I remember when my children were younger just making time to have dinner together took a lot of planning and working around Girl Scouts, soccer practice, and drama rehearsals. Sometimes a meal around a park picnic table with all of us together was the best I could make happen on a busy day.
It is important to keep an open dialogue with your children, not just sitting together on computers or watching TV. I learned more about what was going on with my family and children during meal time than any other time of the day.
While it is often tough to do, as parents we need to make an effort not only to spend time as a family, but also to spend one-on-one time with our kids to better understand their lives. Often, children and teenagers have their own stress from school pressures, bullying and just growing up. That time we give them to talk openly about their day, their challenges and their successes can make all the difference.
I also found the time spent with my children also helped create shared values. Talking is a great opportunity to reinforce right from wrong, compassion, and empathy for others. Maintaining a strong family closeness is good for everyone. Those with a close emotional bond to parents and children tend to have more self-esteem and better health.
So if you're thinking "How do I start?" A few ideas include: scheduling weekly games nights with the whole family or setting aside time to go out with each child - for lunch, shopping or a shared activity such as bike riding, or crafts. Another added benefit of family time is your children will feel more comfortable coming to you with their problems and questions. Keeping the lines of communication open with my children certainly helped us navigate the teenage years with less stress and more smiles along the way.
Here's wishing you a world-class day!