What do you do when your kids want to spend time with you, do family activities together but you’re not really feeling it?
Isn’t a parent supposed to want to spend time with their kids, making lovely happy family time memories? If you don’t want to spend the time with them, does it mean you’re a bad parent? Nope, furtherest from the truth… it means you’re human!
We all know that quality time with our kids is important for their development. It helps support the parent-child attachment which strengthens their self-esteem, provides a safe base for development and creates positive feelings for their family and their parents. Family time enjoying pleasurable activities helps us as parents know that we’re supporting our kids and providing a lifetime of happy memories.
But… Some days we’re just not up to it. We all have days when we’re stressed, tired and overwhelmed. The kids are annoying us and the last place we want to be is with them. If we could run away from them we could, but we can’t. How do we cope with these days and balance the quality time with our kids we know they need, with our desire to just be left alone?
First we have to decrease our expectations. There is no such thing as the perfect parent! There’s no such thing as the perfect family quality time either. When we’re organising time with our kids, we can make it grand, highly involved, paid activities, something that needs us to be actively involved. Or we can make it a little less stressful with a trip to the park when your kids can play and you can sit on a bench and enjoy delighting in watching them (or even simply flicking through Instagram or Facebook – no guilt here, we’ve all done it).
Decreasing our expectations happens when we are the type of parent we want to be. When we don’t get sucked into what we “should” be doing as a parent because of what we see on social media. It’s easy as a parent to be sucked into feeling we should be doing what others are doing. This is the double edged sword of social media. We spend time connecting because at times, parenthood, especially for mums, can be the loneliest job out there. At the same time it can make us feel inadequate.
When it’s what we want to be, it decreases our resistance to doing it in the first place and makes us more likely to want to spend that quality time with our kids. Not many people out there are ready and willing to do something that they really don’t feel like doing.
Defining what family time means for you and your kids is not just about what the activity is, but also how often it happens. For some families it might be realistic to do it every week, or every day. For others maybe it’s once a month. Remember that it is always quality over quantity. Trying to fit in huge events that take lots of time when you don’t want to be spending lots of time with your kids on a particular day, will just increase your stress and make you feel worse and more guilty
So, what if you’ve done all that? You have realistic expectations and defined the quality time you want to have with your kids. But your kids have asked to do something, but you’re still not feeling it. No motivation to do something and you just want to hide?
1. Get Specific
When the kids call out to you and say that they’re bored and want to do something, first let’s get specific! Sit down with your kids, your partner or husband and define exactly what you want to do together. Why does this help? Gaining clarity on what you may be planning to do together helps make family adventures a little more smooth sailing and less stressful. Decreasing stress makes it more fun for everyone involved, which after all is the purpose of family time! When you’re feeling less stressed about how it will all go, you are more likely to look forward to the event and feel less resistance.
Also don’t forget to go back and think about what YOU want to be doing. What can you realistically achieve with your time together. Avoid putting “shoulds” on it.
2. Have A Time Limit
When we don’t want to be doing something we often repeatedly think to ourselves “When will this be over?”. We can be in the habit of clock watching. The problem that can occur with this? Our kids can pick up on our uncomfortableness. If they pick up on it regularly enough however, they may eventually choose not to come to us to play or connect. Few parents ever want that to happen.
Best way to get over this? Have a time limit. Booking in family time to the calendar, may sound boring but if it helps us feel more motivated and enjoy quality time more, then it’s worth it. If it’s time with the kids that has just popped up as part of the day, e.g. playing a game together and you’re thinking about everything else you have to do, then set a timer. Setting a timer reduces the clock-watching and can help up be 100% focused on the time with our children.
3. Make A Plan For You!
If we feel overwhelmed, drained and resentful by the demands of our family to spend time with them, then it can often happen because we’re not looking after ourselves enough.
Self-care as a parent is an essential part of parenting. We cannot parent from an empty cup. It can seem impossible to fit into our daily routine but it needs to be something that we make time for.
On the days that we plan something to do with our kids and we’re not feeling very enthusiastic about it, planning something for us after, even something very simple, helps us know that after we’ve got something positive to look forward to.
It can even be helpful to incorporate your child in your self-care. Multi-task! Have the quality time with your child while you do something that you enjoy as well. Your child won’t know that your main intention is filling your own cup, but they will know that you have invited them in to join you in doing something. That’s what creates the happy memories, even when we’re not 100% feeling it.
4. Don’t Do It!
This might be controversial but if you’re really not into spending time with your kids, don’t do it. Forced family time isn’t a positive experience. No child wants to be with their parents when they know they don’t want to be with them. This doesn’t crease happy memories, only feelings of negativity and resentment.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. We always must forgive ourselves when we don’t want to spend time with our kids. When we say no. If we give ourselves a break when we’re not motivated and excited for family time, we’ll often find that this decreased stress can help us feel more positive about quality family time and motivate us to spend time with our kids.
If we don’t like the type of parent we are, constantly feeling stressed and not looking after ourselves then it’s time to address that first. Once we have filled up our cup, then we can look at spending more time with our kids and creating those happy family memories of connection that most parents want to have with their children.
We can be filled with guilt when we go through a period of not wanting to spend time with our children. But, we’re only human. The stress of life and of parenting can mean that we can have some rocky times. If we take a mindset of self-forgiveness for when we have those times and put together a plan to ride the rollercoaster then it often resolves quicker than when we feel guilty.
If you like to chat about how you are feeling as a parent, don’t hesitate to get in contact. Parenting Coaching can be a wonderful way to support the relationship we have with our children, address how we are feeling and put together a practical strategy to help our children with their behaviour.