My days usually creep by at a snail’s pace.  But as I look back over years, it seems as though that snail has morphed into a cheetah with lightning speed.  They swooshed by and I hardly even noticed them.  I often wish I could capture each moment with my children (most of them, anyway) and save them forever.

So as we raise our children and care for our families during these deceptively brief days, what is most important when it comes to spending time with our kids? Quality or quantity? Spending loads of time with your kids or making sure that every moment with them is filled with meaning?

We all know that time with our children is important.  We don’t need an expert to tell us that. Of course, child rearing experts have ingrained in us that quality time with our children is of utmost importance.  But I propose that we can’t do without either quality or quantity.  Would you rather eat one square inch of the absolute finest quality steak in the world or a six ounce portion of a tasty diner hamburger?  While the high quality meat would be absolutely wonderful, one bite won’t come close to filling your belly.  We need quality and quantity. Both are important to the stability and development of our children.

Mother sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach and immediately return to the ocean, leaving their offspring to hatch out and fend for themselves.  But we human mothers are given the opportunity and responsibility to accompany our offspring throughout their lives.

This time that we spend with our children throughout the day, whether it’s quality time solely focused on the child or not, allows us to speak volumes without words.  We communicate love for our children simply through being present with them; we build trust by consistently meeting their needs and being available; we model important life skills, appropriate behavior, and effective communication as we share life together.  Through time spent together, we discover who our child is as an individual. The child is transformed from a burden into a valuable person.  As the child feels valued and a trusting relationship develops, time together gives your child opportunity to voice thoughts, feelings, or problems.

Spending time with kids, anyone’s kids, really, is also good for adults, and all of humanity for that matter.  What better way to gain a renewed perspective on our adult world than by entering the realm of child’s play and imagination?  And one of the most important things we do when we spend time as families, not just one-on-one with our children, is modeling family relationships. Demonstrating healthy relationships among family members will benefit future generations.

So in this age of over-commitment and super-busyness, how can we give our children both high quality and high quantity time?  You don’t have to get down on the floor and play with Barbies or Hot Wheels (though play is a great way to spend time together).

  • Let go of guilt that you should be doing something else-there’s nothing more important you can do with your time than be with your kids.
  • Turn off TV and phones.  Time spent in front of the television or other devices can be reclaimed for your family.
  • Eat family meals together as often as you can-without phones or TV.
  • Make your life participatory.  Allow children to help with food preparation, household chores and repairs, running errands.  Give them some age appropriate responsibility, even as little as helping move clothes from washer to dryer, holding a flashlight while you do minor home repairs, or cracking eggs (who cares if there are a few pieces of shell in there?!).
  • Help your child with homework.
  • Play games together-board games, tag, hide and seek, even video games!
  • Participate in shared hobbies-gardening, reading, crafts.  Include your child in your hobby or get interested in his/hers.
  • Take time each day either at meal time or bed time to share the best and worst part of each person’s day.
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