It’s a digital world and while this may have connected the world, it has also increasingly distanced the people close to us. Many of us now spend time following friends that live thousands of miles away, but in doing so ignore the person sitting right beside us.
A lot of discussion on the effects of time spent online for both adults and children. Researchers are of the opinion that among other things, screen time has significantly reduced the time spent interacting with family. In March 2019, Killian Mullan from Oxford University and Stella Chatzitheochari from the University of Warwick published a paper entitled ‘Changing Times Together? A Time‐Diary Analysis of Family Time in the Digital Age in the United Kingdom’ where they analysed the use of the time of 5,000 children across the UK and compared the data of 2000 with 2015. In 2015, they observed that children used 38% of their family time being hooked onto the screens of their digital devices. The paper explains that while families may sit together for a considerable time over the week, much of that time is spent looking at their own devices, rather than doing something together.
This habit of sitting together, yet not really interacting has been termed as ‘alone-together’, a word which has found its way into the urban dictionary. Instead of being involved in something collaborative or ‘together-together’ as the new slang dictates, children and parents are immersed in their own world, effectively ignoring their surroundings. This has resulted in a sharp decline in social etiquettes and, as a consequence, both parents and children avoid interpersonal interactions. Many of us, including our children, would prefer to spend time on our gadgets rather than interacting with people. Initially breaking this habit of ‘alone-together’ may be challenging but it must be tackled in the near future for the improvement of healthy family and social relationships.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY TIME
It is a known fact that quality family time is paramount in bringing up healthy children with a good sense of their surroundings.
Strengthening Family Bonds: Parents who interact and spend time with their children develop stronger emotional ties. Children understand their parents better when they spend time together and this helps in developing an everlasting bond. The time can be spent doing anything – reading a book, sharing a hobby, watching a movie together or just setting aside time to talk. Investing time is the most important gift that parents can give their children in shaping their early memories.
Improving Self-Esteem: Children look to their parents for affirmation, especially during their young years. When positive affirmation is received from parents, their self-esteem grows. They develop better self-worth and feel appreciated. A simple pat on the back goes a long way in ensuring that children know they are valued and will help greatly in enabling them to grow up to be smart and confident individuals.
Creating Happy Memories: Most of us have happy childhood memories, don’t we? Our children deserve them too. Spending time with the family creates happy memories which your children will remember throughout their lives. Engaging in simple play and social activities develops a feel-good factor among children.
Most importantly, we have seen from our experience that children who spend time with their families are frequently more disciplined and perform well in school. Much of the credit for this goes to the attention they receive from the parents. When children are well looked after, they are happier, which in turn creates a positive effect on their school performance.
IDEAS FOR SPENDING FAMILY TIME
Spending family time is not a new thing. Many parents have enjoyed this when they themselves were young and thus, they know the best ways to bond with their children. Here are a few ideas to spend fun time together, to keep things fresh and fun.
Volunteer: A great way to develop a family bond as well as teach your little ones to do good is to volunteer together. Visit a pet shelter, participate in garbage cleaning drives or simply visit a shelter and donate old clothes together. Your children will develop a habit of contributing to society which they will continue to practise and pass on to the next generation.
Cook the family’s favourite recipe together: Cooking is a life skill which every person should know. It’s also a great way to bond, so you can actually complete two tasks at once by passing down your knowledge to them. At regular intervals, cook your family’s favourite recipe together with your children before moving from simple tasks to complex ones. Ensure that your child creates at least one dish on their own and don’t forget to mention this to the rest of the family as you dine together. This will instil a sense of achievement in your child, teach an important life skill and most importantly, help you to bond with your child.
Turn the mobile phone off: Turn all mobile phones in the family off for a few hours every weekend and spend the time doing something together. You can get involved in simple things such as reading a book aloud, gardening, watching a movie together or even cleaning the house! There is no doubt, taking some time off the mobile phone will help everybody to focus and enjoy the task at hand without constantly being disturbed by messages and phone calls.
Time is precious, especially for working parents. Your children will appreciate the effort put in by you even as you juggle work, house chores and parenting. Spending quality family time will greatly reduce the stress of the day and gives you a break from a hectic day. The formative years of your children’s’ lives will never come back, so make the most out of them, enjoy them and watch each of your children grow to become someone you are proud of.