What your kids want more than anything is to spend more time with you. Even your teenagers.
I can’t point you to any specific studies that prove this (although I’m sure they’re out there) but I can tell you what number of the teens I’ve worked with over the years have said that they wish they cold spend time with their families and their parents. That number would be: all of them. I think it’s safe to assume that this number would hold true for younger kids as well (but I don’t work with kids under the age of 13, so I can’t ask them myself!).
Before you start feeling guilty that you’re not spending enough time with your kids, don’t. It’s ok. Lots of studies (like the ones referenced here, here, and here) have shown that it’s the quality of time we spend with our kids, not the quantity, that really has an impact on our relationship and their future success.
So what this means is that while we might be putting in a lot of “face time” with our children as we drive them to activities and friends’ houses, this quantity time is not really helping them out – especially if as parents we’re anxious and under stress about trying to fit everything in.
Instead, it’s the quality of time that matters, even if that time is short. Fun activities like reading a book together, doing a craft or some baking, or even running errands with a stop for a hot chocolate at the end, are all more meaningful to our children than the racing all over town to get them to extra-curriculars. This little time together creates a bond and an opportunity to connect that isn’t there if we’re trying to do homework in the car between practice and the drive through.
So look for small, easy-to-do ways to spend some one-on-one time with each of your kids. Make it a regular date if that helps, or get into the habit of doing something together each week, like buying groceries, taking Grandma out for lunch, or watching a favourite TV show or sporting event. This is a time to let the conversation flow naturally and see where it takes you. It allows you to learn more about each other and share some of what’s happening in your days. It allows each of you to see the other as a unique person, not just “my mom” or “my child”. And it allows each child to have some time that’s all about him or her. What we all want is to feel important and special to those who matter to us. Creating time to do that with our children is a great investment in our relationships and in our parenting.