The gift of time together

The holidays are almost upon us (Hooray!). One of the things that naturally happens during an extended break is that we spend more time than usual with our children, either doing something together or just in each other’s space.

This gift of time can be such a blessing – if everyone is well rested, in a good mood and well entertained, then it can be a wonderful opportunity to build happy memories and have fun. The edges often fray, however, when you add in hyper-excitement, changes to routine, long car trips, competing priorities and boredom. You would have to be an unusual family indeed if you didn’t have at least one spat with your children over the holiday break.

There is a lot of research into what makes for successful relationships, and I am pleased to tell you that it is NOT the absence of disagreements that makes a relationship healthy and fulfilling. What is important is a mix of positive AND negative interactions. The optimal ratio sits somewhere around five positives for every one negative. The school holidays are the perfect opportunity to evaluate what is going on in your relationships with your children, and try out doing something different if you would like to improve things.

Try keeping a mental tally of interactions with your children for one hour during an “at home” day over the holidays. What sort of ratio of positives to negatives do you come up with? If you find you’re ticking more negative boxes than you hoped, here are some things to try:

  • Think of a topic that you child is interested in, and ask them to tell you about it.
  • Praise your child genuinely for things they do.
  • Play a game and allow yourself to have fun.
  • Ask for your child’s opinion on a small, appropriate decision.
  • Evaluate whether there are external things that are negatively influencing the way you relate to your child – Are you stressed or under slept? Are you expecting too much of yourself or your kids?
  • Prevent negative interactions by pre warning your child of your expectations and needs, and make sure they know how to do what you want them to ahead of time.
  • Apologise if you need to, and ask them to help you try something new to make things work for everyone in the family.

I can’t promise these strategies will make your child perfect, obedient and agreeable, or turn you into the parent of the year either. But in time, if you invest in building on top of your positive start with your children, you will reap the rewards.

All the best!