Are you struggling to juggle the competing demands of work and family? If so, you are not alone. A lot of us are working more hours than ever in an attempt to keep ourselves financially afloat, but in many households, it means that we spend little quality time enjoying the company of our family. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but something we should all consider addressing.
Research suggests that not spending time with your family can have a significant impact on your children. It can create breakdowns in family bonds and communication, cause emotional distress, and can have a negative effect on your child’s chances of academic success.
When you add all that up together, the impact on later life can be even more worrying – not spending enough time with your kids can lead to lots of behavioral problems. Kids who grow up with weak bonds with parents are more likely to get involved with risky behaviors, illegal drug use, and also can be more aggressive.
So, perhaps it’s time to set ourselves a different kind of New Year’s Resolution this year? Losing weight, getting fit, and being more healthy are the typical promises we all make to ourselves – and essential. But maybe we can add spending more quality time with the family to the list? Here are a few suggestions on how you might go about it.
Start with a list
List making is one of those things in life that can really help you tackle any problem. So in this case, try making a list of all your commitments in your personal life and work, and also include all the things you would like to do as a family. Then it’s a case of making some sheer choices – four or five at an absolute maximum. It can be challenging to do, especially if it means spending less time on some of your passions and interests, but isn’t life about making those hard choices? Ultimately, when your kids grow up and leave home to start work or go to college, you will have a lot more time on your hands once more. It’s worth making the sacrifice right now, so focus on your healthy activities and include spending time with the family.
Challenge your current commitments
Given we spend so much time getting through life, it’s important to think carefully about making commitments. It may mean disappointing people, but you have to start questioning what is more important – an old acquaintance you might never see again, or the health and future happiness of your kids? Think about how much work you are bringing home with you, too. Sitting on the couch with the kids while answering work emails is not giving them quality time. Instead, make home a work-phone free environment, and a disconnect from your business life. Keep the focus on the essential activities you came up with on the short list you created, and you will soon find it becomes a habit.
Make new commitments
Next, you should think about making the same commitments you make to everyone else to your family. It’s really that simple. Whether it’s a regular day or a couple of evenings a week, start your intentions and stick with it. Any new commitments with non-family members can be made, of course, but keep those family days clear – even if it’s just 30-60 minutes a day, it can get you into a good habit and will have a positive impact on your kids. Don’t forget, these ‘family appointments’ have to be sacrosanct if you want to start making a difference, and everyone needs to buy into the idea.
Stop trying to do everything.
Do appointments, tasks and projects take up much of your free time? If so, consider simplifying your schedule and start turning things down every now and again. Leave yourself some space wherever possible, and stop trying to please everyone in your life – you’ll only be spreading yourself thin. Don’t forget, your commitment should be family first, work overtime and out-of-hours second, and everything else after that. You’ll need to be careful of this particular tactic, as it’s easy to start filling up your diary again – make sure you leave some space.
Limit TV, computers and tech
There is nothing inherently wrong with watching TV or playing computer games – or spending a little time each day on your cell phone. The trouble starts when you are using technology too much. A lot of households are completely disconnected thanks to tech right now. You might have one parent watching the news on TV, another checking through work emails, and the kids all playing games on iPhones, tablets, or computers. You will be surprised at how much time everyone spends doing different things with tech – once you tot up the hours in a week, it can be quite significant. And that’s all time that no one is talking to each other, and as we all know, communication is the key to any successful relationship.
One way of getting around the problem mentioned above is to make entertainment a shared activity. Before the advent of streaming and TV on demand, television shows were almost community events, and certainly a shared activity in households. Families would gather around the box to watch their favorite programs together, and not in a solitary way. These days it’s a little different, as everyone consumes their own favorites in their own separate ways. It won’t take much to make a change – just hold a regular movie night, or take a look at a show that everyone in the household will love. Are your kids into playing games? Well, maybe you and your partner could try some out – you might find them a lot more fun than you think.
Create a family space
If you want to spend more time with each other as a family, it makes sense to a create a space that everyone enjoys spending time in, right? There are a few things you can consider trying. Arrange your couches and easy chairs in a way that promotes conversation rather than points towards the TV. If you have a living space large enough, consider getting something like one of these giant bean bags from SackDaddy.com for more comfort and connection when you decide to watch a movie. Use mood lighting to create a welcoming and warm atmosphere, that is equally good for playing parlor games or board games as it is for cozy nights in listening to music together. Another thing to think about is opening up your home. For example, if you have a separate kitchen and living room, turning the two rooms into one, open plan space can be great for encouraging more communication.
Everyone enjoys societal traditions like the festive season, Easter and Thanksgiving. It’s a fantastic time for families, but let’s be honest – they are few and far between in comparison to the rest of the year! So, why not make your own traditions? Maybe you could go out for breakfast one Sunday a month, or use your birthdays to do a particular activity or go somewhere that everyone in the family loves? There is plenty that you could do over the course of a year that gives you the ideal excuse to cancel everything else and keep those days as sacred.
Change your priorities
Ultimately, if you want to make space for family time, it’s down to you to make it. Your family has to become your priority, even though it might seem hard right now. Sure, you might have to work every hour of the week to make ends meet financially, and struggle to keep the house in order at the same time. But, as pointed out over at psychologytoday.com, it’s important to spend time with those you love – and it should be one of your top priorities. Not only does it lengthen your life expectancy, improves your mood, and also prevents you from burning out. In other words, if work is important to you, you will be able to do it better – and be more productive – by making family time a priority.
Change your lifestyle
Finally, if you really feel you don’t have any more hours in the day to spend with your family, why not make some more? Perhaps you could get up earlier in the day and get some work done before your commute, giving yourself a chance to come home earlier. If business travel takes up a lot of time, why not ask your boss if you can spend 1-2 days working from home, if it’s appropriate or realistic? Outside of work, you could order your groceries to be delivered, rather than spending 2-3 hours every week at the mall – it’s all time that could be better used spent with your family and kids. And last of all, why not include the children in everything you do at home, from tidying up through to washing chores? Not only is it a great way to ensure family time, but it also helps your kids become independent.
Do you struggle to find time to spend with your family? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
Disclosure: This is a contributed post.