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Staying Connected

Enjoying Family Time After Summer Has Gone

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Urie Bronfenbrenner, Ph.D., known for his ecological systems theory of child development, studied the amount of interaction between fathers and their children.The fathers in the study were asked to estimate the amount of time they spent each day with their child. The average answer was 15-20 minutes. 

Microphones were attached to the father so that each interaction could be recorded. The results of this study were shocking. The average amount of time spent by these middle-class fathers with their small children was 37 seconds per day! Their direct interaction was limited to 2.7 encounters daily, lasting 10 to 15 seconds each!

Being a parent is a challenging task, and in a society where your identity is defined by how busy you are, it is tempting to cheat our family members from the time they deserve. It often happens unintentionally. A few late work nights turn into a few late work weeks. Driving around from one activity to the next can seem like family time, but that is often accompanied with on-the-go meals and distracted kids on their devices. The reality is that although this may be our regular routine, we need to make sure we are scheduling family time as well.

Many families will have spent many wonderful quality hours and days with each other this summer on vacation or simply at home on school break. But as the summer comes to a close and the business of autumn begins—with school, sports, church activities, etc.—is it possible to refrain from falling out of the habit of spending time together as a family? 

What can we do to create more opportunities to make memories and grow as a family? How do we hit the pause button and invest in our closest relationships?

Here are a few ideas to help keep you connected throughout the year:

Storytime Together: Bringing the day to a close snuggled up is a great way to spend time with your kids. Whether you are reading from a favorite book, making up a story, or sharing the tales of a Bible hero, enjoy this time with each other as it will only last a few years.

Embrace the Outdoors: Visit area parks as often as you can. If you have a family dog, this will add even more to the fun. Being outside helps disconnect us from technology and the constant interruptions it can have on family time. One idea is to take turns visiting each park in your county. 

Meal Collaboration: Not only is sharing a meal together a great way to chat and bond, but your kitchen will be a lot more lively when you cook together. Younger kids are helpful in mixing ingredients and as refrigerator runners. Have your older kids design the menu and lead out as chefs.

Media Fast: Sometimes you just have to turn off the TVs, computers, and devices and work on a puzzle. A weekly break will help reset your creativity and reduce your stress. Take turns letting each child choose the media fast activity (crafts, board games, scrapbooking, etc.) each week.

Library Visits: Public libraries may seem archaic these days, but many have read-aloud programs and special events that are perfect for your kids. Checking out library books may not be as popular anymore, but libraries are still a great resource for young imaginative minds. 

Fortress Construction: Pillow walls and bedsheet roofs never go out of style. If it has been a while since you were involved in the of intricacies fort building, it may be time to gather all the pillows and cushions in the house and transform the living room into a whimsical world where kids rule. Be sure to bring snacks, books, or stuffed animals to populate the fort and entertain your small kings and queens!

Muddy Puddles: Although we must be safe to avoid thunderstorms and lightning strikes, splashing around in the rain is another great way to make memories and enjoy some silliness as a family. Let the worries melt away as you embrace the raindrops from above. Splash around barefoot or get some miles on those rainboots. End your rain parade with some warm soup or hot chocolate!

Attend Workshops: Hardware stores, craft stores, and some grocery stores put together family-friendly workshops and classes. From do-it-yourself projects, like building an end table together, to cake decorating and specialty baking, check out online schedules to see what is offered in your community!

Give Freely: Another way to strengthen bonds is to volunteer as a family and give freely to others. Animal shelters allow supervised children to play with pets awaiting adoption. Refugee resettlement programs have volunteer opportunities for families to welcome and help new arrivals. Whether you are involved in a church ministry or a community program, make it a point to show your family love by teaching them to love others. 

Short Vacations: Family vacations can be short, fun, and economical when they are simple. If you live within driving distance of a beach, or a state or national park, consider taking a long weekend trip. If camping is not your thing, consider visiting a neighboring town as a tourist.

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