This is another in my series on the greatest struggles that parents face. You can get links to the other posts HERE.
One of the things that nearly every parent struggles with is time. Certainly I know that this is a struggle for me. Let’s look at some thoughts regarding spending time with your children and some suggestions to help you find more time and make that time more meaningful.
Time matters: I have stood by the beds of many people as they died. None of them have ever expressed sorrow over having not worked enough or made enough money. They never lament having not bought their kids enough stuff. What they do regret is having not spent enough time with the people that matter most: their family. I am encouraged when I look on Facebook and see people sharing stories of the good times they are having with their children. I do believe that we are currently in a generation that understands the value of family time, perhaps better than the generation before. More and more mothers, and fathers, are choosing to stay home with their kids, even if it means living a simpler life; even if it means doing without some things that are nice, but not necessary. More and more fathers are choosing to take advantage of their nights and weekends to spend time with their kids. I love to hear stories of dads playing with their kids. These are the moments that matter.
Quality matters, just not as much as you think: Many parents will make themselves feel better about being somewhat detached by talking about quality time. Certainly their is something to that. BUT, quality time is not necessarily taking a child to Disney, or other expensive trips and activities. Some of the highest quality times I have spent with my son were just the two of us going for a walk and talking. It is in these moments that I have gotten the best look into his heart. Furthermore, even if the time you spend is the highest quality it can be but is spread out and only in short bursts, then it probably won’t have the impact you think it does.
Quantity is king: I’m not saying that you have to spend hours with your kids every single day. I’m not saying that you have watch one kids show after another until you want to scratch your eyes out. I’m not saying that you have to have tea party with your little girl every single day. What I am saying is that you should take time, even a few minutes, every day to give your child your undivided attention. This may be during a tea party with your daughter, or building Legos with your son. It may be during a walk or shooting hoops. The point is that it be regular and often.
Ok, so how do I do it? Let’s face it families these days are super busy. From school, to work, to church, to sports and other activities it seems that there is always something going on. With schedules that are so full if STUFF, how can we possibly add anything else. Let’s look at some ideas.
Open your schedule. Jesus taught that you could tell what was important to someone by how they spend their money. (1) I would say that the same is true for how we spend our time. Take a look at your schedule and determine what is REALLY important. Think about the day that your kids move out, will they care that you filled their schedule with STUFF or will it have been more valuable that you filled their life with YOU?
Cancel something. I know that this one might be hard, but you might need to cancel some stuff in order to make room in your schedules to spend time together. A pastor friend of mine once said that he let his kids be part of any sport/activity they wanted to, but they could only pick one per year. They could not play both football and baseball, etc. The idea was that they could focus on being really good at the one and spend the rest of their time being part of the family. He has five kids that all grew up to be amazing adults, so he obviously did something right.
Pencil them in. Give your kids a spot on your schedule. I’m not sure that you need to let them know that you are doing this, but intentionally set aside a specific slot each week to spend with EACH of them. You need to spend time with your kids together, but you also need to spend time with each of them just one on one. This is true for mothers and fathers.
Watch TV with them. Watching your kids’ favorite TV show with them shows them that you care about what they care about. Don’t think your kids care about their favorite show take them to a store that carries clothes or toys from their show and see how much they care about it. My daughter loves to wear the same clothes that the characters in her shows wear. My son wants to collect ALL of the toys that go with his favorite shows. Trust me they care. I know how painful it can to spend hours watching these shows, but when you do it sends a message to your kids of how important they are. If you want to make this time count, don’t just watch the show, but interact.
- Talk about what the characters are doing or saying.
- If you are unfamiliar with the show, ask your child questions designed to get to know the show and to cause interaction with them.
- Look for teachable moments based on the content of the show and the actions of the characters.
TURN OFF THE TV!! I know I just told you to watch TV with your kids, now I’m telling you to turn it off. Trust me, I have not lost my mind. I hate to admit it, but in my house this is probably the biggest thing keeping my wife and I from spending time together and with our kids. As mentioned above there can be some value in watching TV with your kids, but only if it leads to interaction. Even at this, we should limit the amount of time we spend sitting in front of the TV.
Work with them. Have your kids help you with different chores and projects around the house. My daughter is five and can’t help with a lot of stuff, but she LOVES to help. So, when I fold cloths I’ll have her hand be the clothes as I fold them. Obviously I don’t NEED her help in this way, but it allows her to be involved. My son is 12 and can obviously help with much more complex projects. I have him help when I’m building or repairing stuff. This helps him to learn how to do such things, but also allows us to spend time together.
JUST DO IT. At the end of the day, just do it. I understand that after working all day, coming home to fix dinner and clean up you are tired and don’t have much left in you. Your kids don’t need much, but they do need you. Trust me when I say that this is not something that you will regret. You may regret not doing it, but you will never regret taking the time to spend with your kids.
Be honest with yourself. I know that our schedules are full and you may be reading this and thinking, “this all sounds great, but he doesn’t know my schedule.” Trust me as a full-time nurse, and part-time children’s pastor with a son in Tae Kwon Do and a dancing daughter, not to mention a wife whom I adore, I understand busy schedules. What I also understand is that if we are honest, most of us can find time in our schedule to do what is most important to us. Take some time to review your schedule and see what can be changed, moved, or eliminated to make time for your kids. You won’t regret it.
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1.) Matthew 6:21