We’re spending less time together. What’s happening?

Families always seem to be busy. Parents’ weekdays are filled with work, appointments, car pools, chores, errands, and volunteer projects. Weekends, rather than being relaxing, are times for shopping, driving to children’s activities, laundry, household repairs, and paying bills.

Kids’ schedules are full too. In addition to school, homework, and chores, a ten- to thirteen-year-old may have lessons, classes, sports, or religious school. She may spend time talking on the phone, getting together with her friends, working on hobbies, reading, listening to music, working on the computer, watching TV, or playing video games. Between her activities and her parents’, there’s little time for the family to be together.

Eventually, this lack of closeness can lead to problems. Everyone knows older parents who say, “I wish I’d spent more time with the kids when they were young.” The parent-child relationship is built during childhood and adolescence, and once the time to be together on a daily basis passes – usually by age eighteen – parents can be left with many regrets.

You should make a special effort to be with your child, even if you seem to have little opportunity or energy. By rearranging your schedule or giving up some of the things you now spend time on – socializing, volunteering, working long hours, keeping the house in perfect order – you can make yourself more available.

If your child wants to tell you a story, put down the paper or the mail and give her your undivided attention. When she practices piano, occasionally sit with her and listen. When you’re both in the car, use the time for discussion. Start having breakfast together or stay off the phone or computer in the evenings so you and she can talk.

The initiative has to come from you because she may be too busy or self-absorbed to think about your lack of time together. While it’s natural for her to want to be with friends much of the day, make it clear that family time – whether regularly planned or spontaneous – is important, too. One way around conflicts is to include her friends in some of your family activities.

When you focus on her interests, she’ll welcome your increased attention. You can sit in her room while she talks about her day or you can listen to her music together. You may be surprised to find that you and she like some of the same kinds of songs. Try playing a board game or video game together, making dessert, reading out loud, or sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of hot chocolate.

Try not to use your limited time together to reprimand her. In some families, the only time parents and children talk is to argue. While it’s important to settle disagreements, the calm and enjoyable hours you spend together are valuable. They help create an atmosphere that makes it easier for her to be cooperative and open.

This is a period of rapid changes for her. One father realized with a shock that in only five years his thirteen-year-old would be off to college: “I don’t have much time left with him.” The everyday events that fill your calendar should not keep you from spending time with your child as she grows and matures. Being together is an important part of strengthening the bond between you.

Picture Credit : Google