Question: Like a lot of young working families, my partner and I work during the week and find ourselves busy running errands, cleaning the house and paying bills on the weekend. We've got an 18 month old and a three year old and it's hard
to find time to do things together. While I was on maternity leave it seemed easier to meet up with friends. Now, by the time the kids get to bed, all I want to do is collapse. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the most of our time together and what type of free activities we could do as a family? Answer: The business of parenting is a full-time job, which requires patience, determination and a fair amount of bravery. Stepping back and taking the time to wonder about how to best connect with those who are most important to you is a great place to start. Luckily for busy families, children love and learn through simple interactions and some of the best family activities are free.
In your daily life, look for opportunities to follow your child's lead. Your child may ask you to, "come and play house" or "be a 'choo choo' train." Whenever possible, accept the invitation. This chance to play invites you to set aside your adult worries for a few minutes and join your child where he or she is.
Busy lives dictate that often we need to get activities done quickly. When we, as parents, are feeling rushed, we can enter the pattern of hurrying our children and, in response, the children may respond with resistance. You may find your child to be more co-operative when you offer a choice, for example, "It's dinner time. Would you like to use the blue cup or the red cup today?" Providing appropriate choices and including your child in decisions will enhance his or her sense of competency, help you accomplish tasks and enhance your overall sense of family connection.
Another thing to consider that, in the moment may seem counter-intuitive, is to get in the practice of taking time to prepare your child for what is coming next and then offering clear guidelines about the expectations you have for these activities. For example, letting a child know that, "In five minutes we are going to clean up to go to the library," and following up five minutes later with "It's time to tidy up. Let's put that toy back in the cupboard." This will let your child know that you trust his or her abilities and they are
an important part of your family.
Building family traditions offers children stability and, when things get busy or during times of transition, can help you to slow down, connect and keep in mind what is important to you.
There are many lovely ways to connect at home, for instance pot and pan castle building while you are making dinner, a living room picnic, or a special story read and song sung each night before bed. Increasingly, we're becoming aware of the importance of getting young children outdoors to play. Your children won't forget the joy of jumping in mud puddles, especially if you join them.
It can be challenging to get away from the to-do list while at home. Sometimes it helps to get outside of the home, to connect with other families and support people. We invite you to visit us at the I hope family centre where we believe that families are the best guides, teachers and advocates for children. Our job is to support parents and caregivers so they have the resources, information and social connections to make their jobs run a little smoother. You can visit us at our two locations, 101-255 West First St. and 399 Seymour River Place (right next to Maplewood Farm).
Perhaps of interest to your family is that we have just started a Saturday 9:15-11:30 a.m. Learning Together Through Play program, specifically for parents or families who are unable to participate Monday-Friday. A lot of working parents have less traditional schedules and you may be able to join us for a morning or afternoon program Monday to Friday.
As a last thought, as you wind up your days, stop and take a moment to cherish the small peaceful faces of your children. No matter what your day has been like before this, hearing their gentle breath will help you ease into the rest of your evening. Sharing that experience with your partner is a great way to celebrate what you've created together.
Shauna Mokelki is the manger of I hope family programs at Family Services of the North Shore. familyservices.bc.ca
© Copyright 2013