Most parents feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children, but a recent Pew research study shows something different. Comparing modern dads to dads in the 1970's, present day dads now spend on average three times as much time with the kids. Mothers have increased the amount of time they spend with the children by 57%, even with more mothers working. Perhaps instead of looking at the amount of time, we should look at the quality of it.
Children and teens often complain in counseling that parents seem distracted when they are with them. They notice when we park our cell phones and give them our full, undivided attention. They crave time where we are paying attention and are truly available to them. (Actually our adult partner also craves this.)
We can be so focused on driving them to school, sports and lessons that we become more of a driver than a parent. It's also possible to overemphasize achievement, and overlook the need children and teens have to just spend time together with us as a family.
How can you create ways to get closer as a family?
1. Listen to music together. Have your teen share about their favorite music with you. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2014 showed that listening to music together as a family builds bonds, especially in the teen years.
2. Get outside together and go on adventures.
3. Use car time to chat with the kids. Listen more than you speak.
4. Join their world. Ask about their friends, homework, what they did at school. Be interested.
5. Create rituals for connection: morning rituals, Sunday dinners, movie nights, pizza night, reading aloud as a family, at bedtime or make a board game night.
6. Plan 1:1 dates with each child or teen. Keep this up into college and beyond if you can and they are close enough geographically.
7. Hold family meetings to discuss changes, chores, vacations, sharing responsibilities and chores.
8. Take family vacations. Research shows it builds bonds as you experience new places together as a team.
9. Invite your children to have their friends over to play. Make room for your teen to host get-togethers with you home to serve snacks and keep an eye on things.
10. Pray and worship together.
There is more to life than speed. Cultivating these parenting patterns will help you build stronger family relationships and help you get to know the people your children are becoming. Don't feel guilty about working, instead be intentional about creating closeness and time to relax and play together.