Written By: Ruth Dearing
Everyone is so busy these days, perhaps parents most of all. We constantly seem to be racing here, there and everywhere on a crazy mission to make ends meet, manage a home, look after the family, stay in touch with our friends and family, and more. Technology was supposed to make our lives easier and more efficient, but most of us would agree that although there are still 24 hours in a day, we seem to have less time now than ever!
It’s sad when it takes a natural disaster for us to slow down, but that’s often the reality of the 21st century. It was certainly the reality for my family and many other locals who experienced a massive storm a couple of years ago.
The Catalyst For Our Time Spent As A Family
The storm that hit us was no ordinary storm, and I doubt any of us will forget how we were affected by it back in April 2015. Lots of trees fell down and many roads were blocked. We lost power as well as phone lines. Plenty of homes suffered significant damage, with roofs falling in and fences falling down.
The rain teamed down for a long time, leaving us searching in darkness for candles and torches (it struck at about 6pm on a cool Autumn evening, so it was already dark outside). Our home required power for hot water, so the lack of power meant no baths or showers. No power also meant no charging up of electronic devices; once they ran out of battery power that was it.
What made this circumstance particularly unusual, more so than the lack of power, was the lack of phone lines along with the blocked roads. It effectively stranded us in our own home, with no means of communication with the outside world. There was no TV, no radio and no computers – which for me meant no capacity to do my work.
Our initial response was not a very happy one as you can imagine! I was frustrated that I couldn’t work, that we had no light, and that we couldn’t have a shower. Thankfully we had a gas cook-top as opposed to electric, but it was difficult to see what I was cooking! I was also worried about losing the food in our fridge and freezer, not knowing how long it would take to get our power back.
As far as the kids went, they were initially very unhappy to realize they couldn’t recharge their iPad or DS – what were they supposed to do? Suddenly the usual challenge of minimizing their screen time was going to be easy for me!
That night was an early one for all of us: what else could we do? We naively hoped we could resume our normal lives back the next day.
The Next Day
Nothing much had changed by the next morning. Without power and phone lines, the local schools were closed. So now both the kids (aged 4 and 7 at the time) and I were left with nothing to do during the day.
It soon hit me that this was completely out of our control, so worrying or stressing about it was a pointless waste of energy. We didn’t know how long we’d be in this situation for, so we decided the only thing to do was make the best of a bad situation.
When you’re not able to do the things you normally do out of habit, you’re forced to think outside the square. We were now forced into uninterrupted quality time together as a family – and lots of it!
How We Spent Our Quality Time Together
Our power was out for two days, making us one of the lucky ones – others lost power for weeks! During that time my children and I came up with lots of simple ways to have fun together.
Seven Quality Family Time Ideas!
Family Time Idea #1
We used some sheets, blankets and chairs to set up a great tent in our lounge room. Somehow when you’re hiding out in a tent, everything you do seems like so much more fun!
Family Time Idea #2
Under the tent we played simple card games like Snap, Go Fish and Uno. Of course if your children are older you can play more complex games like rummy, eights and sevens. And if you want to make it extra fun with play money or pretend chips, you can play blackjack and/or poker.
Family Time Idea #3
Thankfully both of my children share a love of reading, and we usually read together before bedtime. During this time of course there was no need to wait until the evening! We read lots of storybooks together – Dr Seuss got a workout – as well as more educational books, like “My First Encyclopedia”.
Family Time Idea #4
We played talking games, where we had to make up a story together with each person contributing a sentence at a time. Over time we changed it so we all just contributed one word at a time. As you can probably imagine with a 4 and 7 year old boy, the stories soon became ridiculous and made no sense at all. The laughter that resulted was both infectious and priceless.
Family Time Idea #5
Outside of the tent we did a puzzle, something we rarely have time to do. I’ve always loved doing puzzles, it’s the sort of thing you can really get stuck into, and it can be hard to tear yourself away from it once you start. Turns out my youngest son has inherited my love of puzzles, we had a ball putting all the pieces together.
Family Time Idea #6
We also cracked open the board games we hardly ever played – you know, those ones that so often get forgotten in favor of computer games. We had all the time we needed to play Monopoly, as well as our Thunderbirds board game. Now that my children are older we play boggle as well as rummykub (rummykub is like rummy with cards, only you use tiles instead).
Family Time Idea #7
This one sounds like such a basic concept – probably because it is. Aside from playing games, the opportunity we had to simply listen and really communicate with each other was amazing.
Without the usual distractions (phones ringing, work commitments etc) we shared some truly insightful conversations. I learned some things about my children that I wasn’t aware of before. They were very willing to open up to me fully, since they knew they had my undivided attention.
I was also able to spend one on one time with each of my boys, where each was free to chat with me about things they didn’t necessarily want their brother to know about. What a fantastic opportunity to bond together with my children!
The Importance Of Communication
There’s no doubt in my mind that the quality of communication you have with your children is the most important aspect of parenting. There are just so many benefits to improving the quality of communication you have with your children. How can you help guide them to be resilient through life if they don’t feel like they can confide in you?
What Was The Difference?
I think it’s important to clarify here that I’ve always tried to spend quality time with my family; I’ve never considered myself lazy, or a ‘bad mum’ as such (nor would anyone else I know describe me as that). Like most parents I love my children to bits and would do anything for them. So it’s not as if I’d never spent any time with them before this storm.
The difference after the storm though was the lack of interruptions. Being able to fully focus 100% on the activities we were doing, and on what my children were saying (as opposed to half listening to them and half thinking about all the other things I could be doing) was a HUGE distinction. After all, it’s not as if your children don’t know if you’re not fully listening to them, they can pick this up instinctively at a very young age.
It Didn’t Last
As I mentioned earlier, we lost power for two days. Interestingly, after an initial celebration when our lights turned back on, it didn’t take long for the stress levels to rise. Although our phones still didn’t work for another few days, the pressure to catch up on lost time weighed heavily on my shoulders. Suddenly there were a million things to do all at once – or so it seemed. And the incredible quality time we had enjoyed had come to an end.
My Challenge – For Me And For You
After these two days I had to ask myself the obvious question: why wait for disaster to strike before dedicating quality time with your children? So here’s my challenge to you, should you choose to accept it:
Choose one Sunday a month and turn off all phones and other electronic devices in your home (ie computers, ipads, tablets etc). Dedicate the day to quality fun time with your children, and devote 100% of your attention to them. If you can’t manage it for a whole day, just do it for a few hours. In terms of the relationship you have with your children, who grow up so quickly after all, this would have to be one of the most valuable things you can ever do.
The Proven Benefits of Quality Family Time
There were so many benefits that came from this experience; I truly enjoyed every minute of time I spent with my children as much as they seemed to enjoy the time and attention they received with me.
If you’re the sort of person who likes scientific proof, it’s worth reading the Michigan Family Review’s report titled “Wrinkles in Parental Time with Children: Work, Family Structure, and Gender”.
According to this report, research clearly shows that more quality time between parents and children:
- leads to fewer behavioral problems,
- is positively linked with better academic performance, and
- provides opportunities for children’s social, cognitive, and emotional development
Personally, the two days we experienced after the storm are all the evidence I need to prove that the benefits of scheduling quality family time ideas with your children are well worth the investment of time. But please don’t take my word for it – take me up on the monthly Sunday challenge and let me know how you go!
Ruth Dearing is a #1 international best selling author, mother of two, public speaker, Peaceful Digital Parenting Expert, and a black belt in karate. She is passionate about helping parents keep their children safe online. You can find Ruth at her website Children and Technology or follow her on Facebook and Twitter!