Smart Secrets for Establishing Good Family Habits

Finding Quality Time

Why to Do It

Kids and parents thrive when they get uninterrupted time together, but it can be tough in the chaos of daily living. Even though Frank stays at home with her kids, bonds during family dinner, and cuddles at bedtime, she still feels like she's not having enough spontaneous fun with them. Doherty believes this is an impossible burden of guilt: "Modern mothers feel they have to be early childhood educators 24/7," he says. "Children did perfectly well when their fathers were hunters and mothers were gatherers."

How to Do It

  • Lighten your load. Something's got to give, so let it go. "Cleaning is one thing I did instead of spending time with them," Musil says. "So now I have somebody clean my house once a month, and in between I accept that it won't be very clean." Even if you can't pay for help, you can delegate to more-or-less willing parties, like your husband.
  • Keep it simple. The most basic activities often mean the most to kids, so you can bond over a trip to the grocery store: Teach your baby about fruits, or pretend the freezer department is the North Pole with your preschooler. "Quality time is not about manufacturing a project that your kids may or may not want to be involved in," says Dr. Wilkoff. "It's about getting to know what your child likes to do and realizing it may change in five minutes."
  • Protect the time. Set aside an hour when you won't check e-mail or answer the phone. Hosein started a tradition of afternoon teatime with her kids (and VIP stuffed animals). "When you are a stay-at-home parent, there's a lot of 'Go entertain yourselves because I have to do the dishes,'" she says. "This builds playtime into the day for me."

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