Q: Is the quality of time I spend with my children more important than the quantity?
Jim: The truth is that both are essential to a child's development and well-being. In fact, the more involved parents are with their children -- and the word "more" here is used with direct reference to the concept of quantity -- the less likely kids are to have social, emotional or academic problems, use drugs or alcohol, become involved in crime or engage in premarital sex.
It's also worth pointing out that while being intentional with our kids is important, it's not always possible to plan meaningful interactions between parent and child. Such serendipitous moments can't be cooked up and crammed into a few minutes of "quality time" every day. Many critical opportunities to make memories, model values or connect are fleeting and will be gone in the blink of an eye. You can't seize the moment if you're not there to do the seizing. To regularly capture those moments requires spending lots of "quantity" time together.
One of the easiest ways to make this happen is to turn off the TV and disconnect electronic devices when you're home. Instead of watching TV or surfing the Web, read together, play board games, take a walk to a local park or sit and talk.
Finally, avoid the temptation to get your kids overly involved in activities outside the home. Some parents feel pressure to sign their children up for numerous sports teams, music and dance lessons, social clubs and all kinds of community organizations. Don't fall prey to this mindset. Kids don't need a dozen different weekly activities. They need quality and quantity time with loving, involved and committed parents.
Q: Do you have any advice for a new mom who's leaving a high-profile career to devote herself to parenting and managing a home full-time? What can I do to make this change as smooth as possible for my family and me?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Congratulations on this exciting new venture! Molding little lives is a calling of great worth. Having made the courageous decision to go "all in," you should check out these few tips to help ease the transition:
-- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Read as much as you can on child development and the relationship between mothers and children. This is particularly important for women who may have had a difficult childhood or a strained relationship with their own mothers.
-- Talk to other women who have made the transition from full-time work to full-time mom. There are women out there who need you as much as you need them. Get to know them and ask them about their struggles and their successes. You'll be surprised at the wisdom you can glean from the experiences of others.
-- Develop a social support network. Community- and church-based mother-child programs can give stay-at-home moms the support they need. Join a "Mommy and Me" group or a local chapter of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers).
-- Communicate clearly with your spouse about roles and expectations. Husbands of stay-at-home mothers play a crucial role besides that of being the primary breadwinner. Sit down with your husband and discuss how the situation in your home is likely to change once you leave the workplace. Make sure that the two of you are on the same page. And take time to nurture your "couple relationship" and keep the flame of romance alive.
Remember to take things one day at a time. What works for someone else might not work for you. But it's not about perfection -- it's about loving, laughing and learning together as you build your family.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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