Busy Families can create #GreatChildhoods

Analogue, classic, clock

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, which means Science of Parenting is thinking about what makes #GreatChildhoods. For me, I fondly remember singing in the car with my mom, standing on the end of the grocery cart, weekends by the lake, and doing lots of puzzles.

As much as we love our kids, sometimes it feels hard in the chaos of life to carve out good quality time with them. I find myself saying things like, “well it will be better after next week” or “we will have more time after we get through [fill in the blank]”. At times I feel like I’m just floating from one day to the next trying to get by. Whether it’s work commitments, transporting kids, trying to squeeze in some exercise, community service commitments, or finding time with your significant other, being a parent in this generation can feel like we are constantly trying to beat the clock. How do we have special moments with our kids when we come home from work exhausted and still have to get supper on the table before bath and bedtime? Does it always have to be big family vacations and long weekend trips to the lake? The answer….

No, you don’t have to have big chunks of time to have special moments with your kids. Though carving out large amounts of time for things like family vacations can be beneficial (check out a #throwback on this topic – Family Vacations Radio Show), great childhoods can be built in the midst of life’s other commitments and responsibilities. We can look for “little moments” or pockets of time throughout the day to just spend a few minutes talking with your child. In fact, a lot of the memories I have of my childhood came in between big commitments. The singing in the car often happened on short trips to and from a traveling sports team game in a neighboring town. The goofing around on the grocery cart happened while my mom picked up our food for the week. Those “weekends at the lake” sometimes were actually only two hours on a Saturday morning before a commitment that night. The puzzles often happened at the table while supper was being made.

As I think about my own parenting, learning about the benefits of little moments is great news! Focusing on creating #GreatChildhoods in the little moments is a saving grace, because at times I’ve felt like I’m being the best parent I could be because of other constraints on my time. So join me as I try to move beyond saying “it will get better after [blank]”, and let’s look for ways to create special moments now! Yes, things are crazy right now at my house, but I can sing songs with my daughter in the car on the ride home. Yes, we still have to make supper tonight, but maybe our school age kiddo can help stir the pot on the stove or we can ask our toddler about the magnet letters on the fridge while we cut up some veggies.

Take a moment right now, and think about a little moment with your child you can have today. Be intentional about making a plan that’s realistic for you, and then decide how to carry it out (get creative if you need to – e.g. video calls or writing notes). All of these moments can add up to #GreatChildhoods!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Meal Planning on Vacation

Summer time meal planning, especially while on vacation is important, if you want to keep costs down and nutritional value high! My family recently returned from a long-distance vacation, and our goal was to enjoy fresh foods all while enjoying the opportunity to be together as a family.

We each took turns helping to prepare the meals. We took turns with set up and clean up too. Meals don’t just happen on vacation, we learned early on, that we could save money, and reduce our food waste by communicating meal plans ahead of time!

We also learned that leaving meal time to chance, was dangerous because we usually consumed too many calories if we ate most of our meals away from home! We discovered how lazy we usually felt following consuming big meals that had large portion sizes. We knew our time was better spent organizing our meals ahead of time, so that we could enjoy the company of family members who traveled near and far to vacation together!

Children too, can help decide food menus! They know the type of foods they like, and will eat, if offered. Eating together offers an opportunity to practice social skills, including table manners and conversation, as well as basic food preparation skills.

Because we had a table full of aunts, uncles, and cousins at meal time, we tried to eliminate distractions by turning off the TV, and putting our mobile phones in a basket on the counter! The conversations were rich with stories of card games played; swimming basketball scores and plans for upcoming hikes to the nearby falls!

Children do better when they have a routine to their lives; and that includes mealtime, even while on vacation. Explore ways individual schedules can be adjusted to allow mealtime together. For more help with recipes, check out the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Tips for Family Vacations from the Talk of Iowa

Listen to our very own Barb Dunn-Swanson share with Iowa Public Radio’s Charity Nebbe some Tips for Family Vacations.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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