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More time we spend with our family, the stronger is the bonding. However, our modern lifestyle leaves us with little or no time for interactions within the family, leave alone quality time. One way out is to dedicate some area in the house where all members can spend quality family time together. Here are some great tips to understand your family and use your outdoor living space for spending time with family on a regular basis. ~ Ed.
Is family time important?
Well, experts and research studies claim it is.
According to an institute for child development, there are many reasons why spending time regularly together is so important:
- Ultimately children model their own decision-making skills and values on their parents so spending quality time together is very important.
- Children feel important and loved.
- The family bond is strengthened the more time spent together
- Communication becomes more open, and the child has a chance to voice their inner thoughts and feelings.
The U.S Department of Health & Human Services also regards family time as of primary importance and has developed a program focusing on reducing emotional and behavioral problems through regular family time.
Yet, in today’s busy world where often both Mom and Dad work long hours, we are in danger of forgetting just how important it is. Families become isolated from each other by lack of quality time shared.
Even when the family is all at home “together,” there are so many distractions to contend with – TV, social media, computer games and household chores- that it becomes impossible to interact beyond 5 minutes.
The Case of My House
As a wife and mother of 2 girls aged 8 and 11, I began to notice this was starting to happen in my home.
Even at her tender age, my 11-year-old aspiring dancer was beginning to spend more and more time alone- watching YouTube dance tutorials mainly, which seems harmless enough I know.
We tried limiting her screen time, but that did not encourage her to spend time with us – she seemed to retract even further through anger and spent more time alone in her room either practicing her dance or reading. I was worried that she was already becoming a little secretive and not the open, fun-loving child that she was a few years prior.
My husband works hard and gets home after the kid’s dinnertime in our house. He was so exhausted when he arrived home that all he wanted to do was flop onto the couch and watch sport or a movie. It left little interaction between any of us. And when we did have more time on the weekends to spend together, it felt a little “alien” and strange to share time together.
I work from home, and although this is great, I often find myself at my desk during the traditional family time in order to catch up where I left off taking the kids to their activities or school pickups, etc.
Why Was Quality Family Time So Important to Me
I had grown up in a house full of family interaction. I still vividly remember talking through problems with my mother and father over dinner, playing board games with the family and laughing hysterically together.
The lack of TV channels made it impossible to watch anything other than what the rest of the family was watching (which was pretty much family friendly back then anyway).
Family time instilled confidence in me and made me feel like I belonged somewhere. They had my back – no matter what happened outside of the home. My children were missing out on this through us parents being too busy to spend time together.
The expert’s concerns and studies confirmed my fears were real.
A Dedicated Area for Family Time
I considered if I could change the routines which had developed in our home.
What if I created a “social oasis” dedicated to quality family time?
In order to entice each family member to leave their isolated activity, I had to consider their interests and needs:
- Exhausted from using his brain all day.
- Came home looking to “switch off.”
- Enjoyed camping and being outside amongst nature.
A space where he could relax, feel comfortable and away from the inside chores and routines.
- Spending too much time alone and to some extent online.
- Only really showed her true self when we were camping or on vacation (after we had spent a large amount of quality time together).
She enjoyed “doing stuff as a family” such as board games, making s’mores whilst camping, singing around a campfire, etc. I felt that encouraging her to do more with the family should lead her to open up more and perhaps rehearse her dance routines with us.
- No issues yet however her eldest sister’s habits worried me as she would perceive them as normal and follow suit.
- Was the most excited about my ideas and my ally to some extent!
Anything that kept an 8-year old happy and occupied! She loves games and any family activity.
Basically, I just wanted the family to be together more to create memories. Somewhere which was a destination – away from my work, household chores, and technology.
An area where I could also relax, read a book, listen to music or meditation would be good.
Which Room To Transform Then
It was glaringly obvious that the space did not exist in the house and needed to be away from the usual “grind” to achieve any of the requirements.
I looked at our back yard which was a little unloved, to say the least. There was a trampoline, an unused swing set, an old patio furniture set which had seen better days all under an old wooden pergola.
I wouldn’t want to go out there in the middle of winter, so I couldn’t even expect that from my family.
I began trawling the internet and magazines for ideas. There were so many designs to consider, and price ranges. We had a small budget which even then I had a hard time convincing the husband to agree to.
Finally, I designed our “social hub” and listed out items to buy:
- A low maintenance outdoor furniture set where we could to eat and chat.
- A fire pit – for the kids to roast marshmallows and where could have a focal point to gather and talk. We love the smell of burning wood. And as we wanted to re-create our special vacation time and camping trips, we opted for an inexpensive fire pit “bowl” which would suit marshmallow roasting.
- Also, we needed to keep the elements out and warmth in as much as possible. We found some fantastic roll up PVC blinds which looked great and zipped up during the cold winter months.
- We utilized an old TV from inside the house and placed it under our pergola.
- I bought some low-priced outdoor speakers and hubby attached them to the wall, so the area had stereo.
- I bought a low priced hammock and positioned it under a tree.
- Husband built a very inexpensive “bar area” using wood which had been lying around in the garage.
Our small budget wasn’t going to stretch to the other fantastic ideas I had put together at this stage (spa, hanging chairs, Weber bbq, outdoor kitchen). However, it was a “work in progress” which could be loved and added to as time went on.
Three months later and what has happened? After a slow transition, our family is spending more quality time together in our new outdoor living space.
As its summer, the weather hasn’t been much of an issue, and we don’t need to roll down the blinds too often. Meals are eaten outside when possible and together with a little later than normal due to the light evenings.
On weekends the fire pit is utilized, and we take it in turns to tell stories around it whilst making s’mores or cooking hot dogs. Our eldest is slowly becoming more outgoing again, and we feel more connected as a family. We talk more, even when we are not in the outdoor space.
The fire pit is a favorite of the kid’s friends. And, we have had a number of young visitors who love our outside retreat making it very popular. When the kids go to bed, the fire pit crackles away as we allow the memorizing flames to relax and soothe us from the busy week.
Sometimes I might spend time alone out there – reading a book on the hammock whilst the kids are still doing their thing inside.
Hubby might watch the game on TV with a neighbour or friend, propped up against the home made bar having a few beers.
We play music whenever we are out there which brings the area to life.
Basically, although the kids do still come and go, the quality time spent together has increased immensely.
I would recommend creating a functional, attractive outdoor space to spend time away from the household chores and usual routines. It has transformed our family and enabled us to reconnect and have a regular “vacation” together where we bond.
Over to you:
Does this sound like something which your family might benefit from? Do you have any other solutions to improving the family time that you can share?