Quality Time With Your Kids

No matter how busy you are, don't neglect having fun with your kids. They grow up fast, and you can't relive these years.

One of the bad things about growing up is that we sometimes forget how to have fun. We learn how to make money and how to care for a house, and perhaps we provide our children with basic human needs, like a roof over their heads and something to eat most days. But without quality interaction, something vital is missing. Here's how to build quality time into your relationship with the young ones:

1. Look for odd moments. If everyone is busy with separate schedules, which is so often the case these days, snatch a few minutes here and there where you can laugh together, share a concern, or offer a few words of encouragement or guidance. Trips in the car to sports practice, dropping a child off at school or a friend's house, doing supper dishes together, or cutting the grass can provide informal times of sharing and bonding. Neither the kids nor you may realize it, but it's often the mundane, seemingly boring or busy moments of life that become the stuff of memories.

2. Have fun on the kids' terms. If they like basketball, learn to like basketball. If your son has read Lord of the Rings six times, read it once and discuss it. If your daughter is a huge Shrek fan, rent the video and watch it with her, even if you hate cartoons. Your kids will always remember those special hours that you may find dreary when Mom or Dad made a point of spending time doing something they enjoyed instead of the other way around.

3. Talk at meals. Splintered families seldom eat together anymore. Prolong your meals together by sharing cooking time and talking about subjects the kids will find interesting over dinner. Whether it's the latest school lesson, a community event, or a newsflash from the entertainment industry, be a good listener and shape your conversation with tidbits the kids will enjoy too. Even hurried meals may provide opportunities for one conversational gem, so make the most of it rather than reading the newspaper or taking a phone call.

4. Be candid with the kids. If you make a mistake, admit it. When you aren't sure about something, 'fess up. Your children need to know that you're human and not afraid to admit it. While it's important to be strong for them and provide a secure environment, it's also necessary to let them see you struggle with weaknesses, setbacks, and failures. That's how they learn to manage their own setbacks.

5. Create a secure environment for discussing delicate subjects. Learn to listen without criticizing when the kids admit to doing something wrong. That doesn't mean you won't discipline them, and they will understand that. It means that you don't jump on them, screaming and threatening a whipping, as the first word of confession leaves their lips. Listen respectfully and respond courteously, even when you must include a rebuke and a consequence. When it comes time for talk about dating, marriage, finances, or other important topics, present them in serious fashion and allow your child to ask questions or offer opinions that you don't share, especially teens. But be ready to gently if firmly guide their actions through your own set of values.

Quality time with kids is an important way of building relationships, storing memories, and leaving a legacy that will impact their children in the future. Plan your schedule to include time for the kids, and both they and you will appreciate it.

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