Parents know that they want to be good role models for their children. But if they are running around frantically trying to get everything done, they are telling their kids that the way to get things done is to stress out, and to overschedule, and even to feel guilty about it all. There has to be a better way.
Fortunately, there is. You can start by setting some healthy boundaries between work life and family life, and by not being the kind of parent encapsulated in Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” song, where the narrator never has enough time for his son, only to see his son grow up and never have time for him.
So how do you establish better ways for you and your family? Some life coaching experts say here’s how to get started:
Think about what you want
The first step is to think about – and write down — what it is you hope to accomplish. What things would you like to get done, if you had the time? For example, maybe you would like to go to a weekly yoga class. Or perhaps you would like to take your kids to the movies each week. Maybe you’d like to go on regular camping trips with your family. While you cannot fit everything in, you can do some things, if you prioritize.
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Then talk with your children, if they are old enough to understand, about what they would like to do, both as a family, and on their own. You may have overscheduled them with extracurricular activities for their own good, but all it may be doing is overwhelming them.
Come up with a schedule – for fun
You may not get to leave the office at 5 p.m. every day, and to get to every school activity, but you can schedule to go to some of them. People sometimes think of scheduling as too burdensome, but that’s more due to overscheduling than scheduling itself. If you want to spend time with your family or on nourishing things for yourself, you can do it, but you should plan out the time, so that you don’t get off track and neglect other areas of your life.
Don’t let work life spill over to personal life
Sure, you may be physically present at your daughter’s basketball game or your son’s chess match, but if you sit there checking your work emails every five minutes instead of paying attention, you might as well have stayed at the office. If you are going to make a commitment to spend time with your family, you should give them your full focus, and not a distracted one. So be present in the moment.
Schedule time to do nothing
Some of the best family moments come when you don’t have anything planned, other than spending time with each other. Don’t feel like you have to have constant entertainment in order to give your kids great memories. Just make a point to spend some unscheduled time together. You may create memories to cherish forever.