|by Treva Williams
The expression "quality time" is very common in our society today. What exactly does this phrase mean? To most people, this means concentrated, uninterrupted time to spend with children, spouses, or friends. It is believed that this time should make up in quality for what is missed in quantity.
There are many expectations set up for quality family time and many times the reality of life does not meet our expectations, thus resulting in feelings of guilt and resentment.
One expectation of quality family time may be that it will be relaxed and free of conflict. It is also expected that it will provide an opportunity to have meaningful conversations and do worthwhile things with our loved ones.
Sometimes it hard to find the "right" time to actually schedule quality time. As children get older it also becomes difficult to schedule this time as they are usually very active with school and extra-curricular activities. Parents often expect children to be in a good mood when family events and activities are planned and this does not always happen.
So, should we just give up on having "quality time" with our family? No, however, we may need to adjust our expectations.
As Susan Ginsberg, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, states "Quality time doesn't mean devoting all free time exclusively to a child to compensate for the time lost. Children shouldn't expect to always be the center of attention."
When spending quality family time, there need to be set limits and parents should not let family rules slide during this time. For the most part, children feel more secure and happier when rules and routines are maintained.
Quality family time does not need to have a specific agenda or planned activity. This time can be spontaneous and varied in length from a few minutes to several hours depending on the situation.
Spending quality time as a family is important not only when the children are young but also as they get older. There are many activities that are enjoyable and can be of benefit to both you and your child.
- Taking the time to just talk to your child is very important to building an open and honest relationship. Building an environment where children are free to discuss any topic of concern needs to begin while the child is very young.
- In addition to talking with your child, remember to listen as well. If your child wants to tell you something, stop and give him or her your undivided attention. Your child's idea or need to share it may be gone in a matter of moments.
- Stimulate children's curiosity and interest by asking lots of why and how questions. This helps children learn to verbalize their thoughts and feelings.
- Allow children to talk about themselves and what they like to do, their feelings and concerns, and how they feel about themselves. This will help to build an environment of trust and acceptance.
- Read to your child. In addition to reading, encourage them to explore and discover the world around them. Reading to children about something they have seen or done is often interesting to children. Talk with your child about what you have just read. Reading together encourages children's interest in reading.
- Go places and do things together. Visit parks, libraries, the zoo, museums and other places of interest. Allow children to have a part in the planning of these outings so that it becomes partly their activity as well.
- Give special attention to providing experiences in seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and feeling things that are new, different, unique, beautiful, exciting and fun. This may be something as simple as introducing a new food and allowing the child to help prepare the food or allowing your child to touch and smell a beautiful flower that is not commonly found in your part of the country.
- Learning to do a hobby together can be an exciting time for both you and your child. Allow the child to express his or her creativity in the project. You may want to offer to help with various parts of the project. Do not be offended, however, if the child rejects your offer. Remain supportive and encourage your child to try new and different approaches to resolving problems.
- Time spent working a puzzle, throwing a ball, helping with homework or helping select that special prom outfit is as important as the time spent together when the child was an infant.
There are endless activities to share with a child. It is important to take advantage of quality time with your child. Take time to enjoy your family.
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-5285-95
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