Every year, we set our children up for “1st day of school” pictures and then we blink an eye and find ourselves celebrating their last day of school. This phenomenon occurs when we, very innocently, give our kids the gift of having a wide range of experiences or sign them up for anything and everything that peaks their interest. The result? Our schedules fill up and time flies by, turning our tots into teens before we know it.

How do we savor moments and grow together as a family when each family member has their own schedules and agenda?

While it’s important to allow our children to try new things and have experiences, one of the basic foundations of family sometimes gets lost in the process. Enrolling our children in multiple activities is often compounded with multiple commitments per week. From dusk ‘till dawn, we’re running from one activity to another and are left with short, car discussions that lack in depth and meaning. Quality family time gets lost.

Coupled with responsibilities, our schedules keep us from having regular and profound conversations with our children. Our role as chauffeurs supersedes our role as parents trying to guide our children through life.

Conversations become short, or not long enough to teach our young ones not only how to deal with life, but how to love it. They learn more about their activities and less about us. More drastically, we end up becoming so adjusted to not having to have these crucial discussions that when we do, they don’t feel natural.

Growing as a family requires spending time together regularly and having meaningful discussions. This goes beyond everyone being in the same room with their electronics and beyond watching our children from a sideline. To gain the full benefit of quality time together, it has to be just that: quality. It should be time spent getting to know each other, hearing each other’s thoughts and experiences, learning from each other, and discussing plans for the future.

Quality time should be meaningful and done on a regular basis.

Sounds easy enough, but how can we work both the gift of experiences and the gift of quality time together into our schedules on a regular basis? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Family Dinner Time
Making an effort to spend dinner time together every night can reap some wonderful rewards. Despite what type of meal is made or when it’s had, the comfort of gathering with your family, on a regular basis, to relax and talk about the various events in each other’s lives has the power to keep you growing together.

Family Days/Times
Making family time a priority is just as important, if not more, than showing up for other commitments. Consistency is key here. Just as you book events and activities into your calendar, try blocking out one day a week or a regular time slot for family time. Spend this time wisely, too. Try hiking, camping, bike riding, or any other activity that doesn’t include easy distractions from wireless devices. Family game nights are always popular with younger children and quick day trips to various local points of interest are great for older kids. In the end, growing together through interaction and discussion is the goal.

Get Involved
Involving yourself in your children’s’ interests opens the path to quality time spent together that they can appreciate. If your child takes swimming lessons, take some time to swim together once a week. If your child plays soccer, challenge them to a weekly match. Open the lines of communication as you’re participating in these
activities and reap the benefits of great memories made together.

Routines Turned into Quality Time
Something as simple as a quick walk at sunset or just some time together before bed qualifies as quality time, too. You don’t have to spend money or create trips away from home to have a meaningful discussion with your child. Working together as a team can also initiate some great conversation. Performing chores together and talking throughout the process is another great way to spend some time together.

Dates
Dating your children on a regular basis can strengthen your relationship and create some lasting memories. Especially if you have more than one child, dedicating a special time alone can help balance the scales and help you learn about your child as an individual. Try breakfast or lunch dates during the week if your schedule doesn’t allow for quality time later in the day.

We often think about how fast our children grow up, but truth be told, we are growing and learning just as much as they are. We’re experiencing new things, learning how to work through new problems, and how to manage in an ever-changing world. We need regular time with our children just as much as our children need
regular time with us. The years are going to go by fast whether we want them to or not and focusing on the most important family foundation- quality time together- can help us to all enjoy the time before it passes.

By Pamela V. Miller