There is solid evidence that parental involvement plays a central role in children’s academic and social success during their school years and beyond. Few parents, however, can spend as much time as they’d like with their kids. Fortunately, however, you can still have a positive impact on your child’s social and emotional development no matter how much you have on your plate.
8 Tips to Make Time for Kids When You’re Busy
1 | Take advantage of little pieces of time
Evidence suggests that it’s not how much time you hang out with your kids that matters. What actually matters is what you do during those moments. According to a recent study, the amount of time you spend with your kids doesn’t matter if it’s not spent on quality activities. In other words, quality trumps quantity.
Grab little pieces of time to connect. Talk to your kids as you’re waiting in a queue. Talk to them about their environment and explain political events while you’re in the car. Let them tag along when you go shopping so that you get a chance to hang out together. Participate in some of their activities and ask them to participate in yours.
2 | Keeps things incredibly simple
The authors of the book Simplicity Parenting argue that rituals help keep kids grounded. When you establish family routines that revolve around rituals and routines, you free up a considerable amount of time. Using rituals and routines also helps reduce stress and tension. Keeping things simple means learning to focus on the things that matter. It means reducing the clutter and introducing simple routines.
The book Simplicity Parenting advocates simplifying meals by choosing one theme for each day of the week (Monday can be pizza night, Tuesday can be rice night, Wednesday can be soup night, etc.). By adopting simplicity, parents can make life less overwhelming and also provide their families with routines that help reduce stress and anxiety.
3 | Keep routines short and sweet
According to Jane Nelsen who developed the positive discipline approach, we build up our kids when we pay special attention to each individual kid. Nelsen argues that spending some time with your kid every day can lead to dramatic changes, especially among high-energy kids. She proposes a bedtime routine: each night, when putting your kid to bed, ask him to tell you about the “saddest” and “happiest” moment of his day, then share yours.
There are different ways to adopt a short routine with your kids every day:
• Tell me about something that made you mad today
• What was your favorite part of the day
• What made you laugh today?
• What made you smile today?
• What made you sad?
• What made you scream (jump, cry…) today?
4 | Reading is a powerful tool
There is evidence that reading to your kids awakens their curiosity and is likely to turn them into readers even beyond their childhood years. Create a reading culture in your home. Offer books as presents but know how to select appropriate children’s books. Remember that when you display books where kids can see them, they are more likely to reach out for them than if the books are hidden from their view.
Children learn best through observation so let your kids see you read. Discuss what you’re reading about. Don’t like reading books? Read magazines, poetry, newspapers.
You don’t have to read to your kids every day if you don’t have the time but you could also make up stories.
If you don’t have the time to make up stories, simply talking to your kids about your day and theirs helps strengthen the parent-child bond. Talk to your kids about your day. Tell them what you did. Tell them if you were angry or happy and what made you feel that way. If you were angry, tell them how you got over your anger. Talking to our kids about our emotions can teach them to manage anger and anxiety.
Ask your kids about their day. Ask them what they’re reading in school. Ask about their friends. Ask about their favorite games or TV programs. Sing songs.
5 | Put yourself on your priority list
Anyone who’s cranky, tired and stressed out can be a bad parent. You’re more likely to yell or overreact to your kids when your mind is elsewhere. You cannot take care of your kids if you’re not taking care of yourself so put on your oxygen mask first. Learn to calm down to avoid passing on your anxiety to your kids. Find the time to take care of your needs and do something you like every day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Put yourself on your to-do list.
6 | Manage your schedule like a pro
Your to-do list won’t add more hours to your day if you’re spending time on the loudest things rather than on what really matters. You need the list. Don’t waste time responding to the loudest distractions which are often the greatest time stealers. Be honest about the lies keeping you busy to get your time back.
Getting more hours into your day basically comes down to this: you can’t spend your time on everything, and you can’t spend your time with everyone so dare to be unavailable.
7 | Perfection is a myth
There never has been as much pressure for parents to be perfect as there is today. Much of this pressure is linked to how we think others judge our parenting skills.
When you strive for perfection, you’re less satisfied with yourself and experience more stress and anxiety. Remember that the perfect parent is a myth. Don’t be a perfect parent, be a good parent.
8 | Get specific
Life is governed by habits. Everything we do or fail to do comes down to habits. You won’t start spending more time with your kids by saying “I want to spend more time with the kids.” You start spending more times with them by getting specific. “Every night, I will spend 5 minutes with each kid before they sleep.”
So where do you go from here?
1) Get specific about how you can spend time with your kids this week.
Focus on questions such as
• How often?
• For how long?
2) Get specific about spending special with each of your kids. Will you spend the time talking, or reading or playing card games? How much time will you spend with each kid and how often? Consistency counts so choose a schedule you can keep up with.
If you’re struggling with managing your work-life balance, subscribe to my mailing list and get my Free e-book The Seven Lies Keeping You Busy: A Brief Guide on How to Add More Hours to Your Day.
An earlier version of this post was published on parent.co