Everyone is busy. Let’s own that.
Let’s also consider some fairly easy ways to work together-time into one’s busy day.
Sometimes, it’s a mindset. If whatever you’re doing is a necessity (i.e., making dinner), find a way to involve your kids. (And yes, sometimes it IS far easier–and faster–to get the job done yourself.)
Meals: Kids can tear lettuce for salad, count out baby carrots for snacks, fold napkins, set the table.
Laundry: Let kids fold laundry or match socks. (A direct, life-skill application of some of the skills kids learn in pre-k, or through pre-k aged activities—more on that in a future post.)
“Table Time”: Have kids do their homework nearby (i.e., while you’re preparing dinner). Simple crafts a child can complete without a parent’s help are ideal at this time too. (That’s a great way to work in fine motor skills too! Examples: Make a macaroni necklace, paint a page from a paint-with-water book, etc.) Allow a younger child to read to you while you’re engaged in something else.
Schedule a DOABLE amount of time for something you and/or they enjoy (i.e., snuggle time to read a book, play a game, etc). Even 15 minutes works, and sometimes, two quarter-hour slots are easier to find (or make) than that one 30-minute period.
When they were too small to walk, I’d hold them while I sang and twirled to show tunes I’d play on CDs. (It’s even easier to find songs with YouTube.)
When weather allowed, I’d take them to the school yard, walk behind them while they rode their bikes, dragged them to the tennis court. (Older Son still plays with me every now and again. BTW, this blog-post talks about working in fitness time. Use your creativity to make it work for you and your kids together!)
As my kids got older (i.e., middle school age), just sitting at the dinner table longer with them and their friends—vs. jumping up to get everything tidied up—often resulted in some of the liveliest, bond-building chats we’ve had. We still have them every now and again.
And this segues me right into a biggie: HAVE DINNER (or one meal*) TOGETHER AT THE TABLE, per day, if possible.
I understand parents’ work and kids’ school, homework and/or activity schedules don’t always jive. Even a meal together once or twice a week will suffice—and what’s currently happening at my house these days. (Older Son works until 7:30 PM at least three evenings/week. His commute is 30+ minutes, depending on traffic, and he goes to school all-day Saturday.)
For those of you with older kids involved in extracurricular activities, work, etc, hold the meal until later, assuming you can. Or, set the table and eat as a family with whoever is present. (Lately, Hubby and I are home alone. Most times, we’ll still sit at the counter and eat together, rather than plop in front of the couch while we eat.)
*MAKE FAMILY MEAL TIME A DEVICE-FREE TIME. Parents too! No TVs on, phones or tablets at the table, etc—except, of course, when the US Open Tennis Championships are rescheduled to Monday b/c of rain. Then this Mom is allowed to tune the iPad to the match and have it on nearby while we eat. Being flexible is important! 😉 .
Relative to social skills and the autistic student whose family studies during meals. (I mentioned him in Part 2.) Family meal-time isn’t necessarily magical, but opportunities for sharing with potential resultant bonding, closeness and—yes, life-skill-learning—abound. And for some children, particularly those with special needs, that social piece might wind up being more key than the academics. Just MHO. (Perhaps I’ll talk about that in a future post.)
I hope you found some ideas here. And please keep this reminder: Don’t allow this write-up to make you feel guilty, that you’re not doing enough, etc. (Society will imply that from all angles. Reality is far different.)
So what are some ways you spend (or have spent) time with your children? Don’t be shy! Someone might be inspired!
Until next time,
©Joanne C Timpano (content and images), 2016. All rights reserved.