5 Ways to Maximize Family Time

By: Contributed Content

It seems that the average family’s life today is non-stop.  Between managing work and school schedules for parents and kids alike, the normal family is also balancing dance lessons, school sports practices, grocery shopping, household chores, and countless other activities and responsibilities.  While all of these things might fall under the heading of “family stuff,” the fact of the matter is that these commitments take time away from a family fully enjoying the company of one another.  Now, we aren’t encouraging you and yours to drop everything you are active in, simply follow these tips for maximizing your family time:

  • Reorganize your to-do list.  If your family is like most families, you probably have a to-do list a mile long in the kitchen.  Instead of keeping one general list, try dividing the list into a new, three-category version comprising of “Don’t,” “Delegate,” and “Do.”  You know there is something that is always on your list that you aren’t going to do, so take the pressure off of you and your family by just crossing it off—this is your “Don’t” list.  For the “Delegate” section, try to decide if someone else can handle this for you, for instance, a housekeeper, babysitter, or lawn maintenance company.  You will find that by doing this your “Do” list is much shorter and therefore, you have more time to spend with the people who matter.
  • Handle chores together.  Chores might not be the most fun in the world, but if you and your family work cohesively together to get them done, you might just have more time for play as a family.  Enlist your kids’ help in folding laundry, ask your spouse to invent and lead a family clean-up game, and then focus on your own tasks.  Come up with a reward for your coordinated teamwork in a job done well and accomplish that goal.  In the process of all this, and even though you are working toward a reward, you will be spending time together.
  • Time to unplug.  We’ll just say it: Hey Mom, put down that tablet.  Hey Dad, put that phone away.  And kids?  Time to step away from the computer.  Establish some downtime from your respective digital worlds to focus on the reality of your family.  Have a designated area where you place all of your devices and ignore them for a few hours. It’s amazing just how much your family will connect when you all disconnect.
  • Double up on dinner.  Your family needs to eat, but that doesn’t mean that one parent or the other needs to spend long hours in the kitchen each night.  Instead plan meals to maximize on the time that you actually devote to sitting around the table as a family.  Plan meals that allow for extras.  For instance, double up on a recipe and freeze half for use later in the week, or cut up vegetables for tonight’s dinner and make sure there is plenty for use in a salad tomorrow night.  These little time saving hacks will help you spend less time behind a stove and more time with your family at the end of the day. It will also keep you from wasting money on takeout or unhealthy food simply because it is quick and easy.
  • Create new traditions.  Families can easily fall into a rut of using vacations or certain holidays to connect with each other.  However, this strategy also creates distance between family members as they “wait for their next shared tradition to arrive.”  Instead, develop new family traditions.  Start a Friday Night Game Night or Sunday Funday Brunch to spend together.  Identifying a specific block of time for a targeted activity or affair will allow certain expectations to be set amongst family members—and it will also give you all something to look forward to on a collective basis.

Remember, your family might have a schedule, but you shouldn’t let that schedule run you or dictate the amount of fun and relaxation that you have together.  Think strategically about your days and always remember to enjoy each other—time spent with loved ones is a precious thing.

How to Raise a Child Who Values Kindness

By: Contributed Content

In today’s ultra-competitive world, it can feel especially challenging to any parent to ensure that their child values kindness and knows how to fully care about their family, their friends, and themselves.  With countless “mean kid” stories circulating through the news on a daily basis, and the issue of bullying permeating our school systems, it is important that children of all ages develop the ability to recognize and respond to the needs and suffering of other people.  This article will provide tips to parents on how to instill these values in a child from an early age.

Developing an Internal Compass

Kindness is defined by many things—it is a person’s ability to empathize with the plight of others and show compassion.  Unfortunately, it seems that our society only places a focus on this at certain times of the year; for instance, in the winter months when food banks are looking to feed or clothe the needy.  However, you as a parent have the power to institute these feelings in your home year round—placing a focus on kindness and compassion can increase the overall well-being of your household as studies show that every human being has the ability to feel better about themselves when we actively practice the art of kindness.  Moreover, those same studies also exhibit that being kind and compassionate leads to long-term success.

The Complexity of Kindness

Of course, while it may seem that kindness, as a concept, should be one that is easy to employ and teach, it is actually much more complex than that.  While children are born to be givers, by the time kids reach 4th grade, research shows that they have been socialized in such a way by outside influences that they are more likely to think about themselves and their own interests as opposed to the greater good.

So the question remains: How does a parent work to reverse this alarming trend and create a value system within their child that allows for long-lasting kindness?  Ultimately, a child must understand how being kind to others benefits them.  Follow these steps to help enable your child to be a giver of kindness:

  1. Engage in personal research about the values of kindness.  Many times, adults themselves require a “refresher course” on the tenets and benefits of kindness.  This is not to say that you are not already a kind person—but familiarizing yourself with wording associated with kindness can better help you articulate this information to your child.  If you are in need of a helpful resource, check out The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.  Their website is a great place to begin and they provide many activities that target children of all ages.
  2. Introduce a “Kindness Project” at home.   Make this project a family-wide affair that requires each person to be responsible for one act of kindness on a daily basis.  At the end of the day, each family member has to recount what they did for someone else.  For instance, Dad might say that he held open the door for someone or that he allowed someone else to go ahead of him in line at the coffee shop.  Mom might recount her experience of helping someone who was struggling with a lot of bags at the grocery store, and the children might mention how they invited someone who was sitting by themselves to join them at lunch or to play at recess.  Any experience that can make someone else feel good is an act of kindness.
  3. Show your kids how much kindness means to you.  Of course, if you want your child to value kindness, you must first make sure that it is something that is important to you—you must place a priority on practicing what you preach.  At the same time, it is also natural as a parent to want to see your child succeed, and it’s there that acts of kindness sometimes fall by the wayside.  In order for you to raise a kind child, you must firmly establish your feelings about intelligence, talent, responsibility, and success.  That’s not to say that a successful child cannot also be a kind child, you just must make sure that you prioritize these values accordingly in your household.
  4. Dial down competition. Competitive instincts and kindness usually play a direct parallel with each other—a parent only has to sit at a youth sporting event for five minutes to understand this.  Unfortunately, many kids are taught that winning is the most important thing and that it is perfectly alright to smash any roadblocks that are on their path to the win, sometimes even turning on their own friends and teammates.  If your kids are involved in sports or other competitive events, here is your chance to teach them that they can have fun and be happy without always being number one.  Moreover, this is also a time where you can teach them about how to congratulate a winner, pat a teammate who might be struggling on the back and offer some encouraging words, and overall be a good sport.
  5. Teach kids that it does take a village. You know the old saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”?  Well, it’s quite true.  In order to promote values of kindness, teach children about the purpose of community and help them understand that they are a valuable member.  Positive actions that they deliver to the community benefit everyone, including themselves.  Therefore, when a child realizes that they are an important part of their overall community, they are more likely to rise to the challenge, become a leader, exhibit kindness, and care for the people around them.

In closing, remember that children are impressionable both to positive and negative stimuli—but at their core they want to do good.  Implement these tips into your family’s day-to-day living and realize that you are raising a child who will make a positive impact in their life.