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Making time for family.

Recently, a friend commented to me, "Last night, Hannah was sound asleep before I realized I didn't answer her questions about an upcoming field trip. And breakfast this morning was so busy that she left for school without my listening to her. I am determined that today I will organize myself better to make sure I have time to listen to her."

Most families today find themselves with the problem of not having enough time to spend with their children. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Effective Families (1997), notes that no family is free from this challenge in today's fast-paced society. Covey, a father of nine and grandfather of 27 addresses this problem in his book by sharing his own stories, mistakes and achievements, as well as those of other families. Here, I review his seven basic and universal principles. Think carefully how time plays an important factor in each habit and how you could find or take the time to have a highly effective family.

Habit 1: Be proactive and responsible for making choices.

Habit 2: Have goals in order to shape your future.

Habit 3: Put first things first - have regular family times.

Habit 4: Think win-win to have understanding and cooperation, and to benefit all.

Habit 5: Try to listen and understand another family member's thoughts and feelings.

Habit 6: Respect and value individual differences and build on strengths.

Habit 7: Establish rituals or regular family traditions.

When asked, "When will I have time to do all this?," Covey responds by noting how much time adults and children spend in front of the television and how that habit prevents communication. He says you may talk "love" and "family fun," but if you never plan time together, then your lack of organization gets in the way of your goals.

Time To Plan for Time

The most important step for working parents to take is establishing priorities. Pillsbury (1994) recommends the following ways to focus on organization and communication:

* Hang a large erase-board in the kitchen or hallway near a calendar and / or telephone

* Establish a place for notes from school and check it every day

* Make individual, personal family mailboxes in which to drop notes, phone messages, reminders, invitations, etc.

* Set aside a regular time every day to ask your children about school, tell them about your day and listen in general

* Take time while driving to talk without distractions, or just listen to music together

* Make a bedtime routine that is free from the telephone or other distractions

* Schedule family game nights

* Walk the dog together - or just walk together.

Byalick and Saslow (1993) agree that finding sufficient time is the biggest challenge when juggling work, home and family. They emphasize that the most important part of the three-career couple (work, home and family) is children. They recommend establishing special rituals (secret handshakes, pet names) and creating specific routines (who picks up whom, where do we go after school) to avoid confusion and to build confidence. Plan ahead for time together each day or on the weekend; go to a museum, visit the zoo or ride bikes. Planned routines instill a teamwork attitude in the family.

Time for Awareness of Quality Time

Gilbert (1983) advises us to think about how we can set aside a period each day to concentrate on our children, no matter how overwhelmed or tired we are. Such time does not have to involve a big event. Just sharing chores can make everyone feel closer. Larger amounts of time can be spent together on vacations and days off. Spend smaller amounts of time planning events for those vacations. Quality time can also mean doing nothing except being together quietly.

Lague's (1995) practical definition of quality time is when families are enjoying the same thing at the same time, even if it is just being together at home or in the car. Quality time can be either planned or unplanned. Working parents most likely would benefit from planned time.

Lague, a working mother herself, recommends 10 ways to put quality time into the average weekday evening, including letting an answering machine pick up calls, sending out for pizza or using microwaveable foods. These time-savers enable us to set our priorities on relaxing with our families. Spend the time working on a jigsaw puzzle, playing cards or going out for ice cream. Lague says, "In quality time, be it with the individual or with a group, it is the intensity of the attention, the understanding, the quality of the conversation, and the laughter that count, not the banality of the chore or the glamour of the adventure."

Time To Have Two-Way Communication

Communication with children requires talking, listening, smiling and paying attention (Brazelton, 1984; Ginott, 1969; Goldman, 1993; Holt, 1989). To have a real conversation you must: be there; be quiet at times; listen with your voice, face and body; ask open-ended questions; and provide a role model of storytelling (Levy, 1997).

