According to a study by a Californian-based destination marketing organization that was published in the New York Post, the average American family gets just 37 minutes of quality family time together each day. While time spent together as a family does increase somewhat on weekends, many families are still finding it difficult to find quality family time and get everyone on the same page at the same time – even when all immediate family members are in the same house. If this is what you're dealing with on a regular basis, take comfort in knowing there are some ways to boost your quality family time here are five suggestions.
1. Technology-Free Night
It may seem like an impossible task in today's always-connected world, but it is possible to ditch tech devices, gadgets, and accessories to have a technology-free night. In fact, there's even a worldwide Screen-Free Week that takes place in late spring each year. It started out as TV-Turnoff Week in the '90s and evolved to include smartphones and tech devices.
A variation on this concept is to have a technology-free night at least once a week. Just remember to set the same rules for everyone – no devices or screens for an entire night...period! One way to do this is by having everyone place their devices in a drawer or a bag that can stashed out of sight. You can even make it fun by calling it Technology-Free Night Tuesday or Thursday. Once you have everybody focused in the present moment, use the time to do such things as:
• Having an actual conversation about what's going on in everybody's life without any distractions.
• Doing family activities together (e.g. preparing a meal, sorting through stuff in the attic or basement and discussing memories associated with stuff).
• Participating in fun forms of exercise (e.g. taking a yoga class together or simply playing a game in the backyard).
2. Walks Together Before Dinner
Another simple way to spend more time with your family is to get into the habit of going for casual walks together before dinner around your neighborhood or around the block. This will give everyone a chance to relax and actually take in the sights around them.
From a practical point of view, walks together before dinner are also a good way to improve relaxation and ease stress just before eating – which also happens to be a good thing for the digestion process. Even bundling up to go for walks together before dinner on cooler fall and winter days can be fun and invigorating. You might even be surprised at how much more observant everyone becomes as they notice more of the world around them!
3. Enjoy Eating Dinner Together
There once was a time when everyone dropped what they were doing and gathered around the family kitchen or dining room table to enjoy eating dinner together. Unfortunately, the new normal these days is for family members to either hurry through dinner so they do something else "more important" or grab a bit elsewhere and skip dinner altogether.
But if this "new norm" it is seriously cutting into your ability to enjoy eating dinner together and spend quality time with your family. Make and stick with a new rule – everybody has dinner together at the same time! While it's perfectly fine to have occasional exceptions, the standard practice should still be that all family members enjoy eating dinner together as much as possible. Also, use family mealtime to improve family communication by:
• Asking everyone to discuss their day – including both the high and low points.
• Discussing individual accomplishments or where they could have made improvements during the day – even seemingly minor things should be given equal weight.
• Talking about immediate plans everyone has – which can also be a perfect opportunity to plan other moments to spend time together as a family.
4. Old-Fashioned Game Night with Board/Card Games
An easy way to get everyone focusing on something else other than emails, messages, alerts, and social media posts is to have a night where you and your family play a game together. The only stipulation is that it has to be a old-fashioned game night with board/card games.*
As for what game to play, come up with a list of suggestions based on your family's interests and skill level. For instance, if you have younger children, keep the games simple enough so that they're not frustrated with complicated rules.
On an old-fashioned game night with board/card games a popular game you could play is Apples to Apples. It's a family friendly card game that can be played almost instantly. Each player simply chooses a card from their hand that best describes the card held by the "judge". There's a junior version of the game that's perfect for younger players. Another fun game is Say Anything, which asks a bunch of fun questions. Make your old-fashioned game night with board/card games even more enjoyable by:
• Having a group vote in advance to choose the game so you don't have one or two family members irritated by the choice.
• Including healthy snacks and beverages.
• Setting up the game in a relaxed, informal way (e.g. everybody playing around the coffee table).
• Creating fun decor that matches that game – of course, this is optional, but it's a clever way to make game nights more memorable!
*A variation of the board/card game rule is to play electronic games together that allow all family members to actively participate.
5. Find Out What Everyone Is Interested In
Find out what everybody is interested in to show that you have an honest desire to learn more about what matters most to them. This especially applies to your children, but the concept can be extended to your significant other and other adults in the family as well. All you have to do for this one is take the time to ask questions to find out what everyone is interested in. If you have a child who's into something you're not all that familiar with, take time to do some research and learn more about their interests. The more you find out what everyone is interested in the closer you will be become. You can then use your knowledge to:
• Have group discussions about those interests.
• Plan family outings with your children's interests in mind (e.g. a trip to a local art gallery or art museum with a child interested in art).
These are just a handful of suggestions meant to give you a starting point. You're welcome to explore other ways to encourage everyone in your family to spend time together other than holidays and other special occasions based on your unique family dynamics. Once you start making an effort to spend more time with your family in ways that are both fun and productive, you may be surprised at how quickly quality family time can become something everyone looks forward to.
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