The 24 hour day is spread thin for many.
Even when families do get together, some say the time is spent in silence because they are too busy reading, playing games or simply too tired to talk. The only way not to let the everyday slip by, is to make a concerted effort to spend time with our children.
How do we not just reclaim our family time but add value to it?
1. Prioritise your children over tasks
There may be dishes from dinner, clothes to be ironed for the next day, homework to check for school. In all probability, these can be done after the children sleep. Spend the 1-2 hours before the children turn in with them. Have fun, read a book, spend time sharing about your day. Tasks will always be there. Sometimes it is very easy to “do-do-do”, but we need to remember our kids have been waiting for us to return from work the whole day, there’s no reason why they have to be further down the queue and wait for us to finish our chores too.
2. Keep it simple
Spending time with the children can be done doing something simple. One such example is reading bedtime stories and tucking them into bed. This even fits into their routine.
3. Family ‘meetings’ & special time
Schedule a time where every family member has to gather together and spend time together. This can be over a meal or a separate time of 30 minutes or more. Family members can get air-time during this meeting and get to catch-up with one another as this is the time where everybody is together. For families with many children or young children, it is recommended to schedule special one-to-one time with each individual child daily, this can be 15 minutes or so. During this time block off other distractions and let your children know they have your attention and that time with them is important to you too.
For Elaine Lau, a working mother of two Primary school children, she has a special ‘talk time’ with them just before their bedtime. During this special time, they will snuggle up in bed and both children will share their innermost feelings and thoughts of their experiences during the day. This ritual is done almost on a daily basis and Elaine believes this intimate sharing will create a special bond between her and her children, and also between brother and sister. She hopes it will be something the two of them will remember fondly as they grow older.
4. Do chores together
Sometimes things really need to be done. If manageable, this can be an activity which both parent and child can spend time to bond over. For example, Daddy can do the dishes and Leah can dry them. If you need to run a quick errand by car, ask one of your children to ride along. It can be a special outing together.
5. Converse with value
When spending that pocket of time together, refrain from being operational.
“Have you done your homework?” “Have you completed your revision?” “Have you practiced your piano?” “Memorised your spelling?” “Have you brushed your teeth?” Some parents speak this way as a way of concern for the child; or for others they may not be too free with expressing affection.
Try to focus on hearing from your children about themselves and being available to them. Focus on the “being” and not the “doing”.
6. Connect even when you are not there
There is a variety of simple or even fun ways to this. Leave post-it notes of encouragement or send wishes for that soccer match your child is having in school that afternoon. You can even leave a note or message – “Looking forward to our movie night on Friday!” Let your kids know you are thinking of them.
Very often, people live with the flow and react to requests and urgencies. That project milestone you need to meet, the request through the phone call you had, that supper invitation from friends. All these are not wrong, however without defined priorities, our children will subconsciously end up with our left-over time; especially for the younger ones as they may not know how to ask for your time or “book you”.
Spending time with your child is a matter of planning and habit – not a lack of time.
What do you do to add value to the time spent with your children? Tell us in the comments below!
By Som Yew Ya