School has started and you likely have spent the last month attending to the needs of your children and making sure that they are ready for the most important job in their life…their education. It may be time for you to relax a bit and to notice how much time you get to spend with them. If you have read my column before you know that I believe that you need to monitor their activity level to avoid the family being over stimulated. You have the choice to regulate their activity level despite the fact that you may feel some guilt that “they are not doing it all.” It can be one of the hardest things about parenting to say no to your children. As a parent, we want so much for our children and we really want them to engage in their hearts desire. And yet character formation is greatly enhanced by the relationship that you, as their parent, have with them.
How often do you get to sit with your children and spend time noticing their accomplishments? When was the last time you got to talk about their compassion and kindness towards others? How often do you get to brainstorm the issues that they face in their life?
Parents complain that their children are poor communicators and no longer want to spend time with mom and dad. Slowing your schedule down and finding places and opportunities to talk to your child takes consistent training. We have become such a harried society that it is easy to put relationship building on the back burner.
This is not meant to guilt you but a gentle reminder to find the time to talk with your children and to encourage them by noticing their strengths. Although I know that initially they may be resistive because they'd rather be gaming or “Instagramming” their friends, I encourage you to set the priority for family time and reflection to set healthy boundaries and create deeper relationships in your family.
So how do you undo some unhealthy behaviors? It can help if you call for a family meeting at a time that insures that everyone will be home. You then role model being a leader in your family and your concerns that there has not been enough “family time.” You apologize for this oversight and discuss ways to alleviate this problem. Maybe this requires that Sunday night will be family night with no cell phones or game boys, or other activities. Maybe it involves having 2 or 3 sit down dinners that are mandatory. Perhaps it will require a monthly activity to do some cave exploring, or museum sight-seeing, or a trip to the zoo.
Ignore the moans and groans and know that you are “taking one for the team” to promote family memories, closeness and relationship building. They will thank you for it in the future!