Parents and families everywhere struggle with the challenge of balancing work, school schedules, home upkeep, and other routine tasks with daily life, but one of the most daunting and essential tasks is prioritizing family time, particularly after over a year of being in quarantine. As the world returns to normalcy, maintaining those family bonds is even more critical to keep the relationships close.
The first step is to make a plan to prioritize family time. Family activities and hobbies enjoyed during quarantine should be examined to see if they are worth maintaining in the future. Then, once these have been listed out, get the monthly calendar out and list out the non-negotiable and necessary appointments you must keep: work, doctor’s appointments, and finally, carving out family time as a new category. After this has been listed, write down the negotiable activities and time-fillers the children gravitate towards sports, music, drama, television, games, etc. Arrange the calendar for the mandatory, can’t-miss activities and then slot in the extracurriculars in the gaps. From there, make re-evaluation and re-arranging the family calendar a priority at an interval that’s comfortable for everyone, perhaps once a quarter or twice a year. Discuss it with the family honestly and openly, and watch as the children approach their choices on how their time is spent.
Doing this will help parents build better relationships with their children, but it’s not the only step to prioritizing family and maximizing interactions. Additionally, trusting their choices and instincts by giving them undivided attention will only further the bond. Encourage their independence in activities, respect their time, and set limits empathically; remember that respect is a two-way street. It is also essential to resist the impulse to punish children and avoid taking resistance or emotional outbursts personally: children are still developing and navigating their place in the world, and it is crucial to foster their sense of belonging. When separation or conflict does arise, make sure to reconnect, be open in communication, and be available for when the kids want to discuss things at an upcoming family meeting. Giving them the floor makes them feel safe in sharing their sincere thoughts and feelings while also strengthening the emotional bond.