Q. I have a husband and three teenage children. We are all busy with our own schedules. How do we make time together as a family?
A. I applaud you for wanting to build togetherness in your family. Many people don’t realize the need for regular Family Time until problems arise.
Quality time can only come after a quantity of time. You need to spend a quantity of time together to build the quality of your family relationship. When there’s a sudden problem or crisis, it’s this time together that will give you the foundation you need.
The first step to getting time together is scheduling Family Time like you would any important event. If you try to find time together you never will – you need to make time.
You may wish things could be more spontaneous. Unfortunately, that’s unrealistic. With five different lives each with different commitments, it’s not likely that you’ll suddenly end up with an unplanned group activity every week. I guess you could say you need to plan your spontaneity.
Start with a family meeting to determine what night and time work best for everyone. The goal is to set aside a block of at least 3 hours every week for a group activity. Or if that’s too much for your hectic schedules, at least twice a month should be the minimum. Usually, Sunday night is a good time when all the weekend activities have finally wound down. It often works best to keep the time consistent from week to week. But sometimes, you may want to schedule your time to attend a special event like a concert in the park.
Be sure to plan ahead to give everyone time to put Family Time on their schedule.
Once you’ve set a weekly Family Time appointment, it’s important to keep your appointment. Being consistent is everything. If you don’t guard this time, neither will your teenagers. Everyone needs to know how important this time is to you. You should lead by example.
Now that you have a time set, you need something to do together. I suggest you let each child pick an activity. Maybe one wants to play a game, one wants to go to the movies and another wants to go out to eat. Let everyone participate. Everyone is more likely to want to be involved in an activity if they feel they’ve been involved in planning it. No one wants to be told what to do – especially teenagers. This process also helps them learn to make good choices.
It’s a good idea to rotate weeks, giving each child the chance to make the final decision for that week’s activity. You’ll notice I didn’t include mom and dad in the decision-making rotation. You may want to toss in an occasional idea, but it’s important for parents to step back. You have the authority and leadership throughout the week. This is the one time a week the teenagers have the chance to decide what they want to do as a family.
You may need to be sensitive, at times. One child’s idea for an activity may not be appropriate for another child. As the leader, you’ll need to direct the discussion by saying something like: “That would be great for you and me to do together sometime. Perhaps something else would be a better family activity.”
Along with having regular Family Time you may want to consider incorporating this interactive technique into your vacation time planning. And just as it’s important to have group time, it’s important to have one-on-one time with each child to develop that relationship. That will happen more naturally.
I know this all sounds simple, It is. But it’s not easy. At times, there will be schedule conflicts and even personality conflicts. Be ready to work at it and not give up.