It’s funny how you can spend all day with your kids and yet feel like you didn’t connect with them at all. This is especially true when you’re busy getting stuff done with multiple people in the house: homeschooling, housework, chauffeuring, ministry, etc. And while you might technically be “together,” you’re missing out on a very important component of healthy parent-child relationships: quality time.
Quality time is different than just being together; if you’re familiar with The 5 Love Languages, it is defined as “giving someone your undivided attention.”
That’s hard to do!
But as my kids get older, I am becoming more and more convinced just how important it is to have quality time with each of them. Even if quality time isn’t the primary “love language” of you or your child, it gives opportunity for uninterrupted communication and to build memories. When they look back on their childhood, these are the times that kids are going to remember.
Here are practices our family implements to ensure we’re getting that quality time, both one-on-one and all together.
5 Ways To Spend More Quality Time with Your Kids
1. Weekly Family Nights
This is a tradition that my husband carried over from his own childhood. Every single Monday we sit down for dinner and then spend the rest of the evening together, usually watching a movie and eating popcorn and cookies. We don’t schedule anything that night (read more detail here).
What’s beautiful about this tradition is that everyone get excited about it every week (even the adults, because it creates something to look forward to on a Monday) There’s something about the ritual of baking cookies and popping popcorn, followed by snuggling together in our pajamas, that is just a little bit magical. These years won’t last long so I’ll soak them up while I can.
As kids get older and busier, a weekly night like this can be a moving target—you might have to move it to a different night during sports season, for example. But overall, it is so worth the effort to protect that time.
2. One-On-One Outings
This is another tradition my husband carried over from his childhood. Once a week, his dad would come home during his lunch break and take one of the kids out. You do this for a couple of decades and you have a pretty close relationship. In fact, my husband still goes out with one of his parents for lunch on a weekly basis!
I didn’t think this was as important for me as the stay-at-home parent, but a friend encouraged me to try it. So, once a week, I also take one of the kids out. Without fail, we have some of our best conversations together during these times.
One-on-one times don’t have to be anything exciting or elaborate; my daughter loves going to the grocery store and getting the complimentary hot chocolate while I pick up a few things. Occasionally we’ll do something special like ice-skating. What’s important is that each kid has an opportunity to connect with each parent without interruption or competition for attention.
3. Going on Family Adventures
Last summer we went on a road trip and stopped by Niagara Falls. We watched as the kids explored the beauty of creation first-hand, with wide, wondrous eyes.
I love moments like this; we talk about them for years afterwards. We try to take an eco adventure trip or a vacation of some type every year because of those moments. The kids are only a certain age once, and those are opportunities we won’t get back.
“Vacation” scares some people because makes you think of money flying out the window as you drive down the highway. And no, travel isn’t cheap. But it isn’t unattainable. For us, it’s just a part of our annual budget. Depending on the year, what we do and how long we go can vary quite a bit. Once we even had a “staycation.” The point is to do something special that helps build your family unity and creates memories.
4. Reading Aloud
This has become one of my favorite activities with the kids because it doesn’t require a lot of effort or planning; you just have to have quality books on hand. Reading aloud shouldn’t stop when your kids can read on their own; it should continue up through high school! This not only contributes to your kids’ language development, but with good literature it also gives you the opportunity to talk about interesting subjects that matter to your everyday lives. (If you need suggestions, I highly recommend Read Aloud Revival).
This doesn’t just have to be during “school time” either. One of the things I love about road trips is that we have long stretches when we can listen to audio books as a family. What a great opportunity to connect!
5. Serving Together
With out busy modern lives, it’s so tempting to get self-focused—even when we’re doing good things. I notice that we bicker a lot more within our home when we’re caught up in busyness but not really doing anything that benefits anyone but ourselves. Recently we’ve been trying to take advantage of opportunities to be outward focused: making cards for residents of a nursing home, making cookies for our neighbors, or participating in family-friendly community service projects. Not only are the kids less self-focused when we do activities like this, but we’re building memories that bring us closer together.
Spending more quality time with our kids takes some planning, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Like any habit, if you do it regularly, you’ll start seeing the benefits little by little.
What do you do to spend more quality time with your kids?
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