Make Time for Family: 4 Tips from Dr. Susan Bartell

As the end of the school year approaches, life becomes even more hectic than usual, consumed by final projects, recitals, awards ceremonies, and graduations. Everyone runs in different directions, and it can be challenging to find time to connect as a family. Family time is, however, even more important during busy, stressful periods. Moments of connection afford you the chance to see how your child is weathering the end-of-year rush and (then also) offer support and other solutions as needed. So, when there’s barely a moment to decorate cupcakes for the end-of year-party…how do you create these all-important family moments? Yes, it can be tough, but here are four simple suggestions that will make it easier to sneak in family time:

family road trip; kids in the car

Car rides are opportune times for bonding with your older kids, advises Dr. Bartell – without eye contact or pressure, teens often feel comfortable opening up.


Family time doesn’t have to mean everyone together at the same time.

With so much to get done, it may not be possible for all family members to spend regular time together as you might at other times of the year. Rather, you may need to “divide and conquer” during this hectic period. If one child is at an activity, doing homework, or even taking a shower, it’s an opportunity to spend time with your other child or children. If you have only one child and he is occupied, you might want to reconnect with your partner for a few minutes!

Set realistic expectations.

For example, expecting to find 30 minutes of alone time with each of your kids is probably not practical. Setting this as a goal will make you feel like a failure, and your child feel let down. Instead, aim for 10 minutes with each child at bedtime. The key is to focus fully on your child – no cell phone, TV, or other interruptions. Try talking, playing a quick card game, or just snuggling. At bedtime, many children open up to discuss concerns and worries, so keep an ear open. 


It becomes easier to find family time if you are also accomplishing your list of tasks. Taking your kids to the supermarket takes care of the groceries, and also creates the chance for chatting while you shop; cooking dinner together is a good opportunity to talk about high and low points of the school day; and car rides are the time that tweens and teens are most likely to open up about their worries – all you need to do is listen. Look for multitasking moments and you’ll be surprised at how much more family time you can find.

Limit social tech time.

You’d be surprised at how much potential family time is taken up by TV, computers, and video games. So, for at least some of your family’s down time, opt for activities that require you to look at each other, rather than at a screen. Board games, charades, and 20 questions are all excellent substitutes for screen time. Now that the great weather has arrived, you should bond outdoors, too: Clean the car, practice for the big game, or plant some spring flowers – each of these will remind you about the value of family time.


Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask.



See more tips from Dr. Bartell:
How to Schedule Your Child’s Time
How to Teach Your Child Not to Give Up