How to make your minutes count is a great goal, but do you find that the realities of family, work and home often throw your carefully crafted plans out of whack leaving you feeling frustrated and even upset? It seems as if there aren’t enough minutes in an hour or hours in a day to get it all done.
Of course, this can become a downward spiral, can't it? The more frustrated you become, the more fractious the kids do too, as they react to your energy.
Stop and think about the last time you were feeling tired and grumpy and how your kids responded. Without getting too terribly “new age”, the energy that we project is the energy that comes back to us. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Okay, so if making those precious minutes that you do have - both for yourself and in your relationships within your family - count in a positive fulfilling way is a challenge, it's still absolutely achievable.
Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule (set forth in In his book Outliers – The Story of Success) comes to mind. Whether you agree or not, the underlying principle of practicing over and over for success certainly applies here.
It might not take 10,000 hours, but it does mean doing certain things again and again until they become a habit.
Dr Gail Fernandez,a board certified child psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, supports quality family time in order to raise children who love and feel loved.
She's right and there're plenty of parents out there who will agree with the following 5 tips:
1. Sit down together for at least one of your meals. From the time your kids are small right on through to the time they leave home, sitting down together around a table to eat brings your family together in a very dynamic way. Especially when tablets and games are left in another room!
If it’s dinner, make it a ritual for each person to tell the best thing that happened to them that day. If it’s breakfast, have each one around the table tell one thing they will do that day.
Benefit: Some of the things you learn about each other might surprise you!
2. Spend one-on-one time with each child. Ideally, 15 to 20 minutes. Let each child choose an activity – outside of things like homework or chores – to do with each parent separately. It could be building a Lego plane or stringing beads or making a Play Doh dinosaur. The activity obviously is geared to the kids’ ages.
Benefit: It gives you time to talk and discover what’s happening in their world.
3. Make clean-up fun. When was the last time you tripped over a toy car or a Barbie lying on the floor? Invest in see-through plastic containers for specific toys or activities and label them accordingly – for small kids with pictures and school-age kids with lettering.
Make a game of putting things in the right bin or seeing who can put their things away the fastest.
Benefit: Kids learn self-discipline and working with others.
4. Turn bath time into a ritual. Nothing beats a rubber ducky swimming in your yummy smelling bubble bath! From toddlers to teens, well maybe not teens – they take hour-long showers – bath time is gorgeous. It’s not just about splashing and bathing, it’s towelling them down afterwards while playing peek-a-boo and then finishing by massaging lotion onto their squeaky clean bodies.
Benefit: It's a treat for both parents and the kids!!
5. Schedule time for yourself. In the airplane, they always say “In case of an emergency, first put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help those around you.” The more mentally and physically prepared you are, the better you can cope with life in general.
Whether it’s going out for a run, locking the bedroom door and meditating, reading a book or taking a scented bath once the kids are in bed, finding time to focus on you. And, yup, that means unplugging, putting your device down and giving your brain a rest!
Benefit: It's not being selfish, it’s about finding clarity, having compassion for yourself and being a better parent and spouse in the long run.
Even though we sometimes find that there don’t seem to be enough minutes in the day, it doesn’t have to be the norm.
Of course life will get in the way, but the more we make these rituals into habits and not occasional occurrences, the happier you and everyone around you will be. With all the distractions that tend to keep us apart, these minutes that we spend together as a family create unforgettable bonds.
Note this: As with so many other things, it’s quality and not quantity that counts.
If you find yourself checking Snapchat while you are one-on-one with your daughter or son, unplug immediately. There is nothing more important at that moment than the minutes you spend with her or him.
And for each of the above? Make it fun!
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