Take the kids along with you, just so you can spend as much time as possible together. During these trips be a closed listener (don’t ask questions). Let them know you’re glad to have a few moments with them.
IT’S GOOD TO TALK
When you are spending time with your child, try to talk to him or her instead of playing. Ask about their day at school and talk about yours, too. They’ll appreciate you taking interest in their day. Just avoid moaning about a boss or colleague – it could be awkward if they ever visit your house!
Try to have a family dinner every day where everyone interacts with each other. Be prepared to pay attention to your child’s way of speaking, especially if he or she is a teenager. They don’t tend to speak often so make the most of it when they do!
The computer is probably the biggest time-waster for adults (and kids) in the evening. During and after dinner, get off the internet, turn off the TV and switch off your mobile. Get back to basics with a family game night. Checking your emails can wait until the morning.
Younger kids love listening to their mum or dad read to them and studies have shown that reading with children will help them to read, too. It only takes a few minutes to read a book or two. And once they’ve fallen asleep, you could snooze too.
The best way to help your child thrive at school while spending time with them, is to get stuck in with their homework. Not only does this allow you some time together, but it also gets you out of cooking and washing up.
At work, find ways to become more efficient and leave on time. You will be less stressed and arrive home happy and prepared to spend time with the kids.
Work and home life can be one big juggling act and mums and dads can feel burned out. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries now and then, so pick a time to do something enjoyable and don’t feel guilty about it. After all, happy parents create happy children, exhausted and frazzled ones don’t.
All positive time spent with the kids is valuable. Whether you’re playing board games, walking in the park, or even watching television together, family time is good.
In other words, all time with kids, however long or short, is quality time, so don’t be stingy with it!