Tis the Season: Family Time
School may be looming around the corner, but it’s not in session yet! It’s still summer, which means it’s time to make the most of the coming weeks. Grill out, soak up some rays, lounge by the pool, and perhaps the most rewarding (and simultaneously most difficult to achieve) summer pastime: quality time with your family.
“What are you talking about?” you may think. “I’m around my family all the time!”
However, quality time doesn’t mean just watching tv together or sitting in the same room, absorbed in your own projects. It’s the minutes you spend each day actually being present with your family, talking, playing or otherwise giving them your full attention.
Even committing to one hour a day of quality interaction can be a struggle. With all of the distractions and obligations in our lives, the hours tend to whiz by, leaving you to sink, exhausted, into bed at night… only to realize that you got through the entire day without connecting with your family in a meaningful way.
However, it’s worth building time into your schedule to connect with your kids, spouse, and other family members. Quality time is important for the whole family, but it’s even more important for your kids. When it comes to your children, the effects of quality time are transformative and will affect your child for many years to come.
Influence Future Habits
Studies show that your friends and family are highly influential when it comes to the kind of lifestyle you lead. For many years, family is the single biggest influence on what a child perceives to be normal, especially when it comes to relationships with other people. Emphasizing quality time and giving your child your full attention gives you the opportunity to show your child how they should treat others and what kind of relationships they should seek out.
Lessen the Likelihood of Substance Abuse
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has found that, compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol, and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.
It turns out that spending quality “talk time” with Mom can help lower stress, reports CNN. In the study, such interactions seemed to decrease stress hormones and increase the feel-good chemical oxytocin among girls between ages 7 and 12. "Mothers know without being instructed how to soothe a child," oxytocin researcher Anne Campbell, of Durham University. "They know because they come from a long line of women whose genes remained in the gene pool because they kept their kids alive."
Spending time with your child can go beyond healthy emotional development and affect physical health. A study published in Pediatrics shows that the relationship between a mom and her child when the child is young seems to be associated with his or her weight later on as a teen. Specifically, young kids with close relationships with their moms are less likely to be obese in the study in adolescence, says the Huffington Post, compared with those with more distant relationships with their moms during toddlerhood.
Individual Time and Attention
Children who get regular quality time with their family don’t feel the need to act out in order to get attention. When children seek attention through negative behavior, it leads to added stress on the parent-child relationship, which can cause a vicious cycle of emotional and behavioral issues.
Strengthening Family Bonds
Finally, being together as a family brings all of you closer together. Spending time as a group creates memories and allows bonds to grow and strengthen, which only continues over time as children grow older and sibling and parent-child dynamics shift and take on new meanings. When your children have grown up with a tight-knit base they know they can return to, it makes it easier to build on those relationships and continue to stay close as time goes on.
Where to go from here?
Do you want to spend more quality time with your family, but you're struggling to fit it into your schedule? Let us help. This summer, we have all kinds of fun family events to help you connect with your loved ones-- and many of them are free and open to the whole community. Just check out our summer event list to find out what activities sound best for you.
Before school and all of the accompanying clubs, sports, and other craziness make it twice as difficult to spend time with the most important people in your life, bring your family closer together at the Y.