By: Robert Garrett
Time and money are two of life’s scarce resources. How a person spends those limited resources provides an interesting window into their real priorities.
I like touring car racing, but if you were to ask me which was my favourite race this year, or who I thought would win the championship, I’d be stuck because I haven’t seen a single race all year. Therefore you’d quite rightly assume that touring car racing isn’t that important to me; if it were, I would have made time for it.
How often do we say that our family, our kids are significant to us? Some might even say the family is their highest priority but does how we spend our time reflect that priority?
In my ‘Role Models’ blog, I shared that one of the common things that sons of great fathers shared about their dads was that they prioritised time with family. From tradies to senior executives, it was obvious to all those around them that family was important because it was reflected in how they spent their time.
In 2014, the average dad spent 35mins/day with his children. The good news is, that’s up from 5mins/day 40 years earlier in 1974. However, if you’re anything like me, my goal has never been to aim for just the ‘average’.
How can fathers make time for their children?
Prioritise family meal time
This means family members all sitting around the table sharing a meal and conversation, with no TV in the background or devices at the table. With advances in mobile technology and flexible working arrangements, it’s easier than ever to be home for dinner with the family, and then catch up on any pressing needs after the kids have gone to bed. The Family Dinner Project summarises the research on the benefits of regular family dinners, including:
- Better academic performance
- Higher self-esteem
- A greater sense of resilience
- Lower risk of substance abuse
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower risk of depression
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
- Lower rates of obesity
Make the most of ‘in-between’ time
Driving our children between different activities is a great opportunity for conversations. In his tips for Powerful Parent-Child Communication, child and family therapist Dr Ron Taffel says that activities, like driving or walking to school, cooking together, encourage kids to open up more because we’re doing something side by side rather than sitting looking at each other (which can sometimes feel intimidating).
Engage around an activity that’s important to your child
Set aside time with your child and let them choose what activity you do together. Most of us can think of a family that always needs to fit in with whatever the parents want to do. Obviously, when kids are young, that’s appropriate, but it means a lot to older children when a parent says, ‘I’ve set aside an hour to hang out with you on Saturday, what would you like to do?’
Engage around an activity that’s important to you
Spending time with our kids don’t just have to be all Matchbox cars, Barbie dolls and Disney movies. In More Like The Father, I talk about how as a kid I would sometimes go to work with my dad, a practice that I continued with our kids. Having an entire day of one-on-one time, giving them insight into what goes on in your world in those hours between when you say goodbye in the morning and return home in the evening can be hugely exciting and eye-opening for a child.
We’re all busy; but if the family is important, we’ll find ways to make sure our family knows it and our diary reflects it.
Article supplied with thanks to More Like the Father.
About the Author: Robert is an Australian author of More Like the Father. Robert and his wife Cath have 3 children; his two great passions are strengthening families and equipping and encouraging fathers.