Family First: The challenges around spending quality time together as a family, plus 5 tips
It’s no secret that finding time to spend together as a family is hard. In between work, school and all those other day-to-day things both parents and kids must do, suddenly 24 hours in a day doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough time.
‘Family time’ is often reserved for weekends, when there’s no school runs, no small window to get home from school, dinner on the table and stick to the bedtime routine, but for parents where one, or both, often have to work weekends, something has to give.
Despite family time still being classed as a top priority for the majority of parents, many of you told us you still find it a challenge to make it count or fit it into your busy schedule. We want to make it a tiny bit easier if we can, by sharing some tips and ideas for things that are working for other parents!
So, what is ‘family time’?
The key to quality family time is being together. It doesn’t have to be a big day out, or meticulously planned; having everyone in one place, at the same time is all you need. You told us it’s about eliminating distractions, making memories, taking a step away from routine and communicating with each other. It’s a small part of the puzzle that is family life, but it’s something that we all value.
Main challenges we face
We asked parents what their top challenges were when it came to family time, some of which will likely resonate with you:
- Work, whether it’s one or both parents
- Housework and other chores – the house doesn’t clean itself!
- Homework – feeling like the kids always have too much homework to do
- Different schedules, especially when one parent does shift work
- Mixed families – like when parents are separated, and kids share their time between families
- Mobile phones
So how we can take those challenges and find a solution?
Real tips for how to make family time happen
- Ditch the phones
How many times have you checked your phone in the last hour? That Twitter notification, that work email, a Whatsapp message… these tiny distractions all add up, and as much as we shout about being good multitaskers, we’ll bet you can’t ask your kid about their day at school whilst scrolling through Facebook, and give both your full attention. For Stacey, family time doesn’t count unless the phones are out of reach, Cat and her family ditch the phones and keep the TV turned off, and Hollie’s phone is banned from the room when it’s family time – switching off for small periods of time can make a huge difference for some parents.
- Declutter the calendar
For Rachel, decluttering the calendar is the first step to freeing up time to spend together as a family. I’m sure there will be lots of you who have the next 14 weekends already booked up, whether it’s with extended family, classes for the kids, birthday parties or even things like hairdresser appointments.
Whilst these are all important, Rachel recommends taking a step back and reassessing your commitments. Has your kid stopped enjoying the club they used to love? Have you said ‘yes’ to doing something you wish you hadn’t? Do you only do it because you always have? Think about the things you could take off the calendar to make time for more of the things you love doing.
If you often find yourself wasting a whole day, give yourself a time limit, like Rachel does: “Even when I'm busy (or think I'm busy), I tend to procrastinate. If I've got all day to do something, then it will invariably take me all day. Even if it's just a selection of quick/medium sized jobs. Give me a half day, and I'll busy on and get it done, freeing up time for other things, like doing something fun with the kids.”
- Make more of mealtimes
One aspect of family life that seems to be in decline is sitting down for dinner together, but not in Victoria’s house! Every day, they sit down to a homecooked meal together and catch up on everyone’s days. Committed to the cause, Victoria’s husband is lucky to be able to change his working hours to start earlier and finish at 4pm, meaning he’s always home in time for dinner. It’s something that Victoria and her family really treasure, and they plan to continue it for as long as possible, even when the kids get older. Can’t commit to every single night? Start with two or three a week and see how you get on!
- Family hour
In Hollie’s house, 6-7pm is family hour. They call it “Hygge Hour”, where they draw the curtains, get cosy and wind down before bed with 2-year-old James and 9-month-old Ted. By choosing one room, and ensuring all phones are left outside, there’s nothing to distract them. They use the time to catch up on their days, read through James’ nursery diary and encourage the kids to use ‘feeling’ words to focus on the things that make them happy – it’s their space to cocoon themselves away from the world and focus on family, even the dog gets involved!
“One of the challenges is that my husband often works away, so can be absent for that hour, but we still have that time without him to keep it consistent. It's such a priority for us that even if the kids have been out for the day with grandparents, they have to be back for our Hygge Hour and if they're staying with them overnight, grandparents are under instruction to have that hour with the boys too.”
Whilst this is a daily occurrence in Hollie’s house, even doing this once or twice a week could be a great way to reconnect as a family – include things you love to make it even more tailored to your family. With it only lasting an hour, it still leaves plenty of time for homework and housework too.
- Don’t put too much pressure on it
Ultimately, quality family time will mean different things to different people, and different families will have their own ways of interpreting that – there are no rights or wrongs which is something Stevie now understands: “Family time is a priority, but it's taken a while for us to be comfortable not forcing it!
“When we've got a rare moment together it used to feel like we had to go out and do something special, when actually, just all sitting at the table, watching a movie or playing with toys is just as nice.”
What does family time mean to you, and how do you make it happen? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave us a comment below!