In her work as a family and child social worker, Liz Curfman, LMSW, has observed the importance of high-quality family time for child development. "Quality time encourages healthy attachment of children to their parents or caregivers," she said. "Secure attachment is a good indicator that a child feels loved and understood. Furthermore, secure attachment is instrumental for healthy emotional and mental development of children, because kids who feel securely attached to their parents are more willing to explore, learn and make new friends than kids with insecure attachments."
Curfman added, though, that quality time doesn't have to include elaborate birthday parties or expensive attractions. Instead, it's how parents choose to engage their kids in everyday activities — like completing puzzles or baking cookies — that makes all the difference. "Set some ground rules," she said, "so you can have intentional, carved-out time with your family." Here's how you can make the activities of your everyday life count for high-quality family time.
You probably spend a lot of time with your family in the car — en route to school, practice, rehearsal — you know the drill. Unfortunately, the time for family bonding is underutilized because of the drone of the radio and smartphones in the backseat. Instead of focusing on getting from point A to point B, start a tradition that makes car rides the time when you share the highlights of your day. Turn off the radio and insist your kids put down their electronics for those few minutes you share together every day.
Next time you need to run an errand that's close to home, leave the car in the garage and put your walking shoes on. Something as simple as taking a walk together is a great way to feel connected as you observe the world. Not only that, older kids and teenagers often feel more at ease talking during physical activity than they do when they're sitting with the family. So grab your kids and hit the pavement.
Bedtime can very easily become a blur of activity as you're trying to get the kids to sleep. Is the homework done? Are their teeth brushed? Did the lunches get packed? But this can also be a great chance to spend quiet time with your children. Turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. As you're putting them to bed, let them stay up a few extra minutes to talk to them or bond with them in your own way. Even spending 10 uninterrupted minutes together can help you grow closer.
Reading to your kids is a great way to infuse a love of learning into their lives. But frankly, it's also one of the best times to bond with your children. There's nothing quite like a little one curled up under your arm as you read storybook after storybook. Consider reading through a higher-level book with your tweens and teenagers (you might be surprised at how much they still enjoy mom reading to them).
Going to a restaurant with children is an exercise in bravery, but it can also be a fun bonding time. Let your children pick out a restaurant they enjoy, and use the time to ask questions about what is happening in their worlds. If you don't want to feel rushed, tell the waitress that you'll tip at twice the normal rate so you can enjoy a longer time with your kids.
It's not about how much time you spend with your family, but how you spend the time you have. Whether you have 15 minutes or five hours, just remember to make that time count.
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