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Maximize your Family Time

The new season is a great time to reestablish a strong connection with your family. While it can be hard to balance with work and other commitments parenting expert, Alyson Schafer discusses a few ways to do so.

Make time by sharing the load
When household demands, like dishes and laundry and vacuuming consume family time you need to re-think how you handle chores and independence in the home. Instead of feeling like house obligations take you away from family time – make them together time!  

To-do: Wash the dishes together!
After dinner, turn on some upbeat music, put on aprons, dawn little rubber gloves and work as teams. For one week, mom and a child do the washing while dad and the other child dry. Be sure to alternate jobs and teams. Use this time to laugh and bond. Tell knock-knock jokes, play 20 questions, sing along with the radio. Be sure to have a family high five when it’s all done.  

Eliminate Energy-Sucking Activities – Say “No!”
Is there something you have dedicated time to that you hate to do? If you feel obliged to help with the church fundraiser or feel you must get 100 signatures on the community petition and you are not getting any joy out of it then “no.” There will be time to give of yourself in others ways later. When you and your family is doing too much it’s time to reign in your resources by learning to say “NO!”

Pay family time the same respect you would an extra curricular event
If you wouldn’t miss a soccer practice, you shouldn’t miss “family time”. Share the responsibility of planning the fun by rotating the job of “entertainment director” amongst family members. Create a running list of things you like to do together that you can consult it if your creative juices run dry. When family fun is planned ahead and written on the calendar, people look forward to it and a stronger connection forms. Increase the amount of “family time” over the next 100 days and beyond.  

Mindful presence over multi-tasking
You may not have much time, but be sure that when you are home and available you really are able to tune in and be fully present with your children. Show the family they are important by giving them your attention when you see them, especially at these two critical times of reconnection after being apart:
  1. Upon waking
  2. When you see them after school
Make time for meals together
Fewer families take the time for meals together. Instead of admitting defeat to this sad situation – get creative. When can you be together for a meal? Maybe it’s Sunday morning breakfast. Pull out the china and tablecloth or have it in bed! Do something to make it unusual and special. Some working parents leave early and work late so it’s hard to have dinner as a family. Why not make your meal time together a lunch tradition. Perhaps every few weeks you take your children out for lunch instead of them staying for lunch at school.

Read a chapter book out loud together
Sharing a book or story together every night is great. As kids get older and can read, share the reading responsibility with them. Ask your child's librarian for a recommendation.

Find alternate activities for you and your teen
You may need to change your methods to find activities your teens like to do with you.  Going to the park may turn into going to the mall. Reading a book together may turn into doing online gaming together or watching a series like Breaking Bad (lots to talk about after each episode!). Dinner rituals may change from eating at home to more dinners out.  Too often we feel our children are drifting away when they don’t want to do certain family rituals. It looks different, but it’s still connecting – just on their terms.

What's your favourite family time activity?

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