Editor’s Note: this post originally was published in pre-COVID times (remember those days?), but we still think the ideas are valuable.
I just found out I am going to be a grandma come spring! My how they do grow up quickly! I have always valued family time. Even as family time with all six of my own kids has varied over the years, they will all tell you I have always prioritized love of family and our time together. With one married and expecting, two high-schoolers away at boarding school, one in middle school and two still in elementary school, you can imagine life is a little busy at my house! Here are some simple ways we maximize family time amidst the chaos of work and life:
Get up together – We only have two bathrooms, so we don’t get up at the same second, but you get the idea. My husband and I get up around 6am and wake up the kids by 7am so they can see Daddy before he leaves for work around 7:15am. I hear you saying, really? 15 minutes? Just a short time is enough to give the kids the reassurance of seeing their father before we all go our different ways for the day. There is nothing worse than one of the kids bawling their eyes out because they didn’t get to kiss Daddy goodbye or remind him to stop at the corner store before coming home. I think it helps my husband to see that they are up and moving too.
Turn off devices after school, when the weather is nice or after short time limits – I am constantly telling them to turn in the devices or turn them off, but especially before responsibilities are complete. Before and after school, devices remain off until chores are done, like making beds, packing snacks, eating and dressing in the morning and unpacking bags, doing homework and feeding pets after school. My husband and I often remind ourselves how, when we were kids, our parents were in charge of the television and we hardly ever got to watch what we wanted. We certainly never had electronic or digital devices. We tell the kids to come outside (where we usually are) and involve them in what we are doing, even when they hate it!
Prepare dinner together – On a good day, I might have supper prepared and in the oven before the kids get off the bus. This is not most days. Most days, I am whipping up something when I get home from picking up or dropping off somebody, so an extra hand or eight is helpful. Kids can’t do really hard or dangerous stuff, but they are great at grabbing bowls and utensils, throwing stuff away, mixing or spreading stuff, and older kids can cut if you show them. Crazy idea here, but preparing food sometimes involves small amounts of reading and math measurements. Not only is this a great way to bond with your kids, but they practice academic skills and learn a few real-life ones too! Bonus!
Eat meals together – Yeah, you’ve heard this before. Me too. I admit this is hard if one parent works second shift, but there is one meal you could probably squeeze in, depending on your family’s crazy schedule. Maybe it is breakfast most days, but make an effort to sit at your table, television and radio off, and just eat. You will discover conversation happens and you will learn about each other’s day in new and different ways. You might even share your own experiences or impart some wisdom on your kids.
Tuck the kids into bed – Even teenagers want to be tucked into bed. Yes, they will probably stay awake longer than you if you let them, but spending just a few more minutes together at the end of a day is a great way to maximize family time. My kids love their bedtime routine and request certain songs. We used to do a round-robin highlights and lowlights of our day, which sometimes took forever. Whatever you do, tuck in your kids and then reward yourself with some adult time with your spouse. You have earned it!
My family really does do these five things and we really do spend lots of time together. Hey, nobody ever promised family time was going to be a dream! Just like the rest of life, family time can’t always be a party (life lesson). It does take hard work to run a household and kids need to realize that and be engaged in it too. There is never enough time in the day to do it all, anyway. That’s why I am glad there is tomorrow, to finish all the tasks I didn’t today.