Now that most children are set to go back to school, you might have mixed emotions as a parent. Of course, most children are so excited to be going back to their old routines, seeing their friends and playing together outside. Yet this time is not without its anxieties. Many parents, teachers and officials are concerned about school openings contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Nobody knows what will happen next; it is out of our control. The only thing we can do is make the most of this precious family time. Quarantine was stressful for a lot of families, but one treasured aspect was that we all got to spend more time with our children and bond further with them. Now that school is resuming, we will see less of them. Making the most of our time has never been more crucial!
So how do we make the most of family time? With young children, busy schedules can mean that after school and evenings are too crammed up with homework, after-school clubs, getting dinner on the table and getting into bed. With older kids and teenagers, well, they kind of have their own agenda. Here is your helpful guide to maximising the time you spend as a family!
It’s easy to leave family time as the unscheduled, ‘chill-out’ space between responsibilities. Most of us just think, sure, this Saturday we will all be together and do something. We keep it vague. However, this can lead to disorganisation and wind up scuppering family time. Other responsibilities can invade, and with that, our plans are ruined. This can be frustrating if you find yourself wanting more quality time with the kids - and who doesn’t, right?
The solution to this problem is scheduling in specific activities which you can do as a family. These don’t have to be costly, fancy or even involve leaving the house. It could be DIY jobs that need to be completed that can be turned into a fun family activity; similarly, these activities could be playing outside, going for a walk, or even watching a film. Whatever you want to do as a family, make sure it’s in the schedule, just like all the other important things in your life.
- Democratic Family Time!
One way to make your family time more creative and fun and including everyone, is to make your family activities more democratic. If you have a few children who are old enough to choose activities, pencil in a time each week for family fun. Then you can take it in turns - parents included! - to choose what the family does together. Of course, this is within reason. We all know some kids would choose ‘Getting a pet dinosaur’ or ‘Playing on my iPad’ as their options!
The activities can have rules, such as having to be able to include everyone, and either being based at home or outside, depending on what you prefer. This fun system not only helps us involve our kids in decision making, but means you will be constantly coming up with fun new activities for everyone to enjoy! You might play family games one week; visit the zoo the next; and go for a ramble in the woods the week after. What better way to enjoy your time together?
- Keeping It Interesting
Particularly as your children get to their tween-age and teenage years, their interest may dwindle. That is totally normal. You aren’t a bad parent for feeling upset about this, but just remember - every teenager wants to hang out with their friends more than mum and dad! You probably felt the same at their age; it’s just a part of growing up. Despite looming resistance against scheduled family time, it is important that our teenagers stay connected to their parents. No matter what they say, they need you far more than they realise. So how can you keep your family time fun and interesting for the teens and tweens?
Firstly, if they need to skip it once in a while, don’t make a big deal out of it. Teenagers want to feel like they have autonomy over their lives; denying this to them will make them act out and go further away from you. Allow them to make their own schedules more and more as they get older. Instead of forcing family time on them, make it enjoyable. They will likely want to have family time, if they don’t deem it ‘boring’ or ‘babyish’. They might complain more often, but in the end, they will still enjoy spending time with you - even if they don’t admit it.
- Keeping A Simple Routine
Although we have spent the last few months in quarantine, limiting our routines and reducing our outdoors time, many people will snap back to their old frantic routines as soon as possible. Try to resist this temptation. The COVID-19 pandemic has been frightening, stressful and disruptive, but it taught us one positive thing: we all do too much. If you are guilty of cramming your childrens’ schedules, as well as your own, full of activities, clubs, sports, social meetups and other extracurricular activities, try to use this school year as a fresh start. Are these endless clubs and extras benefitting your child? Or are they simply a force of habit?
Maximising your family time can be achieved very simply: by having more time to spend together. That means sacrificing some of the many different activities we all already engage in, in order to spend quality time together. Children should be fulfilled and busy, of course - but taking this too far can impede on your ability to actually be together. And what else are families for?
Instead of considering 2020 as a write-off, consider it a lesson: family is the core of our lives, and our time together is precious. Try to reduce your crazy schedules, and instead plan for simple, fun activities to do all together.