Quality time with our kids is so important, both for building strong relationships that will last into adulthood and to help our children’s development. As a mom of six who works full time from home, I know how hard it can be to find a way to carve out space in your day for quality time with your kids. Stress Health, our sponsor for this post, has some amazing tips that can help you find the time to be fully present for your kids, even when your schedule is packed.
This time of year, I feel like I’m constantly scrambling just to get the basics done. This month, between work, school activities, and other responsibilities, I feel like my primary role as a mother is to make sure my kids eat something decent and to pick up the stuff they left behind in their rush to get somewhere.
I’ve been feeling stressed, as a result, and I know my kids have too. It’s time to slow down and take a breath.
We talked last month about the toxic effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, on children. If you haven’t already, be sure and take the ACE quiz to see where your child is at and what you can do to prevent future health problems as a result of stress.
Kids feel stress, just like we do, on a daily basis. I’ve noticed with my own kids, that one of the best ways I can help them deal with stress is to make sure they are getting enough quality time with me.
Last week my six-year-old daughter was constantly acting up. We couldn’t figure out what was going on until we realized that she’d spent most of the week rushing to school and rushing home for activities. And when she was home, she was picking up on my stress.
Once we realized what was going on, we set aside one night, just for fun. We put away our phones, electronics, and anything else that was going to distract us from spending time together, and we just were present.
The difference in her behavior was immediate.
It was an important reminder to me that no matter what is going on in our lives, we HAVE TO take the time to slow down and be sure we are getting quality time with each of our children. They need us. That time is so important for keeping their stress under control and for supporting their self-worth.
How do you make quality time for your kids?
We know how busy you are. We face similar issues in our home. These tips have helped us to make sure each of our kids is getting the quality time that they need.
Put away your phone
Phones and other gadgets are supposed to make our lives easier, not distract us from what is important. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of checking your phone when a notification comes through, despite the fact that our child needs our full attention.
To break the habit, set your phone in another room while you spend quality time with your child.
I’ve realized just how often I reach for my phone. I’ll pick it up when I’m bored, waiting for anything for more than 30 seconds, or hear any notification pop through. I don’t want my children’s memories of me to be filled with images of me with my phone in front of my face.
So I made a change.
A few weeks ago I deleted Facebook from my phone, as that was my primary temptation. I was able to access anything I needed on my computer, when I wasn’t working on spending quality time with my kids. It took a bit of practice to stop reaching for my phone, but, according to apps on my phone, I cut my phone usage by 90%.
Now, instead of reaching for my phone, I’m spending time talking with my children about their day, playing games with them, and giving them the time that they need.
Make eye contact
I’m a big multi-tasker. When people realize that, they usually sound impressed. It is NOT a good trait. I may get a lot done, but I’m not always giving each task my full attention. That’s usually not a problem, except that sometimes, the things I am multi-tasking are my children.
“Sure! Tell me about your day while I finish up this work project.”
“Let’s work on your homework assignment together while I do the dishes.”
“Let’s play together and clean your bedroom up a little bit at the same time.”
NOT a good habit.
My kids need my full attention. They need to know that my focus is on them, because they are important to me. That starts with making eye contact. Let your kids see that your whole focus is on them.
Get in the habit of having real conversations
When we have a busy week, most of the conversations I have with my kids may involve who is going where at what time and who did what chore. I have to be careful that we make room for the important, too.
Family conversations are the training ground for empathy, according to MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle.
My kids are less stressed when they are able to talk with me. It shows them how much I love them and helps them talk through any problems they are having before they grow bigger. This is especially important if our kids do have any ACEs they are dealing with, but it is essential for all kids.
My kids don’t have any major ACE’s, but they have experienced some trauma in their lives and several of my kids have unique challenges they have to deal with. The real conversations I have with my kids help me to be their support, especially if I’m able to have private conversations with my kids where they are comfortable enough to really open up.
Create anchoring rituals
We all have those comforting rituals that helped make our childhood (and adulthood) easier to manage. It is important that we create rituals with our children as well. Rituals make them feel safe and give them something to use to stay grounded.
In our family, we read together every night before bed, sometimes as a family and sometimes individually. My older kids will often use this time to read stories to younger siblings or to listen in as we read aloud as a way to decompress from the day.
This time is sacred in our house.
We fit it in no matter what else is going on. We have read through so many amazing books that my kids may not have tackled on their own. Younger kids like to use the time to snuggle with mom and dad or siblings who have been away at school during the day.
Anchoring rituals may look different at your house. They may be board games, sports, or family dinners. Whatever you do, be sure that you create a safe space that kids can let go of the stress they are holding onto and be consistent so they know they can count on that time.
Stress can cause long-term health issues if not managed. Making quality time with your kids a priority can help your kids manage the stress in their lives and help your whole family build stronger relationships. If your kids have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, you may have some additional challenges that make quality time even more important.
Learn more about what you can do to help your child manage stress at stresshealth.org.
This post is sponsored by Stress Health, an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness.