Busy-ness and the stress that accompanies it overwhelms most families. We scramble to find enough time to cram in the basics, get everybody up and out the door on time to face the day at school and work. Meals unfold in a hubbub of activity.
You need two dozen cookies tomorrow? Tomorrow?
Parents mark off internal checklists: Homework? Permission slips? Gym clothes? Lunch money? Laptop? Presentation materials? Checkbook … On an on the list goes and with it, stress increases. Time always seems to be in sort supply. What can parents do to tame the time monster?
Instead of being caught up in the tidal wave of urgency, what might happen if we commit to being intentional about how we allot our time? What would be the first priority? Clarify all priorities. Write them down and then estimate how well reality compares with intention. Next, track actual time expenditure for one week. What did you notice? What changes or adjustments would benefit your family? What grabbed the main share of time? What got squeezed out?
One essential activity parents frequently overlook is fun. Yet we know from research that fun is an essential ingredient for attachment. If the bulk of parent/child interactions focus on correction, instruction, admonition, discipline, chores etc, kids begin to think of parents solely in their authoritarian role and less and less in their connected, loving and sanctuary role. When there is little or no shared family fun, kids begin to view parents as judges who chronically find fault with them, consistently leave them feeling inadequate or incapable. That kind of negativity fosters avoidance and distance not intimacy. This does not imply discipline, etc. are unimportant, rather it highlights that it has to part of the relationship interactions, not the entire thing. Even adults hesitate to share their innermost thoughts and vulnerabilities with others whom they feel sit in judgment. Kids are no different.
This is why having fun together is essential. It forges a bridge that encourages connection, that makes kids care about parental values and priorities. Kids that feel close to parents, who believe in their family’s values and feel supported want to spend time as a family and develop the confidence to blossom into their best selves. Do goofy things together. The kids may roll their eyes but they will remember. You are planting seeds of family traditions and these weave into a network of shared experiences that bind families together.
For example, when my kids were little, I awoke them each day with a “song.” Imagine a droning melody, an overly cheerful voice and the following words:
I know; makes you giggle and wince at the same time. Picture their response: pillows over their ears, etc. During a recent family dinner my adult kids reminisced about this. Each rolled their eyes and told their spouses how annoying it had been. Meanwhile, everybody was laughing until tears rolled down our cheeks (yes, even my kids.)
Imagine my surprise when my son’s wife told me recently, that Parker sings that same song to his own baby! Talk about something going full circle! I feel vindicated and delighted. What memories will you create with your kids?