Make Time for Family

You’ve likely heard some form of the Barbara Bush quote suggesting that, at the end of life, we won’t regret not having passed one more test or closed one more deal, but we will regret the time we didn’t spend with family. And you probably agreed with that sentiment … and then continued with your life hoping that someday you will find time to embrace it. The following are some thoughts on how you can make “someday” happen today:

Schedule time. “Family time” might sound a little hokey, but intentionally setting aside time for family activities works. Put the time on a calendar and don’t let anything bump it off.

Set boundaries. The hardest part about making time for family often is preventing it from being interrupted by work calls or emails. Let people at work know that you are going to be spending time with family and will be unreachable during that time. Most calls and emails aren’t as urgent as others might think.

Plan activities. Don’t just say, “Family time!” and expect everyone to huddle together and have a blast. Plan something, whether it’s going to dinner, watching a movie, playing a game, tackling a home project, working out … no matter what it is, plan it and do it. Together.

Put the kids in charge. Want the kids to get excited about time together? Let them plan the activities … and be willing to do some things you might not otherwise choose.

Be the fun place. Make your home the place your kids want to hang out with their friends. They might not be focused on time specifically with you, but they’ll be around, and you’ll be there to keep an eye on things.

Honor the meal hour. The dinner table can be the scene of a lot of family togetherness. Make mealtime a priority for everyone, and then sit down and actually eat together.

Double the dinner impact. Get even more out of mealtime by making dinner preparation a family activity.

Create phone-free times. Have a time each week when everyone sets the phone aside to focus on each other.

These might seem like small steps, but sometimes the small things make a big difference. Studies suggest that having frequent family meals can lead to higher grades for teens and a lower risk of smoking, drinking, drugs use, depression, and suicidal thoughts. If dinner can do all of that, just imagine what a broader emphasis on family time could do.

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