As a parent of two typical teenagers and one adult, my home has a seemingly endless collection of backpacks, tablets, laptops, SAT study guides, college brochures, textbooks, and heaps upon heaps of clothes strewn about.
Without the obvious disarray of these various stacks of objects, my family and I would seem almost nonexistent. Between our work schedules, events, practices, and school-related activities, our time at home has been sacrificed.
There was a time when weekends and evenings were devoted to projects, board games, movies, and mini staycations. Now, at one of the most important times in their lives, our schedules no longer mesh. This is completely disheartening to me. I truly believe our children, even as adults, need the presence of their parents, guardians, and positive mentors.
Although there are fewer moments spent together, I’ve compiled a list of ideas I use to create quality time and memories when the quantity of time is limited. Hopefully, if you are in the same troubling predicament, you can gather some useful tips, tricks, and resources to help ease the stress of diminished time spent with your family.
Turn off the electronics and use your collective brains to make something. Whether it’s demolition of a cabinet, painting a room, building small pieces of furniture, or simply a craft, time spent together is always key. While they’re learning how to construct or deconstruct things, you’re helping them gain independence and knowledge they’ll eventually use as adults. View every moment as a teachable moment. Even small activities, such as described in Darlene Mannix’s “Character-Building activities For Kids,” take little effort but make a huge impact.
No matter what is on the menu, my family always strives to sit at the dining room table and eat together. An even better way of incorporating time together can be achieved by prepping meals or making a special dessert with your family. Check out, “The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs,” by America's Test Kitchen. It has over 100 recipes that tweens and teens can easily recreate in the kitchen.
There doesn’t need to be a particular destination. Just listening to music, viewing different scenery, and talking is a wonderful way to bond and share stories.
ERRANDS AS A GROUP
In our household, we don’t use the word “chores.” Commonly, that word creates immediate anxiety and distress. Instead, we tackle tasks as a group. If I’m vacuuming, someone else is dusting or sorting laundry. This is a great way to lead by example and share responsibilities, while teaching those awesome cleaning tricks we learned through trial and error.
Retail therapy doesn’t need to be costly. Shopping for household essentials or browsing items in a store can be fun. Teach children the value of cost comparison, needs versus wants, and social etiquette. Again, time is spent together and teachable moments are created. Lisa Heffernan’s book, “Grown and Flown: How to Support your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults,” gives practical advice to parents who fret about raising independent, capable adults in today’s society.
LOOK UP & LOOK DOWN
As children grow into teens, there are fewer age appropriate activities found in magazines and books; however, there are always astronomy and botany guides. Encourage children to discover the universe while searching for hidden treasures in the night sky and underneath their feet. Books like “Backyard Guide to the Night Sky,” “Plantology: 30 activities and observations for exploring the world of plants,” and “Summer Stargazing: A Practical Guide for Recreational Astronomers,” are excellent resources. Head outdoors and make discoveries together.
FAMILY FUN NIGHT
Regardless of our hectic schedules, we always find one night for family fun night. Usually this night consists of dinner, board games, snacks, and a movie. Even my adult son still participates in this weekly event. This time together allows us to decompress from whatever we’ve dealt with at school or work. The main focus is having fun!
The most important thing to remember is time spent together laughing, talking, and present in each other’s lives is crucial. Adapting frantic routines can be done with patience and planning. The Knox County Public Library has wonderful books and movies to further transition habits into more satisfying and rewarding moments everyone can enjoy.