In order to make family a priority, parents must make time for the family. Time is the most precious gift we can give to our children and to ourselves. Without the gift of time, a family cannot create the safety and support that form the basis for effective relationships, growth and a sense of personal health and wellness. Family time results from the value of putting the family first in our thinking, and is protected by setting boundaries for the world outside the family.
Why is making the family a priority so important?
Current research indicates that resilient children – defined as children who can overcome personal and social stress to achieve a positive outcome, and children who have a strong sense of personal worth, value (self-esteem), and wellness have experienced many of the following:
Stable family environments
- Consistent behavioural expectations and low behavioural problems
- Positive expectations for the future and diminutive learning disorders
- High rates of parental praise, approval and support
- Low rates of parental criticism, agitation and anxiety
- Access to an adult mentor and others willing to develop a child or teens personal health
- Positive expectations from caregivers and healthy boundaries
- Freedom to experience both success and failure
Children who have access to these conditions display a perception of personal competence in solving problems and believe that they can influence their environment to meet their needs. These children typically do not experience anxiety or anxiety disorders, learning disorders, depression symptoms, anger management issues, sleep disorders, anxiety symptoms or drug addiction.
These conditions form the foundation of the personal characters of successful children. When a family defines itself as special and valuable, a priority to protect, it sets the stage for these conditions to develop.
Build Positive Boundaries to the ‘Outside World’ and Create Family Time.
Define a group of shared activities (family rituals) that have special meaning to the members of the family. Perhaps a family craft, activity (such as hiking, exercising or other outside family fun events). Rituals are just one way of establishing boundaries for the family.
The important message is that “time together” is the foundation of a family that has placed priority on the lives of its members. Mental health of the family relies on healthy boundaries, supportive and fun time together. Parents who work on developing fun, family rituals find their children fear less, are less prone to anxiety, agitation, depression, irritability and other mental illnesses.
How to create time:
- Turn the television, computers and cell phones off
- Make the ordinary special (drive your child to school, if possible)
- Have uninterrupted family meals and outings
- Call home from work to have a conversation with your child or teen
- Say “no” to evening meetings and begin to build healthy boundaries
- Reduce the number of after school activities to focus on family time
There is convincing evidence, that regular periods of uninterrupted conversation, if possible during the nurturing of a mealtime, is the most common factor in the lives of high achieving students. Give this “gift” to yourself and your child. Amazing things begin to happen when you develop family rituals, boundaries and child-first thinking. Better decisions are made on behalf of the family as a whole, the family enjoys stress relief, anxiety relief, and overall mental health wellness.
The Joy of Shared Experience
Take a moment to think back to your childhood. Try to remember an early life experience you would describe as positive and joyful. Many of you will find yourself remembering experiences shared with family. These can be the rituals surrounding holidays, or they may simply be routine events given meaning by the presence of others. It is this joy you are trying to capture for your children when you give the gift of time and Make Family A Priority.
The most precious gift we can give our family is time. Time allows a family to create the safety and support necessary to form the basis of an effective relationship. Kids, teens and children thrive on personal attention from mom, dad, grandparents, mentors – enjoy these times – they are precious few and will be remembered for a lifetime.
Credit: Dr. Frank Doberman, a Clinical Psychologist, Certified in School Psychology, and Educational Administration