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Finding Time to be a Family
Over the past two decades, Americans have become so overworked and overextended that millions of parents struggle to spend a few precious muments with their families. Many parents feel burned out from trying to keep up with their own schedules—and their children’s. “Frantic” and “hectic” are words they often use to descote their lives. Sadly, so is “joyless.”

How did it get to this point? In some families both parents must work to make ends meet. In others, parents work overtime to buy the trappings associated with the so-called “good life.” According to one survey, 82 percent of men now work more than 40 hours a week while 62 percent of women are doing the same.

Add to this heavy workload all the extracurricular activities kids are involved in. As a result, families end up at practices or games during the week instead of at home enjoying dinner and conversation. The weekends are just as fast-paced, with parents shuttling their kids to ballet lessons, music classes and the like.

Amidst the chaos, however, there’s good news: we’re finally seeing a backlash to all this busyness. In growing numbers people are making quality family time a priority—or trying to. In one survey, 80 percent of respondents said they wanted more time to be with their families. An impressive 52 percent would take a pay cut in exchange for a calmer, saner lifestyle.

All over the country different initiatives have emerged that remind us to set aside time for family life. Just this past month, Master Foods USA, the creator of M&Ms, began distributing flyers and posters calling for a “Family Movie Night.” The idea is for families to stay home once a week, cuddle together on the couch and enjoy a film. I like this idea because it’s easy to organize. What’s more, it’s a wonderful way to bond.

Beyond popcorn and a movie, how else can you carve out more family time? Here are some ideas.
  • Place a cap on your children’s extracurricular activities. Stop running yourself and your children ragged running from one activity to another.

  • Start saying no to responsibilities that take you away from your family.

  • On a calendar, write ideas for family fun time each week (Experience has taught me that if you don’t write it down, you’re likely to forget it or to push it aside.) Start off with your own ideas and then encourage your kids to come up with their own.
Remember, nothing makes children feel more special and loved than when their parents spend time playing with them and having fun. If you haven’t made it a point to start coming together as a family on a regular basis, why not start this week? You’ll be glad you did.

Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist