It's no secret that today's families are busier than ever. With work, school and extra-curricular activities, we live running from one thing to another.
It's no secret that today's families are busier than ever. With work, school and extra-curricular activities, we live running from one thing to another. From art classes, soccer and swimming lessons, to baseball games and more, we're on the move because we want to give our children plenty of opportunities and experiences. But what about downtime?
Certainly, most of us would agree that we simply don't have much of it in our lives. Jeremy D. Kaufman, clinical psychologist for Behavioral Science Specialists, explains in the following interview that working some downtime into your routine isn't just nice, it's actually important for your family.
Q: Dr. Kaufman, why is family downtime so important?
A: Balance between home and work is vital. Too much time at work can contribute to behavioral problems with one's children and marital problems with one's spouse. We've all heard the old concept of "he's misbehaving because you're not paying attention to him." In some ways, this concept may be accurate. Essentially, a child may engage in misbehavior in order to receive any form of attention. Attention (e.g., scolding), while negative, may be good enough for the child who is craving attention. Positive reinforcement is so much more helpful and beneficial for children. With regular downtime, parents can have the time to connect with their children and have the quality time to teach important skills and proper behavior.
Q: Do you feel families have enough downtime?
A: Simply put, no! Our society has put great importance on being fast-paced. We have fast cars, fast food, and are always on the go. Jobs require more significant hours or availability that may take away from family life. Dual-earning and single-parent families may struggle the most with trying to balance work and family. Even parents who stay home can struggle with downtime when they attempt to enroll their child(ren) in a multitude of different activities.
Q: How can families move from being overextended to incorporating downtime into their lives?
A: Schedule a special time for each of your children. Many parents will say, "We don't have time." Also, parents who have the best intentions to have a special time with their children may lose track of time. The best way to avoid this is to schedule the time. Five minutes each day (with each child) can be extremely helpful and important. Simply talking, taking them to the grocery store, or tossing a ball in the back yard may be key in communicating and maintaining a relationship with him or her. Despite needing more independent time than their younger counterparts, teenagers also need special time with their parents. Group activities such as game night and family sports night can be fun. Eating dinner together is another activity that may have gone the way of the dodo bird, but is essential. Eating dinner teaches manners and social skills, may be more nutritious and permits the family to catch up on current events.
To help incorporate a little downtime into your family routine, consider the following ideas:
Stay healthy. Make sure that both you and your children get enough sleep and proper nutrition. Eat together as a family as much as possible.
Simplify, simplify, simplify. Take the time to find out what things interest your child. You may be surprised to learn he or she would prefer to do something different, or even let go of certain activities. Adding family activities such as taking evening walks, bike rides, or reading books together can be a great way to add quality family downtime.
Instead of another hour of video games or television, go outside and get some fresh air. Encourage your child to play with toys or get creative with paint or crayons. You'll be amazed at what you and your children can come up with.
To learn more about the importance of family downtime, contact Dr. Jeremy Kaufman with Behavioral Science Specialists at (614) 291-7600 or at Kaufman@bssonline.org.
Rosanna Scott, mother of two, is a writer specializing in family/parenting issues and travel. She is the author of the children's book, Peter & Friends at Camp.