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Family Time Ideas

By Tom Bartel

We've all been there… Sitting around the house trying to figure out what to do. "What do you wanna do?" "I dunno. What do you wanna do?" "I dunno." And so it goes. Let's face it. Today's fast paced environment makes quality family time a luxury. And yet, we are keenly aware that involvement in our children's lives is imperative. In fact, some recent studies have supported the distinctive roles that mothers and fathers play. Having a quality family life is important. But, it's also important to have one-on-one time with each parent.

So, how do we live up to our parental expectations amid the hectic daily lifestyle? Families today increasingly look to organized activities and visual media. Don't get me wrong. Joining an after school activity, playing a fun video game, or watching a movie is not a bad thing. The trap is when these diversions replace parenting. In today's high tech environment, some of our more traditional, time-honored, family activities are collecting dust. When I talk to parents about family activities, frequent comments are, "Oh yeah, I used to do that as a kid!" Or, "Man, I just don't think of these things when it's time to do something."

Thinking of, or remembering, an idea at crunch time is a challenge. Pool together everyone's imagination! I once sat my family down on a quiet Saturday morning and we made a list of activities. I was amazed at some of the ideas my kids thought of. The good news was that most of them were free ($) and easily fit into busy schedules. I then took their ideas and put them into some categories: Bonding time, sports, outdoors, indoors, crafts, drama, entertainment, visiting, etc. Now, when crunch time comes, I might tell to grab "the list" and pick something. They love the empowerment to pick an activity and help plan it. Morning time, fun time, outdoor time, mealtime, down time, and bedtime has all taken on new meaning in their lives. Especially, when they get that attention from Mom or Dad.

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This strategy works with teens as well. The greatest challenges for parents with teens are relating to their teen and not invading the teen's space. So, you meet them where they are and bring yourself to their world. Again, let them decide what they want to do. We know we are supposed to talk to our teens about many adult subjects. The problem is we think we need to sit them down and spout off a lot of information. You'd be surprised how much easier the topics might come when you're doing a one-on-one activity that your teen chose.

As you can see, it is not always the activity itself. It's also how you present it. For example, my family loves movies. But, I don't just drop a Disney classic into the VCR for the kids, and then head off to do my own thing. We play it up! We might call it "movie night", make some pizza and snacks together, dim the lights, crank up the sound and "presto"! That Disney classic has turned into an active evening together, laughing, teasing, and enjoying each other's company.

In the end it really isn't going to matter what you do, how much money you spent or even whether you did it in a way that would make you eligible for parent of the year. The only thing that is going to matter is that your child understood that you loved them so much that you wanted to spend time with them. Don't let those little moments pass you by!

© Tom Bartel
Tom is one of four Dads who created the Family Time Ideas series of interactive, family activity books. Each page includes a time-honored, family activity on the front with space on the back to record memories that will last a lifetime.


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