Finding time to connect with your family

Oct 1, 2011 at 9:25 a.m. ET

In our busy world, fitting in all the things we need to do each day isn't easy. If we don’t make a conscious effort, meaningful family time can get lost in the shuffle. Learn simple ways to slow down and find the time to connect with the people you care about most: your family.

Family going for a walk

1Family dinners

If you are looking for ways to create more quality family time, planning regular family dinners is a good place to start. Try scheduling extracurricular activities around your family dinner time, rather than squeezing in meals on the go. During dinner, make sure that everyone at the table is unplugged so that conversation is uninterrupted. Make sure that each family member has time to share and add to the discussion. Not sure how to get your kids talking? Try some simple family conversation starters to get a fun dialogue flowing.

2Turn off the TV

After a long day at work, it's easy to flip on the TV just to get a moment of peace and quiet, but too much television can stunt meaningful family time. Instead of zoning out and watching TV together, try other fun family activities. Play board games, have a karaoke night, go for a family walk, see a play, read a good book aloud or head out to the backyard and kick a ball around. You will be amazed at how much fun going TV-free can be!

3Spark meaningful conversation

Building a deep connection with your growing children is one of the most important aspects of parenting. Taking the time to really talk to your kids will help you grow closer and stay connected to one another's lives.

Sometimes siblings have trouble not interrupting while others are talking. One way to combat this problem is by using a "talking object" during family discussions. This can be a pretty feather, colorful rock, shiny coin or any other small object. Family members take turns talking, and only the person holding the object can speak. Not only does this help moderate good dialogue, but children also learn important conversation skills such as patience and listening skills.

4Learn to say no

If you said yes to every meeting, activity, volunteer opportunity or other function that came your way, you wouldn't have time to eat or sleep. Understanding how to prioritize and set good boundaries is one of the trickiest things we need to learn as parents and as human beings. Knowing which activities are the most important isn't always easy. Everyone feels disappointed occasionally when she can't participate in that sleepover, ladies' night out, weekend campout or PTA fundraiser.

Rather than making arbitrary decisions, take time to talk as a family about your goals and the ways you'd like to spend your time together. Choose a few times a week for family time and stick to your decision. Make family time something the whole family anticipates by planning activities that everyone enjoys, or let each family member choose an activity in turn so everyone gets to take part in the planning. By slowing down your life, you reap the benefits of deepening the relationships most important to you while building a powerful and loving connection with your family.

Try to choose times to converse with your kids when they aren't exhausted from a long day at school or rushing out the door to extracurricular activities. Build some family bonding time into your day when your kids are feeling refreshed and more likely to open up to you.

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