As a new parent, all you want to do is spend time with your little sweethearts. They’re only young once, as the saying goes, and you want to squeeze every drop of those precious moments as you can. Babies and toddlers are like little sponges soaking up everything around them, and as a parent, you want to share the world with them. There’s so much you want them to know, learn, think and feel. Your children will learn their first lessons with you; you have become teacher and parent all at once.
If you are a working-outside-the-home parent, you may feel especially anxious about not spending enough time with your treasured offspring. As if your job didn’t consume so much of your time, there’s still a household to manage, volunteer responsibilities, perhaps taking care of your own parents, and maintaining a social life. You remember having a social life, don’t you? No matter the circumstances, working outside the home or not, some days go by in the blink of an eye leaving you feeling guilty for not spending enough time with your kids. It can also leave you feeling a bit out of control.
Quality Time vs. Quantity Time
You’ve heard the phrase, quality versus quantity, and it applies here. A study reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family looked at the impact the amount of time mothers spent with their children had on academic achievement, behavior and the emotional well-being of the children. The study found that the quality of time spent was much more influential than the quantity of time. Of course, spending time with your children is vitally important. However, you can take heart in knowing that the quality of the time you spend is much more significant than the amount. The benefits to your growing child are not tied to the number of hours on end you spend together. What really matters is how you choose to spend that time. The good news is that it is totally within your control.
Create Family Rituals
Sometimes the smallest gestures make the biggest impressions on those that mean the most to us. That’s a great place to start. Establish daily connections no matter how brief. Creating personal rituals with your little ones will become cherished memories fondly remembered as quality time spent with Mommy and Daddy.
It’s worth noting here that rituals are viewed differently than routines. You may already have many routines in place. Breakfast at 7:30 am, bath time at 6:00 pm, and so on. A routine is an action. It serves a purpose and is functional. It’s something that needs to be done. These expected activities give structure to your day and set expectations for your family. Rituals, on the other hand, are more meaningful practices underscored by a feeling or attitude. They provide a connection and pure enjoyment for all who participate. Think of the rituals that take place in your household as your family’s very own secret sauce.
Here are a few ideas to inspire your own family rituals.
- No tech, all kids. In other words, give your children your full attention during the time you spend together.
- Kids’ choice: let your little one choose an activity for a particular situation. Be sure to see it through to completion without interruptions or distractions.
- The family that dines together…It can be a struggle to eat meals together as a family when schedules are scattered. Set a goal for sharing meals a certain number of times per week. Make this an important family gathering time as often as possible.
- Sneak in some play: during bath time, in line at pre-school. These are the fun moments that won’t be forgotten.
- Get your silly on. When a favorite song comes on, drop everything and dance. Make a funny face just for the fun of it. Tell each other knock-knock jokes. Laughter is the best medicine.
- Calm and quiet. Bedtime rituals often include reading a story. The benefits of reading to children are immeasurable. You just might find the quiet time spent reading together will be just as beneficial to you as well.
Rituals are like a secret language for your family. They set your family apart from every other and show your children they are cherished members of this special clan. Rituals provide a sense of belonging to your child, support a nurturing relationship and offer a sense of stability and security. Establishing your own meaningful rituals, silly or serious, will deepen the bond between you and your children. Best of all, it will reinforce the idea that the time you spend is all about the quality, not the quantity.