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Have Your Say: How do we make the most of family time? Add to ...

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

The best part of Marc’s day is “bubbles” time. With two-year-old Lily-Rose dodging the other way upon hearing the word “bath,” this dedicated daddy-daughter quality time needed a more enticing name. Once she’s in the tub, it’s all giggles.

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There’s magic in the little moments we spend with our families, whether it’s debriefing about our days or squirting daddy with a rubber duckie. Several Canadian provinces have even designated a Family Day every February to recognize the value of family relationships (and a day off somewhere between New Year’s and Easter) to our well-being and happiness.

Almost all of us say we’d like to spend more time with our family, but how many actually make it happen instead of passively letting work e-mails and household chores nudge up the priority line?

Last year, the World Health Organization ranked Canadians’ parent-teen bonds among the worst of those in 38 developed countries. That’s a real problem, given a recent study led by Canadian psychology professors Debra Pepler and Wendy Craig that found parental relationships are the most influential on teenagers’ health and social development.

Family life educator Judy Arnall recommends blocking off family time and protecting it with the same respect as a meeting with the Prime Minister. Mark the recurrent “meeting” on your calendar, and honour that time by letting the kids pick the activity.

“Kids don’t remember items given or achieved when they grow up,” Arnall told us. “They remember the good times spent with precious moments of family connection.”

So imagine that with a bit of effort, schedule-shifting and creativity, it’s possible to carve out an extra half-hour a day, to make some memories and promote bonding with those we love and live with, but rarely “be” with. The work phone is off, the kids are offline, and the garbage is out. How do we break that awkward silence and have some fun together?

This week’s question: What would you do with 30 minutes more a day with your family?

THE EXPERTS:

Judy Arnall, certified Canadian Family Educator

“Board games and card games (from Uno and Scrabble, to Dungeons and Dragons and Settlers of Catan) require no batteries for fun time spent together. A big jigsaw puzzle can be laid out on a special table so families can work on it as a team.”

Rebecca Brown, founder and publisher of BunchFamily.ca

“I try to connect in small ways every day, rather than reaching to make a ‘big plan for togetherness’ happen. A 10-minute kitchen dance party makes everybody smile, as does a quick dinner-table round of ‘Something funny that happened to me today.’”

Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO of Active Healthy Kids Canada

“Go on walks together to nearby destinations like a park or store. Hold contests to see who can best estimate the amount of time the walk will take, with the winner choosing the family snack or dinner.”

Have your say in the comment section.

 

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