By Dr. Charles Sophy
Keep 'Em Off My Couch
Look around: Your kids are counting sleeps until the last day of school, the local outdoor swimming pool is open, and the temperature has sky-rocketed. Summer is here! Are you still stuck in your winter routine? The one filled with rushing around to after school programs, play dates and endless birthday parties. Do you still feel the pressure of hurrying your kids to catch the school bus and rushing out after them to deliver the lunch that little Amanda forgot on the table? Summer is here! Time to relax!
Summertime is a time to relax some of our daily routines, allowing more flexibility into our lives. The holidays are often a time where we anticipate lots of wonderful family time together to create and share experiences that are timeless. Yet many parents dread some of the practical challenges of getting through the summer. Many people can't afford to totally disengage from the routine of work and adult commitments to spend as much time with their children as they would like. Don't get caught up in the "all or nothing" mindset - even small changes in your daily schedule can go a long way to helping your child feel like the priority in your day.
Creating more time in a busy adult life is easier if you follow these five simple steps:
1. Identify the barriers blocking flexibility in your schedule. Look for areas in your schedule that can be traded off for more time with your children.
2. Address each issue identified above and rate as flexible or inflexible. For example, a weekly team meeting would rank as an inflexible activity whereas an hour at the gym after dinner would rank as flexible.
3. Engage your child in the planning of shared time. Make sure the time you spend together is valuable. Plan activities that you both will enjoy and that allow for parent / child interactions.
4. Be Mindful. Remember, you can't be everything to everybody. Sometimes your commitments as an adult conflict with your commitments as a parent. When conflicts arise, talk to your children to explain the situation and let them know how you feel.
5. Respect. Everyone needs time alone. Remember to respect your and your child's need for "me" time
Let's look at an example:
Julie is a busy solo-entrepreneur running a web design business from home. She has an eleven year-old daughter, Sierra, who is days away from the start of her summer vacation. Julie has signed Sierra up for summer day camps but she also wants to spend more time with her this summer.
She looks at her schedule. Mondays are usually set aside to start new projects or meet with prospects. Tuesdays and Thursdays she goes out to a class after dinner. Wednesday are usually pretty light, with mornings set aside for medical appointments or grocery shopping. Thursdays vary - some weeks busy, others are dedicated to business planning and strategizing for her own business. Fridays are traditionally project end and launch days.
Julie looks for holes in her schedule and finds that some activities can be combined with time with her child. Sierra loves dancing so Julie trades her yoga classes for ballet lessons with Sierra. As she has a fair bit of flexibility with her Wednesday and Thursday schedules, Julie decides to shorten her work week for two months of the year to free up Fridays to spend time with Sierra. From June 30th to September 1st, Thursday is the project end date. She contacts another freelance web designer to arrange for emergency coverage on Fridays. Julie's clients are notified of the summer hours and of the additional coverage available on Fridays should any emergencies arise.
Mother and daughter sit down and start planning activities for their first long weekend and decide on a trip to the water park. Now mom and daughter are both counting sleeps to the weekend!
Remember: It doesn't take much effort to make small changes in your routine to allow more time with your children. The time that you spend (or don't spend) with your child has lasting effects on their self-esteem and self-worth. Though it may at times be challenging to affect lasting change, it's worth the effort! After all, these are the days that create lasting memories.
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