Did you know that studies show (Dr. Stephen Glenn) that American parents spend an average of 14.5 minutes with each child per day?
And 12.5 of those minutes are spent discussing housekeeping and giving corrective feedback? If we look at the simple math, that leaves two minutes per day for open-ended, quality conversation. Two minutes!
Please be clear; there is no judgment here, and this article is not written with the intention to preach or judge! I have a family; two young adults with activities, and four busy schedules. I am right here with you and most days, this is reflective of our reality.
I must admit that upon hearing this statistic, I was certain that our family was not represented by this data. Surely, we had more than two minutes of unstructured time when we could sit back and just talk about random life musings and what might be on our minds. Or did we?
After utilizing a simple exercise that depicts how our daily time is consumed, we discovered that our mealtimes and bedtimes morphed from a time for open discussion to something more resembling a business meeting. We realized that on many days, “two-ish” minutes was pretty accurate. Ouch!
It was much easier to get quality time with the kids when they were younger, due to the nature of their needs. But, as they got older with more scheduled activities and responsibilities away from home, it has become more challenging. As a result, we have learned to be more intentional about preserving family time and for time spent interacting one-on-one.
Also, we learned that this time is most enjoyable when free of distractions like cell phones and free of any discussion relating to homework, tests, and behaviors, etc. I must say, that it is a bit challenging but absolutely worth it! It does not take “Herculean effort”, or require a complete overhaul to get started; just intention and a few extra minutes per day. You don’t have to make it a big initiative or topic of discussion at the next family meeting if you don’t want to; simply start by adapting your behaviors and attention and see how it goes.
Each family has its unique needs and variables, so there is no one size fits all approach and only you will know what is reasonable for you.
A good place to start is with awareness and the facts.
Here is an exercise you can use, to learn how your daily time is consumed. Draw a simple pie graph that represents the 1,440 minutes we each have per day. Next, break it down into the categories that are representative of your daily activities and the number of minutes spent doing each; i.e., work, chores, errands, volunteering, school, commuting, exercising, meal preparation, etc., and see how many minutes are remaining. This can be done for each member of the family or as a collective for the whole family.
This will give you a clear snapshot of how much time you have to work with and where you may have options to reorganize or prioritize your day(s); should you so choose. Again, there is no judging. You may look at the results and see that your days are balanced, that there is an adequate amount of time for quality interaction and communication.
You may realize that maybe a shift or two could be of benefit and open the door for less corrective and more open-ended communication with your kids. Of course, family life ebbs and flows and there will be busier seasons than others. This is simply an exercise to see the big picture and gain perspective.
So, what simple steps can you take?
Here Are 5 Steps to Create More Quality Time for Communicating with Your Kids:
Take a minute or two to take inventory of what consumes the majority of time in your family’s activities and conversations.
Try to preserve dinner time, bedtime, car rides, etc. for open-ended and curious types of conversation. Avoid or delay corrective feedback or housekeeping details until you have spent some time enjoying an unstructured conversation.
There is a difference between showing up for a conversation or meal and being fully present. Being fully present and engaged offers eye contact, active listening and is improved by eliminating the presence of the TV or phones; which can lead to brevity and distraction.
Be A Role Model
Not preaching here, but the reality is that like it or not, our kids are always watching us and modeling our behaviors. Of course, we will not be perfect and that is not the goal. If you are engaged and interested in what they are waiting to share with you, they will learn to do the same.
Our kids, especially as they become teens, can seem disinterested in their parents and what we have to say. Don’t give up! Often, when we stop interrogating them or harping on things, and ask non-threatening questions, they begin to engage more. It is well worth the effort. Keep engaging!
Family life in the year 2019 presents many challenges and distractions that vie for our time and attention. Cell phones, social media, and busy schedules can easily draw us away from our face-to-face relationships, potentially leaving us with two minutes of quality communication per day.
This may be our reality, but, with awareness, intention and a bit of persistence, it is absolutely possible to preserve and nurture both the quantity and quality of our time spent in communication with our kids. Will it be perfect? No. Will some days be better than others? Of course!
And the best first step is to simply begin.