How to be present with your family
You are about to finish up your day. Going through your routine of getting ready for bed. You just walked the dog, brushed your teeth, used the bathroom one more time. Then you think about those around you that are already asleep. And you wondered where did the day go?
It is an all too familiar feeling. We “feel” like we spent time with our family. But did we? Were we present during the time we had together? Then you think about how you spent your entire week. Surely you did things with your family.
This feeling is that of being with your family but not really being there with your family. How can I be present with my family? Continue reading to find out how to spend time with your family and not feel distant.
Sit down and eat with your family
We recently invested in something that changed our family for the better. We bought a large dining room table with enough chairs for everyone to sit and eat together.
Now, why would that have changed our family for the better? It means we can all be together at one time in one room and eat together. Previously everyone would be scattered between the dining area and the living room or family room eating apart.
But now we can all sit together, eat some food, and have a conversation. And it feels so good to have that time together. We eat, we talk about what is happening, we tell stories about our day, and we joke around. This doesn’t lead to meals together every night. But so far we haven’t had many complaints about this setup.
Make one-on-one time
When kids are involved spending time with your spouse is hard to come by. If you both work, by the time you get the kids to bed and get ready for the next day you are probably both ready to go to bed. Try spending some time together, even if it is just 15 minutes, to talk and connect.
And if you have multiple kids you can plan a one-on-one trip. This is where you take one of your kids and spend a day with just that kid. This is a great opportunity to allow your child to be an only child for the day. Treat them, let them pick where they want to go and what they want to do. Just make sure you have a plan for your other kids to keep them busy so they don’t feel left out.
Put the phones/tablets away
I talked about this before. And it is pretty obvious. But this is one thing that I am the worst about. As I am checking emails or social media I sometimes get lost and don’t pay attention.
Even if you have your phone with you just silence notifications and avoid the apps that suck you in. The games, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, or any other app may consume your attention away from your family.
And this goes for your kids also. If you are trying to eat together and all the kids are on their phones or tablets and not engaging in conversation, then maybe implement a no electronics rule for supper time.
Leave work at work
Right now this is hard to do. More and more people are working from home so leaving work at work is a challenge as now work is in your house.
Some tips I have on leaving work at work (and there are exceptions for most of these):
- Avoid overtime unless specifically asked to work it (or if needed financially)
- Don’t answer texts or emails after hours
- Take your full lunch break, and if working from home eat lunch with your family
- If working from home, have a separate workspace that can be closed off
- Set boundaries with coworkers, as in I will answer emails after my kids go to bed
I am not saying no to your kids. Say no to other people. Maybe your neighbor invites you over for a barbeque. But even though your kids can come, will you be spending time with them or will you spend the entire time visiting and talking with neighbors?
Say no to extracurricular activities. Does it feel like you spend all your time shuttling kids from activity to activity? Mondays you have soccer, Tuesday is for Scouts, Wednesday is youth group, Thursday is football practice. In that schedule when did you have time for your family? You didn’t. You spent all week worry about feeding the kids and getting them to their event and then getting home.
Turn off the TV
And when I say turn off the TV I am not even talking about your standard cable television. If you or your kids are always watching a streaming service or anything else just turn it off. There will always be downtime when the kids are gone or asleep to catch up on your shows.
Get on the floor
This is especially true with little kids. Get on their level and play. Maybe they like to sit on the couch with you and snuggle. That is ok. But one of the best ways to connect is to sit down, at their level, and play something with them.
Maybe get some blocks out and stack blocks with your toddler. Or if your kids are old enough get out some Lego sets and build some Legos. Get some sheets and chairs out and build a fort in your living room.
Read some books together
I’ve talked about this before but I feel this is so important. Reading is used in every aspect of your kid’s life. In any subject they may do in school they will need to read. And if they can read well it removes one roadblock to their education.
If they are young and cannot read then sit down and read some books to them. Use different voices when reading different characters and make it fun. If the book is silly then be silly with them.
If they are older maybe you can take turns reading parts of a book. Or everyone just picks their favorite book and sits together and reads. Then afterward each person can talk about their favorite part of the book they read.
Journal about your day
There was a time I used to get an email reminder to journal. Whether it is electronic or a spiral-bound notebook, just write down memorable things that happened to you and your family that day.
