Inside: Here’s why spending time with kids is the #1 thing, children and teens need from their parents. This blog explores ideas for spending time with kids and the dividends associated with giving your children both quality and quantity time.
Spending Time With Kids
I love being a mom, but raising kids was hard work with few high-fives. Most of the time, I was burning the candle at both ends yet wondering if what I was doing was making a difference. I often asked myself,
“Is there one important thing that I need to give my kids that will make the greatest impact in their lives? And if so—what is it?”
In 1982 I read an article citing research that said the one thing that kids need most from their parents is:
The author said: It is not possible for any of us to simply set aside an hour a day or so to spend time with our children. Their needs are more spontaneous and diverse than that. They need our time. They want our time. Really, they want little else.
However, back in 1982, I was a young, inexperienced mother so I naively interpreted this to mean that I needed to be at the “beck and call” of my children and to respond to their every whim. I thought I needed to be “supermom.” If left me feeling frazzled and exhausted. I started to resent my kids. I started to resent the researchers, the books, the articles.
And, I felt like a failure.
After some months of soul-searching, I realized that if I was going to enjoy this journey called “motherhood,” my perspective on how much time I could feasibly give my kids needed to change.
I decided that quality time would trump quantity.
I decided to be confident in my own common sense, my gut instincts, and not rely solely on what the experts said. I still enjoyed reading books about raising children and studying research on children and family issues. I gained a lot of valuable information from these sources. But I also needed to rely on my intuition.
The result: my kids were happier, I was happier and life got better.
Quality vs. Quantity Time: Benefits of Both
A longitudinal study (meaning a study conducted over many years) published in April 2015 in the Journal of Marriage and Family backed up my common sense. The study found that a child’s academic achievement, behavior, emotional and social well-being is not correlated to how much time parents spend with their children, but rather the quality of time given.
However, the researchers discovered this interesting caveat: When your child becomes an adolescent, quality AND quantity is important. They found that the more time teens spend with their mother, the fewer instances of delinquent behavior. The more time they spend with both parents, the less likely they are to abuse drugs, alcohol and engage in risky behaviors. And with more time, kids score better in math. They did find that spending time with your kids watching TV will have a negative effect on them (so dump the TV).
So, what constitutes spending quality time with your kids?
Ask yourself, “What is the number one reason I want to spend time with my kids?” Then create activities to achieve those goals.
5 Fun Activities for Spending Time With Kids
When my husband and I were choosing quality activities to do with our kids, our number one goal was to develop a strong relationship with them. And whatever activities nurtured that goal we did. We also wanted to have fun, teach them something worthwhile, and create memories. We did many things with our sons to spend quality time with them, but some activities achieved our goals better than others.
Here are some of our favorites: (some are quick and easy, others take more time)
#1: Spending Time with Kids: Moments of Mush
Each morning as your family is gathered around the breakfast table, take turns saying one nice thing about each family member. It’s a simple, quick exercise but helps to foster love, kindness, and appreciation among family members. This can also be done at night before bedtime if your mornings are too hectic and busy.
#2: Spending Time with Kids: Rock-Me Time
Don’t you love rocking chairs? They are also perfect for what we dubbed, “Rock-Me-Time,” or better still, “Talk-Me-Time.”
Before bedtime, rock each of your young children and ask them to share the best thing that happened to them that day. As they get older, sit by their beds and encourage them to talk about their day.
I once read that how a parent feels towards his/her child is equally important as the time they give them. When you give your full attention to listen to your child, your love for them grows. Even when they talk about difficult things, hard things, and overwhelming things.
Trust me; you grow closer together as you solve issues together.
Talking to your kids doesn’t need to be scheduled. For instance:
- Talk to them in the car as you drive to school, or to lessons, or to sports.
- Turn off the radio and actively listen.
- Ditch your cell phone and give them your full attention.
- Talk during chore time, during homework time, or when taking a walk together.
- Be creative and look for times every day to talk, talk, talk.
#3: Spending Time with Kids: Reading Together
I love books! I read to my sons every day from the time they were babies until they were eighteen and ready to leave home. If you are looking for the perfect quality-time activity—read one-on-one with each of your children.
Each. And. Every. Day.
They will grow to love books; they will grow to love literature; they will do fantastic things, and the most amazing bond will grow between you and your child. And best of all you can share this love of books with them throughout their entire life!
#4: Spending Time with Kids: Family Meal Time
Picture this: your family gathered around the dinner table enjoying a meal that everyone has helped to fix. Think of the laughter, the inside family jokes; the camaraderie and the love. It’s something right out of a Norman Rockwell painting—right? The benefits of family dinners are huge, not to mention it is a great opportunity to teach your kids how to cook.
Once a week our meals were “themed,” meaning we cooked something from another country.
- Taco night (Mexico)
- Pizza night (Italy)
- Wienerschnitzel and sauerkraut night, (Germany)
- Stir-fry night (Pacific Rim), etc.
Cooking is an important skill your kids can take with them when they leave home. Plus teaching them how to read a recipe and use measuring cups is a great way to teach fractions.
In many families, cooking has become a lost art. Families don’t know how to cook or want to cook and the alternative—fast food—seems easier. It’s easier, alright. It’s also boring and horribly unhealthy. So bring out the pots and pans, the recipe books, and learn to cook.
Check out my “Healthy Smart Kids in the Kitchen” section under “Nutrition.” I’ve included about a dozen recipes and all the different ways you can involve your children and teens in the process. Plus science tips are included with each recipe–to make your kids smarter and savvier in the kitchen! Here’s our family’s favorite homemade fruit ice cream recipe to get you started.
#5: Spending Time with Kids: Fixing Things
How many of you have watched the TV show, “Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna Gaines? Do you know what I love best about this HGTV show? They involve their four children with different aspects of the fixer-upper as well as teaching them to fix things in their own homes. Smart parents!
Yes, it’s a lot faster to fix things around the house yourself, but don’t!
- Fix a leaky faucet
- Change the furnace filter
- Put air in the tires
- Change the batteries in a smoke detector
- Fill the gas tank
- Or wash the car…
Include your kids, They need to learn how to do practical things. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to spend time with them. And learning these skills builds their confidence.
Try one of these ideas with your kids. Add some of your own ideas. Be consistent. The dividends will be lasting because I’ve experienced it with my own sons.
Quality Time—it’s worth it.
What things do you do to spend time with your kids? Are some of your activities more successful than others? Please comment in the section below.
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