We all know family time is important. Everyone struggles to find a balance in life between work and home, personal time and couple time, and time with the kids. There’s no one that is immune from this struggle! Most of us respond by trying to increase the quantity of family time. But what we would all benefit most from is ensuring that the time we spend together is quality family time.
There are lots of ways to increase the quality of our family time. One way is to find engaging activities to do together. Another is to use our time together to connect with others through special projects. The best way is to remove what distracts us from our family when we should be engaging with them.
The number one culprit…our cell phones.
The importance of engaging in quality family time
There are so many reasons it’s critical to spend quality family time together. It’s not just enough that we’re in the room. We must be present!
We may not always realize it but our kids and spouses know when we’re not fully engaging. They see us scrolling through our phones and feel the difference in our interaction.
It’s something we all experience in our daily life, not just at home. It seems to happen whenever people gather together. Everyone stares at their phones more than speaking with each other.
Friends who are meeting for lunch.
Groups who are out for the evening together.
Family members gathered at holidays.
I’m sure it’s happened to you before plenty of times. You get together with someone you haven’t seen in a while, hoping to connect. Instead, they’re giving short, mindless answers as they transfer their focus from you back to their phone. Does that ever feel good?
Absolutely not! It makes us feel disconnected from the people we’re with. Even when they are the people we should feel closest to.
I love being connected and finding answers to questions immediately as much as anyone. Yet, I can also see how cell phones have become one of the biggest distractions in our lives. As such, they have created a wedge in our families. They’ve drastically reduced the amount of quality family time we have because we just don’t focus on people as much anymore.
Here are a few reasons to put down the phones and not only create time for family but also opportunity for quality family time.
- It makes family members feel important and loved. When we’re staring at our phones more than listening to our loved ones, it creates distance. It conveys to kids a sense that the phone is more interesting or important than anything else in that moment…including them.
- Quality family time creates a feeling of closeness among family members. When you’re actively engaging with your family, there is more discussion, play, and interaction in general. It lets you also pick up on visual cues like body language that may clue you into how someone is feeling that you may have otherwise missed.
- Along with closeness, it provides a time and place for open conversation. Open conversation allows everyone to know each other better as they find out things that may not have ever come up, such as on game night why their favorite Monopoly piece is the hat. It also helps to resolve issues or deal with problems or emotions that may not have been brought up otherwise.
- It reduces the likelihood of tantrums and meltdowns for kids since many times those are driven by a desire for additional attention. If kids are getting enough healthy, engaging attention, they won’t need to seek out negative attention.
- it instills in children the lifelong idea that family is the center of life and it cannot suffer at the expense of everything else, thus creating children who will grow to be engaged and devoted parents and spouses.
How does it help?
So how does putting down our phone help with all of this? It’s really simple actually.
We’re so used to our phones as part of our lives now that we don’t really realize what they’re stopping us from doing. And the two main things their hindering are our ability to focus and our ability to create deep memories.
By simply increasing your focus on your family by removing your focus from your phone, you are more able to participate fully in the activity and engage with family. There will ultimately be more conversation and more fun.
Since you are fully engaged, the memory will be deeper and more vivid not only for you but for your children. You won’t just hear what they say. You’ll also see their expression, see the reaction of siblings or your spouse, and be able to have a full emotional response yourself. This creates rich enjoyment and a deeper connection which will be retained creating a stronger memory.
How to create quality family time
It’s not difficult to do this in practice. It does, however, require effort. When something is such an ingrained habit, it takes effort to make a change. The good news is it’s totally doable and simple to switch that habit!
First, set aside specific time devoted for a family activity. The activity itself isn’t really important. Just choose something everyone enjoys. It can be something requiring concentration like game night or something requiring you to be physical like a trip to the playground. It can even be something laid back like watching a movie or a favorite TV show.
What you’re doing doesn’t have to be super engaging physically or mentally. It’s the people you want to connect with, not necessarily the activity.
Then, eliminate the option of reaching for the phone. Decide on a plan for what to do with the cell phones during that time. Maybe you can plug them into their chargers in another room. If you’re going out, leave them in the house. Alternatively, just turn them off completely.
Get them out of your hands, out of your reach, and make it an inconvenience. If they’re within earshot, silence them. If you must, you can turn them on do not disturb so that if there is a potential emergency, you can still be reached. But really consider how long they’ll be off and the likelihood of an emergency in that time.
Then, avoid the temptation to get them! If you like to take photos and are doing something you know you might want to photograph, bring a regular camera. You’re far less likely to spend the entire trip behind the lens than behind the screen.
If something comes up you want to look up or find out, do it after quality family time ends. There’s no reason you can’t spend extra family time doing a little research after your activity.
Finally, enjoy your family! The best step of all.
I know that saying “put down your phone” is pretty simplistic. And to some, it might even seem like I’m out of touch. But it really is such a simple way to get back to the basics of enjoying quality family time.
We’re always searching for difficult solutions to simple problems. We don’t necessarily need to find more time or create complex activities. And vacations are great but that’s not the answer either.
We can achieve quality family time, regularly, right at home. We just have to make some decisions that didn’t need to be made by our grandparents when they were parents. One of those is making the decision to choose to put down our phones.
Life is happening to us and around us. Engage with it. Enjoy it. Live it! Your families will thank you.