Having uninterrupted family time is a challenge due to the constant distraction we get from our devices.
Whether we are checking emails, playing games, or posting on social media, we seem to be glued to our phones and disconnected from our children.
Many times we even find it easier to give younger kids a tablet to keep them quiet at the table especially when dining out.
We are depriving our children of quality family time that is important for their social development.
Children are missing out on important skills that come with interacting with people instead of screens.
What is family time?
Family time is essential to create strong connections and relationships with family members.
Spending time together as a family will help enhance family values and build a feeling of security, especially for children
Why is family time important?
Family time is about bonding together with our children so they feel that they are part of the family.
Quality family time is also about sharing experiences together and creating memories.
And this is not always about not using devices. We can create great memories even with technology. For example, playing video games together, doing karaoke with the family, making movies on Youtube, and many more.
The purpose is to be present with your child so they feel valued and heard.
Hence, quality family time is not about banning devices but rather creating a balanced environment of play for children.
Psst, don’t forget to use the activity sheet below to help children understand how special they are.
How much time should we spend with our kids?
It is not about quantity but quality family time.
We could be spending hours with our kids but if we are not mentally present then it does not count.
It is important to be really engaged in the time spent together and make the time count. Be sure that your kids also feel the same.
Even though quality time is important, the quantity still matters and can result in better quality.
For example, if we talk to a close friend few times a week, we tend to have an easier relationship than a friend we speak to just once a month. We know what is happening in each other’s lives.
The same goes with our family. Communication becomes easier as we spend more time together.
How is technology affecting family time?
The constant notifications we get on our devices and the work or social pressure to reply instantly is disconnecting us from our family.
Many times we even give our children devices or screen time so we have time to check our phone messages.
However, we may not realize it, but when we allow our children devices, we are giving them the message that it is ok to be zoned out from conversations. Instead what we want is :
- A family that talks to each other
- Share good and bad part of your day with everyone at home
- Encourage children to talk about their day
- Make children feel that they can talk to you about anything that is on their mind.
Having regular conversations with our children will help us find out if there is any problem your child is facing and help them out before it becomes too serious.
But the constant notifications and being highly connected with devices makes it harder for parents and children to separate themselves from the screen.
Having a phone at the dinner table is also becoming increasingly normal.
Don’t forget to check out the Personalised Growth Mindset Kit made for children.
Problems of phones during family dinner:
Two researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology on the effect of mobile phones during meal times.
They found that phones used during mealtime lead to a decrease in diners’ enjoyment.
It caused people to feel more distracted and less engaged. It also leads to a drop in the enjoyment of the meal.
Advantages of screen-free dinner :
A device-free dinner can go a long way in building a positive relationship with your children.
Your child is away from distractions and has no option but to engage with you in a real conversation.
It can be difficult at the start to separate your child from their devices for even thirty minutes, but it will eventually get better and easier.
Even parents who are highly connected with their devices will find it challenging at the start. But the undivided attention you get from your children will be rewarding.
A simple step of device-free dinners can open up avenues for other activities that you and your child can do together.
You can take this opportunity to understand what is happening in their life.
How to have quality family time?
1.Set up a device-free meal
Don’t let your children get sucked into the world of 24/7 communication with their peers online.
Whether they realize it or not, they need the time to unplug and get a reality check from their family.
Let your children know that you will be enforcing stricter time limits to create more family time.
Let them know that the rules apply to grown-ups in the house as well.
Since family members need to be in agreement, set up a device-free dinner plan together.
Get your children involved in creating it. Your kids should give reasons why they think this is necessary so they can understand the importance of it.
2. Be clear on the purpose of quality family time
Be intentional about having quality family time.
Many families do not realise the importance of spending time together. Let your children know that is the time for the family to bond and spend some time together.
3. Create a Phubbing jar
Phubbing means peeking at your mobile phone when someone is talking to you.
Like a family swear jar, create a phubbing jar so everyone in the family adapts good behaviors
When someone goes to check their phone during meals or when the family is together, make them put a dollar in the jar.
Even better, if it is your kids that are phubbing then for every dollar they put, their screen time gets reduced by the same amount.
Also, discuss other consequences for breaking the rules with the kids. For instance, cleaning up the dishes or doing the laundry for breaking rules.
4. Use Phone’s built-in feature
Google Family Link allows you to switch off your kid’s devices during certain hours of the day. For instance, during meal times.
Read the step by step guide to set up Google Family Link.
5. Keep all phones in one location
When you and your kids are struggling to keep the screen away during family time, it can be easier to remove the temptation altogether.
For example, ask everyone to turn off their mobile phones during dinner time.
All devices can be kept in a family phone bag or stored in one cupboard so no one can access it while you eat.
Don’t forget to check out the Personalised Growth Mindset Kit made for children.
6. Set time frames
Some children will rush through family evenings to get to their phones as quickly as possible.
Avoid this from happening by setting a time frame.
For instance, family dinner will be for thirty minutes followed by tea or coffee for another fifteen minutes.
This way your children are aware that for the next forty-five minutes they cannot access their devices.
7. Lead by example
Parents who are glued to their phones or constantly checking their emails are bad role models for their children.
Everyone knows that it is hard to ignore an important work email. But whether your child is 6 months old or 16 years old, he will know that you are not paying attention to him and not truly engaged.
Do not attempt to multitask parenting with technology.
Your kids will notice that you are peeking at your device or texting under the table. So put your devices away if you are expecting your child to do the same.
Also do not replace one distraction with another. For instance, there is no point in having the TV switched on instead of the tablet.
8. Make family time more engaging
To help kids stay away from devices, keep the conversation going with a talk on current events.
You can also start dinner by talking about what is good during the day and what went wrong and have each family member share about their day.
This will lead to fun conversations and debates. Before you even realize it and it keeps devices away from your children’s minds.
Also, when discussing your children’s day do not be judgemental to what they have to say.
Instead, learn more about subjects they are interested in or what is bothering them.
It will be a good way for you to have a better understanding of your children.
Don’t forget to take this opportunity to talk to them about their online lives. Ask them about what is trending, what they have seen, or read online.
You can also play fun and simple game like Who Am I? or Finish the Story. Make family time fun again and no one will think about looking at their devices.
9. Relate to your child’s Issues
Make sure that rules are adhered to without any exception.
Children are fueled by FOMO: Fear of missing out. It can become hard for them to stay offline for a long time.
They also feel the pressure to respond to every notification instantly.
Have a conversation with them about this subject; be firm with the rules, but do not ignore their concerns.
If you want family time to be a regular routine in your home then the same rules should apply every day.
Some days it can be difficult as your child can rebel and insist on wanting their devices. But do not give up.
One day your children will accept the idea of having quality family time and It will just become the norm in your home.
10 family time quotes:
- Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family. Mother Teresa
- Having family time to reflect on your day is the best. Buddy Valastro
- Spend some time this weekend on home improvement; improve your attitude toward your family. Bo Bennett
- You will never look back on life and think, “I spent too much time with my kids.” Unknown
- Going home and spending time with your family and your real friends keeps you grounded. Jennifer Ellison
- Too much TV time, while it may seem like a fun family activity, too much of it can shift your attention from each other to the TV. Jake Smith
- “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox.
- “The memories we make with our family is everything.” – Candace Cameron Bure.
- In time of test, family is best.” – Burmese Proverb.
- “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” – George Santayana.