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How to Spend More Time as a Family

Let’s be real, our worlds move so quickly when we focus on the day-to-day activities that need to be done. Getting ready for the day, going to school and work, engaging in after-school activities, coming home, and going to bed leave little time for spending quality time together with the family. That’s okay! It’s good to be busy and social because it’s great for our everyday mental health. However, spending time as a family is amazing for our children's mental health too because it allows us to foster a sense of community for them. It also teaches our children that their family is a safe space for them to express themselves. Here are some ideas on how to spend more time as a family.


Have dinner together every night, when possible.

A systematic review done by Harrison et. al (2015) showed there are significant positive outcomes for children that eat meals with their family frequently. As the frequency of meals eaten together increases, the likelihood of children experiencing depression, substance use, disordered eating, thoughts of suicide, and displaying violent behaviors decrease. Additionally, their self-esteem and school success increase as well (Harrison et. al, 2015). It’s also important to note that the meals should take place at a table with conversation occurring. Increasing communication about one’s day can lead to potential time to problem solve issues as a family, increased support, and parents can identify if there are more subtle issues going on as well. This is accessible for families with smaller children as they are more likely not involved in many after school activities. For families with older children, try and get as many meals together as a family as possible. Any quality time with family is a great support during the teenage years and can only benefit your child.



Dedicate time each week or month to do one family activity out of the house together.

There's two steps to this tip, first, find an activity you all would like to do together, then execute it. This is a flexible idea and meant to be fit to your family's wants and needs. A few great ideas for general things to do out of the house together can include going to the zoo, going on a short hike, participating in an outdoor activity, participating in a seasonal activity, visiting a local farmer's market, finding a cafe that has board games or card games, or simply going to the park together. The activity needs to be something every member of the family can participate in, so if you're going to the park, make sure to join in with your children as they play and explore!


Try a new cuisine of food together.

This one's for parents of children who are willing to try new foods. If that isn't your child, that's okay! Scroll on down to the next tip for another great idea. Trying new foods together expands everyone's palate. Expanding your palate is an amazing way to increase you and your child's capability for handling new things. You may even increase your tolerance for unpleasant things too. It also offers an opportunity for you to show your child how to navigate change and newness, which are often difficult things for children (and adults!) to handle. This can be made into a game for who can find the best dish, who can order the spiciest item on the menu, or who can come up with the next restaurant to try. Then, if your child experiences this same cuisine when they are older, they will remember what worked for them when they were younger and with their parents.


Establish a new tradition together.

Families will often engage in traditions set in stone by their parents or grandparents. These practices have sometimes been passed down for multiple generations. If your parents or grandparents didn't have a traditional food to make during a holiday or activity to do during a certain season, feel free to make your own or start doing a tradition you know other friends or family engage in. For example, if your own family growing up did not make cookies or other holiday foods, you can make your own cookies or pick your own food to make. This is a great activity to do with children and can be a great way to introduce new skills to your children as well, such as cooking, baking, or some other skill that might be helpful for them to learn for the future.


Incorporate the children into fixing or building something together.

Invite your children to spend time fixing or building something with you. Invite them throughout the process to engage with you. To achieve their interest, try incorporating their own interests into the activity. If you need to clean something in the kitchen and your child likes to cook or bake, invite them into the activity and show them how the cleaning benefits them when cooking or baking. Even if the activity does not align with their interest, displaying an interest in your child simply being present is something your child will remember. You can demonstrate this by stating, "You are really great at "xyz"! Can you help me out with this piece of it? I'd love to solve this problem together as a team."



Make these tips and tricks your own by adjusting them to your family's wants and needs. Above all, continue to engage with your child and show interest in them and their activities. Family time can be enjoyable for everyone!


References

Harrison, M.E., Norris, M.L., Obeid, N., Fu, M., Weinstaingel, H., Sampson, M. (2015). Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. Can Fam Physician, 61(2), e96-e106. PMC4325878.

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