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–Philip J Reed, on behalf of Daybreak

Last month, we discussed an unfortunate reality of modern life: a lack of time to spend with the family. Obviously this is a problem that affects everybody to different degrees. One family might lament the fact that it only gets a few nights per week to spend together as one cohesive unit, and another might be lucky to get even a few minutes together.

In today’s world, it’s not uncommon that both parents work, and it’s certainly not uncommon that teenage children work as well. Everybody has their own commitments – be they professional or personal – and getting all of the schedules to align can be tricky at best. But that doesn’t have to mean that “quality time” is off the table entirely; you just might have to be more creative about where you find it.

SUGGESTION #2: Eat up!

Pop quiz: what do you and your children have in common?

Depending upon their ages, it’s pretty likely that by now you’ve had the differences hammered home clearly enough. You may not like the same music, you may not read the same things, and you may not be interested by the same current events. Your political leanings may be different, the things you look for in a friend or relationship may be different, and your understanding of the value of a dollar…well, maybe it’s best if we don’t bring that one up. (At least not without giving it its own part in this series!)

But there’s one thing we can guarantee that you do have in common: you need to eat! Yes, food is the great equalizer. No matter how busy you are, what you plan on doing later in the day (or night), or how you’re feeling, you need to eat. And that means that mealtime is a daily routine, whether you’d like it to be or not. So why not make the most of it?

You need to spend at least some time each day preparing and eating food, and so does your family. Use this as a bonding experience. Block off an hour of the day if you can so that nobody makes plans, and use that for dinner time. Is an hour too much to ask? Then try a half hour. Still not something you can arrange? Then shoot for breakfast instead, when everybody is more likely to be home. The more time (and the more meals) the better, but work with what you have!

Mealtime doesn’t need to be extravagant or elaborate. Remember, it’s your family you’re here for, not the cuisine! (Or, at least, not onlythe cuisine!) When your main goal is connecting with your spouse, son, daughter, or any combination of the above, sandwiches are just as good as rack of lamb. Spend time asking about your children’s plans, or how their days went. Listen to what they have to say. Be thoughtful, and engage them in

Don’t press them for answers, but encourage them, or elicit them by telling them about your day yourself. You cannot force somebody to respond openly to you, but you can certainly foster an environment within which that’s exactly what they’d like to do themselves, and that should be your goal.

If they are available, engage them in meal preparation as well. Not only does it afford an additional opportunity for conversation, but it can be a great starting point for imparting on them the importance of good nutrition, a varied diet, and even just basic cooking skills in general. They can learn by helping!

And while this might seem obvious, it’s worth repeating: turn the television off. There’s nothing wrong with movies or television programs in moderation, but if you only have a short time to spend with your family, make the most of it. (Exceptions, of course, can be made in the case of a major unfolding news story, a Presidential address, or other significant events that can lead to both enrichment and discussion as a family unit, but those exceptions should be rare!)

With the television off and food to share, you may find that your family has more to say to each other than they realized. And once it becomes a habit, you’ll never have to scramble for time again; they’ll be planning on it.

About the author:
Philip J Reed works in association with the
Daybreak community in Utah.  Daybreak is a community committed to providing sustainable housing, healthy living, and a strong sense of family values.  Information can be found at the Daybreak website.