As I began to think about my column for the back-to-school issue for the Catholic Schools Herald section, I thought I would investigate what research is saying about family time together. With school beginning and the family getting settled into the routine of a schedule, it is important for families to carve out quality time for family.
The first place a family might start is to develop a monthly calendar and list everyone’s schedules for after-school time and activities on a master calendar. It may be a shock for one to see how little time is left for family after all the activities — sports, scouting, private lessons, etc. — are placed on the monthly calendar.
So what does research say about the impact of family time on the development of children? Here is what some sociologists and psychologists have found through research.
• Quality time trumps quantity: The amount of time parents spend with children between 3-11 years has little relationship to how children turn out and a minimal effect on adolescents.
However, the types of activities that are valued by the child and parents, such as reading to a child, sharing a meal, talking with them or engaging in one-on-one conversation, doing household chores together and watching movies together are some of the quality times that have shown impact on children.
• Healthy families keep a good balance between too much and not enough time together: It seems that the amount of time a family dines together keeps dwindling. When mapping out activities on your monthly calendar, I would recommend that at least one day a week be set aside for a family dinner.
Family members can be invited to share the day’s experiences, their interests, plans and ideas. It is also a time to tell funny stories or jokes. Parents should avoid talking about disciplinary matters, which may create more indigestion than solutions. Disciplinary matters need to be conducted individually with the child.
These family dinners should be free of distractions — turn off the TV and all electronic devices.
• Giving time is a wonderful way to show love: It is not only important to give time to the children but also important for the parents to set aside time for each other. Children learn from what they see their parents doing.
In scheduling all the family events for the month, one should never forget the importance of taking time for worshiping at Mass and praying together.
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