20 Jul Why it Matters: Spending Quality Time Together as A Family
Warm weather is officially here. School is out for the summer, and many families are seeing more of each other these days. The pandemic has brought with it a myriad of challenges for families and our society at large. As a result, this summer sure looks different than previous summers. Many local pools and beaches are closed down. It’s not as easy to get to the zoo or the park as it once was. Getting together with friends requires a greater effort at this time. Of the many aspects of the pandemic that are outside of our control, I want to highlight one important element that is within our control: spending quality family time together. This blog post is going to lay out the importance of spending quality time with family and easy ways to weave in more of it this summer.
What qualifies as quality family time?
Spending quality time as a family doesn’t need to be complicated.
A parent intuitively knows when they are connected to their child. They also know the detached feeling that comes when their child is distracted by technology and as a result family connection suffers. Quality time activities encompass everything from rough-and-tumble play to storytelling in a screen-free, attractively lit bedroom; artistic and creative projects to fun food and cooking sessions. It’s also found exploring nature and by simply watching a good film together, and talking about it afterward. Play is both simple and complex. There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional, and games with rules-–to name just a few. Because play is an integral part of a child’s learning process, researchers study play’s many aspects. How children learn through play, how outdoor play impacts children’s health, the effects of screen time on play, and the need for recess in the school day.
Child play researcher and author, Dr. Amanda Gummer, explains the benefits of playing together as a family. She shares that during quality family time, families share experiences and create memories. This gives children that sense of belonging they crave. Additionally, you get to pass on shared values and opinions. You get to have discussions about what’s going on in life. Children feel more valued, heard, and they understand their parents more as well.
Why is quality family time important?
Children learn through play as play is a child’s context for learning. Some of the benefits of play include:
- Promoting creativity and imagination, problem-solving and higher IQ scores, and emotional and social development
- Engendering a sense of self and a sense of place, allowing children to recognize both their independence and interdependence
- Fostering cognitive, emotional, and moral development, especially in outdoor settings
- Improving such motor skills as balance, coordination, and agility, critical for growing bodies
As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure that they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development. Playing together as a family, whether it’s tossing a frisbee together outside, or constructing a fort together builds secure attachments between parent and child. Such activities release the brain’s bonding and attachment chemicals, namely opioids and oxytocin, which are also anti-anxiety and anti-aggression molecules. Repeated daily positive connections between parent and child foster what is known as secure attachment, or “resilience.” When children have secure attachments to their parents or guardians, research shows that it leads to better functioning, a stronger immune system, better physiology, higher academic marks, a sense of wellbeing and contentment – and it prevents mental and physical ailments in later life.
How can I incorporate more play into my family’s life?
Some of the best interactions between family members occur during downtime. Just talking, preparing meals together, and working on a hobby or art project, playing sports together, or being fully immersed in child-centered play. Having over-scheduled calendars can be a deterrent to not only your child’s health, but to your relationship with your child as well. Not up for playing with your child today? Simply observing your child play, non-judgmentally, supports your attachment bond with your child.
Here are some ideas to help you weave in more family time together:
- Schedule in family playdates when you know everyone will be home and build the excitement with the younger ones as you look forward to the event
- Pack a picnic, get out a yard game, toss a ball around, or turn on the sprinkler
- Start a board game tournament, where you keep scores each week – this will help you keep to regular play dates and will encourage children to get involved
- Remember your own childhood outdoor experiences of building forts, playing on the beach, sledding in the winter, or playing with other children in the neighborhood. Make sure your children create outdoor memories too
While you’re busy having fun, expect to enjoy a few benefits for yourself that you’ll reap along the way: decreased stress levels, a boost to your mood, physical activity, and improved relationships between your spouse and children as well. To learn more about raising a healthy and independent child, check out this blog post.
Theresa is a Licensed Professional Counselor who earned her master’s degree from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Washington, DC. She has experience working in various levels of care including residential treatment, school, non-profit organization, and outpatient mental health settings. Theresa has clinical experience treating children, teens, adults, and families who struggle with PTSD, mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, self-injurious behaviors, low self-esteem, defiant behavior, impulsivity issues, and psychosis. She emphasizes an integrative and collaborative approach to therapy depending on a client’s unique needs and goals. She utilizes evidenced-based treatments drawing from the Internal Family Systems Model, DBT, CBT, and Mindfulness-based therapies. Theresa believes that change occurs through a caring and trusting therapeutic relationship cultivated by empathy, respect, and understanding. Whether addressing daily life issues or more severe psychological concerns Theresa believes each one of her clients is capable of flourishing in his or her own life. She focuses on increasing self-awareness, facilitating personal growth, and fostering enrichment in relationships with her clients. In her free time Theresa enjoys riding her bike around Chicago, trying new restaurants with friends, and working in the garden.