In the Bankole’s house, family time is both planned and spontaneous—the planned time happens every Friday evening for at least 1-2 hours. What do they do? At times, the mum and dad, plus four kids cuddle on the sofa and enjoy a movie together—the kids get to pick out the movies. Or they plan a visit to the cinema, or drive to the beach or a picnic…or engage in outdoor activities.
For the spontaneous moments, they just crack jokes around the dinner table and catch up on each other’s week. Sometimes, the parents take it in turns to go on a surprise “date” with the kids.
Now, in the Thompson’s house, their idea of family time is to sit on the long sofa and each use a gadget—the kids play a game, or chat with friends, while the mom and dad do separate stuff with their phones or laptops, too—chatting, surfing, texting, and watching funny videos etc. They hardly connect to one another during such times.
For the Ryan’s, family time happens spontaneously or naturally. It could be during mealtimes, when they engage in meaningful conversations and don’t use their phones. Sometimes, the mom or dad strikes up a conversation with the kids while driving them to school or taking them for piano or soccer lessons, or the dad arrives home and announces he’s taking everyone out for dinner or to the cinema, or when the older teen screams at the younger ones, the dad uses the opportunity to teach a mini lesson on emotional/ anger management.
So, which of them could arguably be seen as family time? I leave that to you to decide.
In a world that is so fast-paced and gadget-controlled, it would take a conscious, pre-determined and concerted effort by all parties to have a quality family time, because family time should be what it is—family time, and not a watered-down explained version of it.
What is family time?
Family time is a time when family members are in a relaxed mood and non-stressed. It means spending time regularly with your family members—whether planned or spontaneous, to have open conversations and deep connections.
How can you experience a better family time?
1. Make it about them
If you have kids, make it about them. Allow them to plan what you all can do together. It will make them look forward to it. And if your kids happen to ask you for advice or need your opinion on something, give them your full attention. Don’t ignore them.
2. No Gadgets
Do away with the phones and gadgets! Be present in the moment. And even if you experience a temporary gadget-withdrawal syndrome, it would be worth it. For instance, let meal times be meal times and nothing else—without texting, browsing, phone calls or even watching TV. Or, you can suggest keeping phones away from Saturday evening to Sunday evening—unless it is an emergency.
3. Schedule it
Just like you will put work stuff or a visit to the salon for a pedicure or manicure on your calendar, put family time, events and kids’ activities, too on your calendar.
4. Make it purposeful and meaningful:
Plan engaging activities together, this fosters communications. Don’t be with each other and still be disconnected—just like the Thompson’s household.
Suggested activities to do together are:
- Going swimming.
- Going to a beach.
- Go to a park.
- Play indoor board games.
- Play outdoor games (if you have the space).
- Go to the museum.
- Do art and craft projects.
- Go on a picnic.
- Attend a concert or visit the cinema.
- Attend church.
- Take exercise classes.
- Bake a cake or pastries.
- Yeah, watch TV together—but don’t make it ONLY that and nothing else.
- Read books aloud, and many more.
5. Work time stays at work
You are not expected to bring family or personal issues to the work environment, so why do we often bring work issues back to the family? If you don’t answer that email or reply to that work-related text message, the world will not stop. When you are at home, be home. Let your family feel your presence and enjoy you.
6. Make it fun
Nobody likes to be caught up with boring activities (yawn!) Don’t force or threaten your kids or teens to participate in activities. Instead, get them involved and also make them realise what they are missing by not joining the rest of the family. Let them have positive, not negative, memories of family time.
Kids grow up very fast and move out or move on, so why not make the best use of the moments you have to create stories, memories, and experience meaningful family time together.
All the best!