Kids grow up too fast, and by the time we realize that they have flown the nest and left us with regrets. It's every parent’s nightmare that perhaps we failed in spending good time with them. But honestly, it’s not how much time you spent with your children; the more important thing here is to figure out how to have a good time with them. Parents and kids need to have fun times together even if busy schedules don’t allow for too much of it. Your children remember the little moments, the ones in which there was spontaneity, laughter, and fun. Being with the kids but not giving them your full attention is as bad as not being around at all.
The Importance Of Quality Time
As parents we all have various restrictions with our time—we have jobs, careers, families, and homes to manage. We have to do the chores and run the errands. And sometimes it's not one or two kids that need our time, but more. And then we need our me times and some couple-time as well. The thing is, there are just those 15-18 waking hours in the day, and the to-do list is never-ending. You simply have to make time for your children, even if it isn’t too long.
As a work-at-home-mother, I am around my children—but quantity isn’t the same as quality. Most of the time I have with them is spent getting them ready for school, getting homework done, setting up their meals and having them finish it, ablutions, studies, and bedtime. Where is the fun in that, my sons plaintively ask, and I agree. It isn’t fun.
So I set aside time for them—the fun mommy time—apart from the normal mommy time where she is yelling, threatening, and otherwise trying to ensure that all the members of the household survive the day! It’s the same with my husband—there is normal daddy time when he does his chores and errands and makes the boys do their sums. And there is the fun time with daddy—during which mommy gets a much-awaited me-time. So you see, it’s a win-win for all.
As parents, we are adults. We enforce the rules, make decisions for the (younger) children, and call the shots. We get the kids to go to school, complete their studies, and do their errands and chores. We discipline and reprimand. We love them, but we also have to steer them in the right direction. We need to provide for them so we are busy with our careers. In short, from the kids’ viewpoint, we are boring. But boring isn’t what we want our moments with them to be, right? We want them to learn while laughing, focus while funning, and carry happy memories with them—so that they can be happy people now and later.
Of course, simpler tips work with younger children, considering they are more open to their parents laying down family-time rules. With teens, you have to tiptoe around more to get them to toe the line. Also, the thing is, if you have enforced family time with kids as a rule from the beginning, your teen will be open to it later as well. But if you suddenly want to spend more time with your teen, there is a battle up ahead for you and it can only be won by patience, persistence, and perseverance.
To help get you started, here are 10 ways to spend quality time with kids.
1. Go For A Walk
Honestly, there is nothing better than an early morning stroll or a late evening walk (when the weather is pleasant) to slow down and make some memories with the kids. Listen and identify birdsongs, trees, critters, flowers, et al—even if you don’t have nature trails close to your home. If walking isn’t your kids’ cup of milk, try cycling or skateboarding instead (but with proper safety gear!). Try and make them love nature and the environment while you are at it—the earth would be eternally grateful. If you have a garden, just get gardening with them too.
2. Rustle Up A Meal Together
The family that cooks together stays happier together. And it’s true—cooking can be a chore if left to one person, but when you do it with your kids (despite that added cleaning up workload), it’s a ton of fun. There will be plenty of laughs and gaffes along the way, and your kids will also thank you for their culinary skills and gastronomic know-how later on in life. Not only will they learn motor skills and cooking tips, but it’s also a great way to spend time together.
3. Host Family Movie Night
There are kids movies that adults will enjoy and there are some PG movies that can really inspire kids. So make sure you have one movie night a week—and it doesn’t have to be at night. You can do a Sunday movie brunch instead. It's a great way to spend some cuddle time together and likely to spark a whole new discussion—it could be about the movie or the issues/learnings in the movie.
4. Tackle Errands Together
One way to get your kids to spend time with you is to ask them to help you make your chores fun. Or alternatively, you could make their chores fun. Remember though, chores have to be done. If it’s a matter of cleaning up their room—form an assembly line with your kids with one picking the stuff up off the floor, handing it to the other, and passing it on till the last person in the line drops it in the designated storage. Or get your kids to do something soapy—like cleaning the car, the bathroom, a rug, etc. Fun and the work also gets done!
5. Read Bedtime Stories
Reading to your children is good in so many more ways than one. Bedtime stories better their language, make them feel loved, and improve their communication skills. Maybe, if the kids are old enough, everyone can take turns reading. Books, apart from you, dear parents, are really a child’s best friend.
6. Zone Off Technology
There are times (many, many, many times) that your child may seek you out to talk to you. This is the time when you should give all your attention and heart to them. Leave that smartphone or laptop be—all your kid may need is five minutes of a sympathetic ear and another five minutes of hugs and cuddles. They deserve that much from you.
7. Take Vacations
Time away from home is a must for families—and today, we all have the advantage of being able to plan a vacation to suit every kind of need and budget—from the fanciest of hotels to the simplest of farm stays. Not taking a vacation is not really an excuse anymore, even if it’s just visiting grandma or that aunt that lives five states away. A change of scenery often breathes in an extra burst of communication from the kids and makes complaints go away.
8. Sign Up For A Class
Learning something new together is another great way to spend time with the children, even if you can only do it on weekends or once a week. Try signing up for yoga, or music, or whatever is a common interest between you and the kids. The learning will be both fun and funny at times because you may find your children picking up a skill far faster than you! My kids and I learned to bike at about the same time—what took them a day took me close to a week. And I can still not let go of a handlebar for fear of overbalancing—no such fears on my kids’ part…
9. Make A Conversation Box
On chits of paper, have the children write down the topics or issues they would like to talk about. It is our jobs, as parents and as the adult in the relationship, to keep lines of communication open at all times. The topics may be fun sometimes, dark another, and can be really uncomfortable for parents to talk about. But it has to be done and should be done in a way that not only answers any questions the kids have but also allays any fears or insecurities they have lingering around the same to make them mentally stronger.
10. Play Something Together
Finally, nothing like the good old spirit of competition to spend some good time together. Play something together, anything. Board games like chess, Monopoly, checkers or even noughts & crosses work. You could also try more of physical outdoor sports like badminton, tennis, baseball, or a simple game of playing catch. There will be loads of laughs, and sometimes a few tears as well (show me one child who likes to lose!) but that’s okay—it’s all part and parcel of learning how to win and lose gracefully.
So these are my tips, and some may work for you, while some won’t. See if you can work them around your way to open new channels of communication between you and your children—they are the human beings of tomorrow, so making them happy works in favor of the future of humanity (and the environment) as well and keeps you happier as parents, too. No one said parenting was easy, but it is surely rewarding in love and joy.