How will this make you more present with your family? When you consistently journal you can look back and see what you did with your family. If you notice that you aren’t writing down stories that make you smile, you can change course.
And if you are like me and forget things easily a journal is a great way to go back and remember those good times you had.
Listen and engage when they tell you something
Your kids can be great storytellers. But other times they can tell you something and it just seems like they are rambling on about nothing. But if we pay close attention to what they are telling us, we may find out they are excited about something.
Yes to you listening to them talk about something that happened in a video game may seem unimportant. But to them what happened was really cool, or what they perceived they did was really awesome. And they are trying to connect with you.
When they start talking, look them in the eyes, and actively listen. Ask questions and pay attention to their responses. If we don’t do this we risk having them not tell us important things when they get older.
Get them involved in your hobbies
As a parent, there are certain things we give up to make our kids happy. One of those things is hobbies we enjoy. Maybe because we feel like those hobbies will take time away from our kids. Or maybe we just don’t have the time period to do the hobby.
But if the hobby is kid-friendly, get them involved. Maybe you like to fix up cars, teach them how to do simple repairs, or let them hold a light while you fix something. Perhaps you like to garden, bring them out and let them help plant seeds or pull weeds after it starts growing.
Getting them involved in your hobbies means you get to keep your hobby and possibly spark their interest in that same hobby.
Start nightly traditions
I talked earlier about reading books with your family. This is something that you can make a tradition one night a week. You could have a family Friday book night. Or perhaps everyone likes to play cards or board games. Pick one night a week and make it a tradition.
You can keep it short. Maybe start with dedicating one hour to your tradition. And before you know it your kids might not even pay attention if it lasts longer than an hour.
You could also have a nightly tradition before bedtime. Schedule 10 minutes of snuggle time and perhaps 10 minutes of reading the Bible together. Just use something consistent and something that can help them settle in for the night.
Take lots of pictures
I’m not great at taking pictures. I wish I was better at it. But I take them anyways. One of my fondest memories of growing up was looking at old pictures that my dad took. He had boxes of slides that he could project on the wall. We would turn off the lights, break out the projector, and look at pictures for hours.
If you are taking pictures you have to be in the moment. It is really hard to not be present when you are looking for that perfect opportunity to snap a picture of your kids doing something amazing. And taking pictures will allow you to capture those perfect memories so you can relive them over and over at a later time.
Take micro vacations
Micro vacations are something a friend of mine introduced me to. Instead of taking a long two-week vacation at once, you go on a lot smaller vacations that are two or three days long. This way you can visit a variety of different places and spend more time with your family.
The idea of the micro vacation is to do as much as possible in the smallest amount of time. You plan activities the entire time you are gone. They are exhausting, but they are also fun. My sons and I try to do an annual brocation and we have an absolute blast.
Use personal days
For a lot of workplaces, there can be two types of days off you can have. You get vacation days and you get sick days. More and more workplaces are moving the sick days to personal days. If you are fortunate enough to get personal days then use them to the fullest.
I rarely take a sick day, typically if I do it is to take care of a sick child. By the end of the year, I look and I always have several personal days that I didn’t take. If you can use them, take a day off to just hang out with your family.
Maybe you struggle to find time to spend with your wife. Take a personal day and take her out for the day to dinner and a movie while the kids are at school. Maybe during the summer, you can take a personal day to take your kids fishing.
Just don’t let them go to waste. If you lose them after a certain time don’t feel guilty for using your personal days.
Get them involved in household tasks
One thing every parent can relate to is the pile of laundry that never stops. But we know if we stop to take care of laundry we have to give up time with our kids. Or maybe you are avoiding the pile of dishes in the kitchen.
Why not get your kids to help you. Make it a family activity. Now when they are little it may slow you down getting the task done. But as they get older it will help the chores get done quickly and then you can move on to activities everyone can enjoy.
Next steps to be more present with your family
What action plan can you take to be more present with your family? Just take small steps. Maybe start with just putting your phone on do not disturb mode or turning off the wifi. This will at least remove what has become one of the biggest distractions in our household.
Or have a no TV night and try to get on the floor and play or go outside and play a game with your family. And get everyone involved, try not to let someone skip out because they don’t feel like playing.
Do you have any other ways you can be more present with your family? Let us know below in the comments or let us know on our Facebook page.