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All About the Minutes

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Easy Ways to Increase Face Time with Your Kids

Do you spend more time hanging with your kids…or watching Netflix?

I guess that depends if you’re “average” or not.

Look no farther than this new analysis from Streaming Observer which estimates that “on average” people spend more time bingeing shows on Netflix than hanging out with our families. Yep, on average, Netflix users watch 71 minutes of content each day…while we spend less than 40 minutes each day bonding with our family. And that doesn’t even take into consideration all the time we spend doing everything else on our smartphone.

Ouch….

Our excuses for this reality are many. “Life is busy right now.” Or “I don’t even know how to connect with my kids.” And “I’m not even sure my kids want to hang out with me!”

Look, I get it; prioritizing time with our kids has its challenges. Life does get busy at times. And our kids can go through sweeping changes in personality and/or interests during adolescence. But no matter how big the challenges are, our families are worth the investment. On that note, let me share with you some really simple ways to connect with your kids in the coming year… instead of just watching Friends.

Join in on their hobbies.
This is by far the easiest way to get face time with your kids. You don’t have to figure out “what they’re into” because you already know!

For instance, if your son loves basketball, make time to shoot hoops with him at least once per week. (Yes, he’ll probably school you, but the side effect will just be a boost to his self-confidence.) You might also consider taking in a game together if your community affords that opportunity.

Likewise, if your daughter is a music junkie, ask her for recommendations on a new playlist. After she recovers from the initial shock, she’ll happily share her favorite artists. (Side effect here? You’ll learn who she’s listening to for hours each day.) You can also pick out a concert to enjoy together. Whatever it is they like to do, do it with them! Simple as that.

Plan – and discuss – great questions
A month ago, I was driving across the bay with our 12-year-old son and he hit me with a really deep question. It led to at least an hour-long conversation between the two of us as we exchanged thoughts back and forth. Knowing that we’d have a drive on our hands a few days later, I planned an equally challenging question of my own. Since then, he and I have been taking the time to think of engaging questions to ask each other. Here are some simple suggestions to get you going:

  • Which kid in your class would make the best President of the United States…and why?
  • If you could solve one global problem, which one would it be…and how?
  • What was the funniest thing that happened today?

This give-and-take has made us look forward to car rides. Speaking of car rides….

Ban ear buds.
Two weeks ago, as I exited the pickup line at school, I noticed a minivan filled with a mom and three kids. Literally every single person in the vehicle – mom included– had a set of headphones sticking out of their ears. All of them were doing their own thing, independently.

Look, all of us have a certain amount of time we have to spend in a vehicle; that just life in the 21stCentury. But that doesn’t mean we have to retreat to our separate corners without any interaction. We’ve talked about this before. Make the most of car rides by taking time to talk with each other. You can even use that time to have a short Bible study (on the way to or from school). At the very least, take turns letting each other pick a song/video to play. On that note….

Engage in Media Together as a family
Rarely do families watch TV or play Xbox together. Sure, we all get in our fair share of screen time as evidenced in the data above…but we don’t do it together. Mom’s watching Grey’s Anatomy on her tablet. Dad’s in the den yelling at the game. And Junior is scrolling through YouTube videos on his iPhone. Try this: Instead of telling your son to stop playing Fortnite… play it with him. Or try this: invite your kids to pick the next series you watch on Netflix. Watch it together – as in on the same screen and at the same time – and then hit the pause button long enough to talk about it. You can talk about any number of things: the characters, the plot, the problems, and even share predictions about what will happen in future episodes. We even have a Netflix Discussions page to help you do that.

Dinner Dates
There’s a Mexican restaurant near our home that has the audacity to sell tacos for one dollar every Tuesday afternoon. Our 7th grade son, who stands almost 6’ tall, takes that as a weekly challenge to make them regret that decision.

I love Tuesdays for two reasons. As a cheapskate, the bill is NEVER more than 20 bucks, tip included! And as a dad, it gives me a guaranteed time to check in with him on his life. My wife insists that it’s just him and me, and it’s literally on my calendar so that nothing can bump it. Hey, we gotta eat…we might as well do it together.

Your New Year; Your Call
It doesn’t really matter how you choose to fill your new year as long as you do so with your kids. It’s your time and it’s your family. Spend it together any way you see fit! At the parenting workshops I lead, I always ask if we should focus on providing quantity time or quality time with our kids. (I’ll answer that question and others if you want to schedule a parenting seminar at your church or school.) Of all the tasks that fill your calendar – work, hobbies, exercise, chores, etc. – are any of them more important than helping our kids become young men and women of God?

When it comes to our kids, we can make excuses or we can make the time.

Only one will make a difference.

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David R. Smith

David R. Smith

David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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