Time for family: Ideas for catching up as a family, no matter how busy your schedules are
Jerri Moore, an intensive in-home specialist and intensive family reunification services coordinator at the Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau, says one piece of advice for families looking to spend more time together is simply to schedule it.
"We're all busy, and we're usually scheduled right down to the last minute every day until it's time to go to sleep. So I would suggest that, just like on their calendar with everything else, they would schedule in 15 minutes with their kids. If they have several kids, sometimes they can do that as a group," she says.
Moore says this isn't always easy with so many different schedules, and no family is perfect, but scheduling and spending quality time with family is vital for healthy relationships.
Dr. Bob Dale, counselor and psychotherapist at the Dale & Hancock Center in Cape Girardeau, says making time for meals is an easy way to bring the family together.
"One of the first things to take advantage of is mealtime. Everybody has to eat. So arrange your schedules where you can have meals together," he says. "Breakfast is pretty much a slam-dunk, everybody's there in the morning. ... People now are grabbing things as they run out the door. Get up a half-hour early and scramble some eggs and sit down at the table and process what the day is going to be like. Chat, talk, converse, it's almost a lost art."
Families don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money going out, either, says Dale. Family time could be something as simple as playing a game of Monopoly or making dinner together.
"That one night that everybody has off together, have game night at home. Get Parcheesi or Sorry, I don't care what it is, checkers, chess, preferably something that more than two people can play," he says. "But if there are only two of you at home, take advantage of that. It doesn't have to be anything really expensive."
Moore says to limit the amount of time allotted for electronics, and to turn the television off while having family time.
"We work with families all the time, and the thing that we hear the most, especially from the younger kids, is that they don't get enough time with their parents," she says. "If they do get time with their parents, their parents have their nose in their phone. We all love our phones, I love mine, but there comes times when we have to put them down and spend time with our kids."
Moore adds that there are many low-cost activities families can do together outside, including taking a walk with a family pet, visiting a park and playing, going for a bike ride or taking a nature hike locally, like at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center.
"Get them away from the video game and the TV for a few minutes and get some fresh air and some exercise," she says.
Being aware of school schedules and looking for family days or activities for the whole family will allow for family time as well.
"They [parents] just have to really look hard, find those places they can fit it in and make it a priority. Our kids really need that. They need to know that they are the priority and that they're not just living in our home, that our life is for them," she says.
Moore says one thing she recommends to families whose members may not see eye-to-eye is to have a family meeting.
"That becomes really important for the families that can't really get along, and that gives them an opportunity once a week to bring all their complaints and grievances to the table and to discuss them for that time period, and then we don't revisit them again until the next week. So it eliminates a lot of the bickering back and forth. I would say set a time in your home where you guys can come together and talk about the things that are bothering you, and you can talk about the good and positive things, too," she says.
Moore says having these meetings scheduled at a particular time on a weekly basis not only allows for children to have consistency and stability, but also it allows the whole family to express themselves and make their thoughts known.
Dale shares those feelings, and says spending meaningful quality time with children is essential for proper growth and development.
"Everybody wants to feel loved. Everybody wants to have a place where they belong. By spending time together, you reassure each other of those essential elements of family," he says. "The family is the building block of society. That's a trite old saying, but it is so incredibly true. If you're going to teach people to go out into society and assume their role, it would start by teaching them how to assume their role in the family. So the modeling the parent does in guiding this is going to spread to society at large when that child grows up and goes out. They're going to be more confident, they're going to be more responsible and they're going to have greater integrity if it's taught at an early age all the way through."
At the end of the day, Moore says parents should value their children and take time to form lasting and meaningful relationships with them.
"It's awesome that our children want to spend time with us, and we need to make them that priority and go ahead and do that, and pour ourselves into them because it's not going to be long until they're not going to want to be around us," Moore says with a laugh. ... We need to take advantage of it while we can."