Quality family time is probably the furthest thing from your mind in the late afternoon bustle of helping children with homework, attending soccer practice, and getting dinner on the table.
But late afternoons are the best connection time of the day if you plan for it. Really. Trust me on this one.
Each person in your family arrives home in the late afternoon with good and bad memories of the day. Emotions can bubble over as members of the family intermingle.
Having a plan for quality family time provides a safe way for each person to relax and put their day into perspective.
And it isn’t just kids I’m talking about. As our kids grow up and leave home, I find that Tom and I continue to need quality family time, even if it is just between the two of us. We call it our “being time”—time to be together and unwind before preparing dinner or evening activities take over.
So here are some tips for keeping your sanity during the late afternoon chaos of everyday life. Choose the ones that work best for your family.
Quality family time means saying “no”
1. How many times have you said “yes” to so many activities for yourself and your kids that the family is going in ten different directions? Good activities can rob you of quality family time. Reevaluate your family’s commitments and learn to say “no.” Your family will be healthier for it.
Quality family time for “being”
2. Provide a light, healthy snack of fruits, veggies, or cheese when you and your kids get home from school and work. Use this time to sit and hear about their day.
After 15 minutes or so of reconnecting, let the kids go off to play or study so you can prepare dinner.
3. Are your kids grown and gone? Grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine and enjoy 30 minutes of listening to your favorite music and discussing the good things of the day with your spouse. Then cook dinner.
4. In her book, The Book of New Family Traditions, Meg Cox shares how Kathleen O’Connell Chesto “suggests hugging the kids when they return from school and saying this simple prayer: ‘Lord, help us to be present to you in one another. Amen.’”
That sounds to me like a calming ritual at the end of a long school day!
Quality family time with sports
5. Pack a picnic dinner for your family to enjoy at the park after soccer practice. It makes for a nice outing, and Mom doesn’t have to think about dinner when she gets home.
If you have grandkids playing soccer, give Mom a break and bring the picnic dinner.
6. One mother I know sets the dinner table before leaving for soccer and uses her crock pot to have dinner ready when the family arrives home.
Quality family time for homework
7. Set up a homework center at the kitchen table, and let the kids work on schoolwork as you prepare dinner.
You’re available to help with questions, and they are near you as dinner is cooked.
8. Schedule time after completing chores and homework to enjoy the TV, Internet, or video games. Set a specific time limit for such activities.
Quality family time for dinner preparation
9. Daily designate 15 minutes as “family clean up time” in the late afternoon. Everyone helps straighten up the house before cooking dinner and homework is tackled.
Make a game of it with smaller children: “Let’s see how many toys you can put in the toy basket by the time we finish singing __________________?” (Insert your child’s favorite song.)
10. Use dinner preparation as family time by involving everyone. Small children like to set the table, wash vegetables, and stir things.
Kids learn to cook by working with Mom and eventually can make a salad or some part of the meal totally on their own.
Your turn: What do you do for quality family time in the late afternoon? I love to hear your ideas in the comment section below.
Well, I think I’ll grab that cup of tea I mentioned earlier and relax with Pandora for a few minutes. It is good to be home, Susan
“Jesus likes it when we share.” -Adelaide, age 3: Pass this along to everybody and their brother. OK, maybe not everybody’s brother, but you know . . . all of your friends would be nice.