When was the last time you thought, “Where has the day gone?” or “Wow, its bedtime already?” or “I don’t have enough time to get it all done.” A reality for many, if not most parents and caregivers is: there is never enough time. Time does fly, and you may look back and think, “Life is moving to fast.” Sometimes you may feel there is no escape from the never-ending to-do lists. Balancing the family calendar includes school activities, grocery trips, meetings, housework, play dates, appointments, and on and on. Society moves at a faster pace with each generation, making it all the more important to maintain a healthy work/leisure/family balance. One way you can do this is to take time to spend with the ones you balance this all for: your family.
This is easier than it may sound, and not just another ‘to-do’ for the list. Spending quality time with those most important to you is an investment. Children at every age and stage thrive on genuine attention. Eye contact, smiles, hugs, and interactive play and conversation lets them know you are there for them, and reinforces trust and attachment for all involved. There are a variety of activities you can do, in 20 minutes or less, which can revive the connection between you and those you love. But before you reach for the UNO deck or Duplos, take a moment to prepare for your time by contemplating the following:
Disconnect from all electronics (Yes, I am sure you saw this coming) It will be easier to engage with others when you silence the dinging, chiming, chirping, choo-chooing, singing, tinging, ringing of your texts, tweets, posts, likes, dislikes, reviews, updates, threads, breaking news, sales, and the occasional app notification. Plus, this time is strictly and exclusively for you and your family; the rest of the world can wait.
Connect to the person/people you are sharing this time with. Smile, laugh, talk, ask open-ended questions, ask them to teach you something, play out their scenario during Lego time, be silly, be serious. Most importantly, let them lead. Talk and inquire about whatever it is they want to share: anime, fashion, music, school, stress, pets, movies, whatever! Just follow along and enjoy learning more about their life.
Focus on the moment and be present for 10-20 minutes (or longer!) Be mindful of your thoughts. If your mind wanders to work, forgotten dry cleaning (again), his missing homework, her mess outside, the phone call from school, what am I going to pack for lunch, I can’t believe he lost a shoe, the car needs an oil change, is it trash day, what is today, whose hosting for the holidays, where are my shoes, when is that project due, I forgot to get toothpaste (again), when does season two come out……? See where this is going? Our mind is powerful, and it controls everything about us. So when you become distracted, make a conscious effort to steer yourself back to the present, and re-engage in the task at hand, spending quality time with your family.
Every family day is different, and maybe every day of the week looks different, so be flexible with this time. There is no need to add it to your actual calendar. Rather fit the 10-20 minutes in where you can, when you can. If you think the day will get busy after school, take ten minutes in the morning to sit down for breakfast to disconnect, connect, and focus. If you have 10 minutes before bedtime, sit on the floor and play whatever they want, however they want. Setting a timer will help you gauge this time, and just like everything else, this goes by fast too, so enjoy every second!