Faber and Mazlish (1983) wrote a book for those parents who want to learn about how to talk so their kids would listen, and how to listen so that their kids would talk. They provide examples, suggestions and ideas on how to:

* listen to and understand your child's concerns

* have cooperation without nagging

* deal with emotions

* find alternatives to punishment

* help your child attain a positive self image.

They focus on the importance of communication and bring out new principles and skills to put into practice, as well as new patterns to learn and old patterns to unlearn.

Remember that parents do make a difference in their child's academic achievement. Taking time to listen to your child's conversation about school and to praise their achievements will positively affect their own attitudes toward school (Bernard, 1997).

Time for Family Moments

Some of the most treasured times for children might last only a few minutes. O'Neal (1995) offers 105 ways to make the most out of busy days, such as writing a message on a mirror with shaving cream and tucking a "Good luck on your test!" note into a lunchbox or bookbag. The goal is to seize moments during busy days to celebrate and enjoy being together. The Bennetts (1994) offer 365 ways to reclaim the family dinner hour as a time to spend together. They provide numerous conversational topics.

Your library or bookstore can be a wonderful place to spend time together. Browsing through the shelves together and consulting one another about a choice can lead to great discussions. There are many resources that provide great ideas for other things to do together as a family (see References and Resources).

Time To Reflect

When I retired last year, after 27 years in public education as a working mother with three sons, my youngest son (now 40) got up during the program and read the following: "Love is a special way of feeling. . . . It is the good way we feel when we talk to someone and they want to listen and don't tell us to go away and be quiet" (Anglund, 1988). He told me later that we had first read that book when he was 5 and that it said everything about the times we spent together. I hope you will take the time to realize how important the time you spend with your children is and then take the time to explore new ways to spend precious minutes or hours with them.

References and Resources

Anglund, J. W. (1988). Love is a special way of feeling. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co.

Bennett, S., & Bennett, R. (1994). Table talk! Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, Inc.

Berg, E. (1992). Family traditions: Celebrations for holidays and every day. New York: Reader's Digest Association.

Bernard, M. E. (1997). You can do it! New York: Warner Books.

Brazelton, T. B. (1984). To listen to a child. New York: Addison-Wesley.

Bravo, E. (1995). The job/family challenge. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Byalick, M., & Saslow, L. (1993). The three career couple . . . her job, his job and their job together - mastering the fine art of juggling work, home and family. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.

Chaback, E., & Fortunato, P. (1981). The official kids' survival kit . . . how to do things on your own. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.

Covey, S. R. (1997). The 7 habits of highly effective families. New York: Golden Books.

DeFrancis, B. (1994). The parents' resource almanac. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, Inc.

Faber, A., & Mazlish, E. (1983). How to ask so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk. New York: Avon Books.

Gilbert, S. (1983). By yourself New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.

Ginott, H. G. (1969). Between parent & teenager. New York: Avon Books.

Goldman, K. W. (1993). My mother worked and I turned out OK. New York: Villard Books.

Holt, H.J. (1989). Learning all the time. New York: Addison-Wesley.

Kennedy, M. (1994). 100 things you can do to keep your family together. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.

Kleeberg, I. C. (1985). Latch-key kid. New York: Franklin Watts.

Kyte, K. S. (1983). In charge - a complete handbook for kids with working parents. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Lague, L. (1995). The working mom's book of hints, tips, and everday wisdom. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.

Levy, C. W. (1997, November 1). A penny for your thoughts. Woman's Day, 72, 78.

Loft, L., & Intner, R. (1995). The family that works together. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing.

Matthews, S., & Nikuradse, T. (1993). Dear dad, thank you for being mine. New York: Bantam Books.

O'Neal, D. T. (1995). Family fun - 105 easy ways. Nashville, TN: Dimensions for Living.

Peters, J. K. (1997). When mothers work. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

Pillsbury, L. G. (1994). Survival tips for working morns: 297 real tips from real moms. Los Angeles: Perspective Publishing.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Newman, Rita
Publication:Childhood Education
Date:Mar 22, 1998
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