If you’re like most families, time is precious. Between school, work and extracurricular activities, your family members are likely running in four different directions on any given day. You may feel that you rarely get a chance to connect to your children due to busy schedules, and you’re not alone, but researchers agree that spending quality family time together is well worth the effort. Teens that spend quality time with their parents are more likely to excel in school, have a higher self image, less likely to abuse drugs and less likely to act out violently.
When it comes to spending time with your children, it really is about quality over quantity. In fact, in cases where parents are stressed or anxious, spending time interacting with their children can actually be detrimental. Spending family time together in a low stress environment with as little distraction as possible allows the family to truly connect and reinforce the bond between parents and children.
Family Time Benefits Education
Multiple studies have shown a correlation between outdoor activities with parents and higher test scores. Meaning simply going for a hike with your child on the weekend can actually have a positive impact on his/her education. Alternatively, children who spend less time with their parents have shown difficulty focusing at school.
According to the “Importance of Family Dinners” study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, kids are 40% more likely to earn A’s and B’s in school and almost 50% less likely to abuse drugs if they participate in family dinners 5-7 times a week. Additionally, parents reported an elevated sense of pride in their children and an increased desire to confide in their parents.
Why Does Spending Quality Time Benefit Education?
The simple act of talking and connecting with your child helps to build your bond and increase trust between you, so your child is more likely to ask you for help when there is a problem and feel valued as an individual. However, research by Nancy Hill, a professor at Harvard University, has shown that setting expectations and the way you talk to your children also has a dramatic impact on their academic drive and behavior. Hill found that talking to your kids about going to college, getting a good job and setting other future goals leads to greater academic accomplishment than your efforts to volunteer in school, join the PTA or even visiting museums and libraries.
How to Spend Quality Time as a Family (even on a tight schedule)
As mentioned earlier, your time together is really about quality over quantity, so you don’t need to take a whole afternoon off of work to connect with your children or spend a lot of money. Instead, try to think of ways to incorporate activities together as you go about your normal routine. Here are some examples of things to do with your kids, even on a busy day:
- Cooking- Let your children help you prepare dinner. Letting them be involved in meal preparation will not only give them a sense of accomplishment and a foundation for learning to cook, but it will also encourage them to try different types of food.
- Gardening- Your children can help you get caught up on the neglected yard work. Let them help in designing a new flower bed, rake the leaves in the fall or spread mulch in the spring.
- Family Dinners- The simple act of eating together lowers your teen’s risk of smoking, drinking and substance abuse. During dinner, children should be encouraged to talk about their interests as well as discussing their daily events. Strive to have family dinners together at least five times per week.
- Take a Walk- Simply strolling through the neighborhood together can lead to a bonding experience.
On the weekends or days when your schedule is more relaxed, try to plan a more in-depth activity with your child for even greater emotional bonding. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Go to the theater
- Plan a picnic
- Go camping
- Take up a hobby together, such as drawing, starting a collection, doing a craft
- Play a board game
- Go to a baseball game
- Volunteer together at a local hospital, nursing home or soup kitchen