Making the Most of Family Moments

The time you spend with your children each day doesn't have to be scripted or scheduled. In fact, if you set aside only specific times as "family time," it may put pressure on both you and your kids.

Instead, family time can take place spontaneously in many different ways during ordinary interactions between parents and children, whether it's rocking a baby to sleep or driving a teenager to the mall.

You can take steps to make the most of these moments. One place to start is at the dinner table. Even if it's for only 10 or 15 minutes, make dinner the time that everyone agrees is important.

Turn off the TV and radio, put down the cell phones, and don't read the newspaper. It may be a good idea for everyone to agree that dinner is a "no texts received or sent zone" for everyone -- parents included. This can be the time to ask the kinds of questions that create the foundation for relationships -- not only "Did you have a good day at school?" but also "What was good about school today?" It's also a good time for children to learn that they should ask, "And how was your day?"

Here are some other ways you can become involved with your children:

  • Listen up. Listen not just for what happened, but for what they are telling you about their day through their actions and tone.

  • Read together. This teaches kids that books are not only a source of education, but also of pleasure.

  • Play board games together. You'll interact with your children while having fun.

  • Limit and monitor TV viewing, computer, and video game time. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than one to two hours of quality television or videos for children older than 2. AAP experts also say children younger than 2 should not watch TV or videos.

  • Focus on their unique interests. For some kids, it might be going to a ball game; for others, shopping at the mall or baking cookies.

  • Relax more. With so many things to be done, there's something magical about spending two hours -- or all day -- on a Monopoly game. Spending time with your family says, "We value hard work, and we also value relaxation time and being together."

Effective use of family moments helps you develop good communication channels with your children. The ability to communicate respectfully with your child is one of the most rewarding, and most difficult, parenting skills -- but it is worth the effort.