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Finding ways to spend time as a family may seem like a giant hurdle to overcome, but with a little creativity and planning family time can be easily incorporated into your busy schedules.
We asked Janice Ebenstiner, a child and family therapist at Kerrisdale Counselling Services in Vancouver, for some helpful advice on how to make the most of the time you have together as a family.
1. Value and prioritize family time
Time spent together is a key ingredient for a happy, healthy family. "By making a commitment to family time, parents are investing in future, lifelong family connections into adulthood," says Ebenstiner.
"It's important to make time for family from an early age and to build secure, loving relationships in order for parents to ensure close bonds as their children grow up," she says.
This starts by placing a high value on spending time together as a family, she explains. "An essential element to fitting in family time between other important commitments is by valuing it as much as anything else in your life," she says.
2. Keep things simple
Between the lack of disposable income and the pressure to plan an activity that everyone enjoys, the idea of finding family time can actually create added stress for parents. The key to overcoming these challenges is to keep things simple. Spending time together as a family doesn't need to involve an elaborate plan or financial investment.
"Make use of the resources and opportunities you have either at home or close to home and you will be more able to fit family time into your busy schedule," says Ebenstiner.
3. Plan ahead
Planning ahead is an important factor when it comes to eking out time to do things as a family. "Schedule the time into a family calendar and ensure it is a priority for all family members. Ensure that every member has a say in the activities in order to make family time something that everyone looks forward to," Ebenstiner advises.
An easy way to schedule time together is by choosing theme nights for various days of the week, such as game nights on Thursdays, movie nights on Fridays or going swimming or having picnics in the park on Sundays. Ebenstiner suggests that all technology be turned off during the time you spend together in order to make room for communication and connection as a family.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more great tips for fitting in family time this summer on page 2.
4. Turn your everyday routine into family time
"Family time can be something simple that you do already," says Ebenstiner. She explains that daily tasks such as preparing dinner, folding laundry or even cleaning up toys can be done together while you talk and interact playfully.
"Parents can enjoy time together with their children while promoting a sense of contribution to the family by involving their children in chores around the yard, such as gardening, raking leaves or shovelling snow."
Ebenstiner also stresses the importance of having dinner together as a family whenever possible.
"It is a really important time for communicating and staying informed about your kids' interests, successes and concerns," she says. "And it helps to improve your connection with your kids."
5. Get your family outside
Summertime is the perfect opportunity to get outside and be active as a family. "Being physically active leads to improved health, increased self-esteem, improved concentration and better sleep," says Ebenstiner. "A family who is physically active together enjoys increased opportunities to talk, have fun, share memories, play and grow healthy together."
Visiting neighbourhood parks, beaches and pools are low-cost activities that families in any income bracket can afford. Ebenstiner also points out that camping is a great summer bonding exercise for families.
"The daily activities of living are stretched out throughout the day and time seems to slow down. Children look forward to hours of play in the forests, lakes or beaches where many campgrounds are located," she says. "Most children love the novelty of sleeping outdoors, sitting by a campfire and enjoying routine activities in a novel way."
6. Remember that family time is meant to be fun
The tendency for children to be registered in multiple structured group activities has impacted the time families have for just hanging out together.
"I find that many of my child clients can be overscheduled in activities outside the home and away from family," Ebenstiner explains. "Many children don't have the down time they need to relax, receive parental nurturing and support, and stay connected to family."
She encourages parents not to heed to the pressures that they will be viewed as inadequate parents or that their children will fall behind if they do not offer them every opportunity to participate in scheduled group activities.
If your child is involved in a lot of structured activities, Ebenstiner suggests incorporating family time into them. "Take the whole family to the ballpark to watch a sibling play, and spend time running, climbing, playing catch or watching the game together," she says.
In order to make family time successful and beneficial to all family members, it's important to explore various activities to find something that everyone enjoys doing. Fit in activities that work with your family's schedule and lifestyle -- and remember to have fun! If you become rushed or stressed trying to schedule family activities it will defeat the purpose of creating joyful memories together.
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