How to Make the Most of Family Time

In today’s busy world, it can be challenging for working parents to spend as much quality time with their children as they would like. I was a working parent, and I know how difficult it can be to juggle three lives simultaneously – home, work, and school – never mind the guilt that goes along with just not being there. Family time together is precious: a well-bonded child does better at many things, including processing information, problem-solving, sticking with a problem longer, and experiencing cognitive, language, and social development benefits.

So how can working parents compensate for time away? Here are a few things you can do to make the most of your family time together.

Invest in Family Meetings

Sit down as a family in a neutral space and have an empathic family meeting where the entire family, including the children, brainstorms how to create ways to participate in the family so that the family system works and is on a positive course. This requires authenticity from all members involved, including mom and dad. This family meeting works for all family structures, including the single parent. It is based on the premise that each member gets an established time to speak and an established time to listen, which is the best way to communicate.

Moreover, each party is invested in the outcome, creates the rewards and consequences for appropriate behavior in this family model, and learns positive ways to solve family problems. Since all family members are a part of the whole, it is essential to reinforce their membership by being respectful and mutual.

Let go of perfection and focus on what’s important

Give up on being perfect and keeping an ideal house. Relationships are much more important and much more flexible than these goals. If you make mistakes and are easier on yourself, you open up a space for others to be more human and misstep occasionally. This will allow you to relax and truly enjoy your family time.

Build structure into your family’s day.

It is important to give yourself – and your child – the best chance for the least stressful day so that you can make the most of your time together as a family.

First, set an alarm clock, allowing you time to wake up yourself and your family. Make sure that everyone has enough time for personal hygiene, breakfast, and family time to chat a little before getting to school and work on time.

Spend time with your child the night before laying out their clothes for the next day. Give them a few options from which they can choose. Allowing your child to choose from options you have already pre-selected as acceptable helps build confidence and competence. This is also an excellent opportunity to connect and discuss their day with them.

Be a presence even when you can’t be present.

Be present for as many school-related and extracurricular activities as possible whenever possible. Children need you to be invested in them, and you need to know what is going on in their lives — school and social. Scrutiny is not spying. Parents are entitled to parents; they need to know where their children are, when, and with whom. But this must be done respectfully by maintaining healthy boundaries between you and your children.

If you can’t be physically present, find a way to be there still and create ways to bond with your children. For example: record bedtime stories on audio tapes, and even be a little creative in making up bedtime stories by using your child’s name as a character in a video-recorded story.

Work Together to Reduce Stress

Learn how to relax and teach your child how to relax. It is simple! Simple exercises take the edge off and allow more enjoyable, quality time together. The key is to have a regular time to do it.

  • Meditate with your child using progressive relaxation techniques. This can be a lifelong practice to both reduce stress and, by so doing, enhance learning.
  • Ask for help when needed. Kids love to chip in when asked. Learn to delegate. No one can do everything all of the time.
  • Give each child privately, one-on-one time with you whenever possible.
  • Don’t burden your child with your problems — let them have their childhood. If you need help, seek professional help and go to a counselor.

Finally, you and your child are on a journey together — honor the process. While no family situation may be perfect, as working parents, you always have the power to create the best possible scenario for you and your children. Remember, as you are following these tips, that you only have to meet your child’s needs, nurture them, and be there by being reliable.