Learning seven ways to be more available to your kids can be a great help to both parents and kids. There are lots of well intentioned parents who fully recognize the good that they can achieve by being more present in the lives of their kids, but somehow the days, weeks and eventually years go by and these same parents can lament the amount of time that they have spent away from their kids, doing things that turn out to be less than worthwhile especially in terms of the development of their children.
Perhaps these parents would have been helped by taking time each year to update an informal, in house survey of when their kids spend the most time at home. Some parents spend time at home during the week but it never seems to match up with the time when their kids are around. Stepping back and comparing schedules now and then can help to get you all there at the same time with greater frequency. Remember time at home is not the same as time with your kids unless they are actually with you.
With this rough survey in hand you may be able to adjust work and other activities you need to do away from the home to match the away time of your kids. Saving errands that will take you away from home til a time when your kids are also off doing something with their friends is a good place to begin. Don’t wait until your kids are hanging out at home to go running off to get your hair cut or pick up something at the store. Try not to waste any more together at home time than is absolutely necessary.
Meal time is of course a great opportunity to spend time with your kids, but not if everyone is rushing to leave, the television is on or someone is texting in the middle of the meal. If you honestly make an effort to gather everyone at least once each day to an uninterrupted meal you are likely to gather up some wonderful together time with the chance to talk and get to know what is going on in one another’s lives. If you really work on doing this once a day, it will become habit and something that your kids will actually look forward to as a chance to discuss and clear their plans for the near future.
One of the worst land mines in any parents attempt to be more present in the lives of their kids is the telephone. While kids do need the time and privacy of home sometimes to make calls or texts or to send e-mails and so do you, it is important that you put down some kind of limit on these communications activities for everyone, and yes that includes you. While some outside communication is good and natural, more is not necessarily better and in fact will cut in to the scant little time that you already have in each other’s company. Staying off the phone and off line when your kids is home can be a wonderful gift to them. Seeing you on the phone or on line can be an automatic turnoff for kids, and that conversation that they needed or wanted with you goes by the board, again.
Why not add to the time you are available to your kids by planning one extended time period to be with each child during the week. Do a chore together, work out, hang out but make sure that this extended time together allows for talking. If you sit and watch a movie together that’s fine but you need some time afterward to share a snack and talk about the film or talk about anything in order for this to qualify as time spent together. Don’t let the television or movie preempt your together time.
Driving time can also be together time if you don’t allow headsets, blaring radio music or other kids to block out your connections with your children. So be glad to do the carpool run if you set aside time out or time back when you are alone with your own child to share a little quality time and see what is going on in his or her life. And don’t be afraid to share what’s going on in your own life. The older your kids are the more supportive they can and often want to be.
When necessary put some restraints on how much time kids are out of the house each week. Obviously the older your kids get, the more natural it is for them to be off with friends. But if kids, especially, younger kids are always away at someone else’s house or at after school stuff, it may be time to encourage a little more at home time. This will seem to make sense if you are actually around too. Encourage your kids to bring other kids home on a regular basis because this too will put you in one another’s presence and will give you a chance to see the young people towards whom they are gravitating .