Tips for Family Time in an Executive’s Schedule

Making more family time in an executive’s busy schedule is a conscious decision. In my work with executives I have noticed how many of them leave it up to their wives to raise the children. Time becomes a real issue the higher up in the company the executive is. Several of them commented to me that they wished they had made time to be more involved with their children when they were young. They are feeling somewhat distant from their children.

So why is family time important? We need to establish a connection with our children when they are small already. Through making time with them we establish a relationship of trust, a place they can come back to when they need advice or support. Children learn a whole variety of skills through family time that will help them survive and thrive in life. These skills are tangible as well as intangible ones: e.g. how to interact with others, how to manage money, how to take responsibility, being adaptable, being positive, etc.

Deep down every one of us has a need to be validated and to know we are appreciated for the person we are. So making time with your child will highlight to them that they are important in your life and that they matter!

Here are some tips on family time with your children.

Babies need to feel safe and loved. Make time to talk to them (not baby talk), to hold them and point out objects in their environment. When you are at home in the evenings spend 5 -10 minutes talking to them and walking around showing them things, listening to restful music etc. Being fully present for a short period of time with physical closeness, ensures good bonding.

Pre-schoolers are curious, like sponges. They want to explore through touching, observing, smelling and tasting. So spend time with them in nature showing them aspects in the garden, take them to parks. Let them feel textures, smell flowers. Observe their reactions. Talk to them about what they notice. During the week take 5-10 minutes (if their schedule falls in with yours) to read or listen to gentle music as they prepare for bedtime.

Boys seem to miss out more on physical affection so put your son on your lap as you page through a book. Have an outing in nature over a weekend: going to the sea, walking in a park, going to an animal park. At home you can sit on the floor and play with them: e.g. building Lego with the boys, drawing with the girls. Boys have more energy so some physical activity will be more appropriate.  Participate with them.

Be like a child yourself (this does not mean that you are childlike or childish, just spontaneous and involved). E.g. teach them to ride a 4-wheeler bicycle. Rough and tumble with them on the floor but avoid making a competition out of it. Allow the child to lead the form of play. Get down to their level i.e. sit on the ground and imitate what they are doing.

Primary school children have a need to learn skills: how to make friends, build or make things, help with food preparation, do tasks at home or use kitchen and home gadgets, etc. Spend time showing your children practical life skills e.g. how to earn pocket money, how to save money, how to have good manners, how different tools are used.

Teenagers need to establish their own identity, wanting heart to heart talks and then pushing parents away. Make time to do activities with them and to engage them on their interests. Listen with them to their music, talk about what is happening in their peer group, what their views are on topics. Help them to develop healthy outlets for stress e.g. some right brain activity such as sport, drama, playing a musical instrument.

When you are away on business, still make family time a priority. Call your children just to talk about school or extramural activities. Find out what they are enjoying and what they find challenging. Take the time to look out for those “teaching” moments when you can talk about guiding principles or values. Boys in particular dislike long conversations on deep or personal “issues”. So talk about a sensitive subject lightly while you are doing something else with them.

Ask your teenager what role they would like you to play in their life? What do they expect from you? If you have created a non-judgmental space for them to talk and be themselves, they will tell you!

In essence, it is crucial to really demonstrate that you are interested in your children. Where you can, make time to connect with each of your children during the week even if it is just a 10-15 minute chat. If you are out of town call your child or send them a message asking them what the “High” (uplifting experience) and “Low” (demotivating experience) for the day was.

Do activities with your children in which they are interested. Make sure you are fully present and not preoccupied with work, your cell-phone or tablet. Time in nature has a very calming effect on us. Make this a part of your weekend schedule with them.

Ensure that there are some family rituals e.g evening meals together around a table with no TV talking about light topics, a Sunday meal or family outing together, annual family holidays that include family activities.

Just be fully present so that you can feel a heart connection between you and each of your children. Contact me if you would like to explore family counselling.

Posted in Work-life balance.