Do you struggle to fit in quality family time with your family? Do you find both school holidays and term-time a mix of emotions? During the summer, you get lots of time together, but that makes balancing other roles and work tough, and during term-time, you’re usually able to get more done at home or work, but family time is much reduced and evenings can be taken up with homework and other duties.
You’re not alone! Bassetts Vitamins recently released the Bassetts Vitamins Purple Paper, a detailed report into family life based on expert input and a detailed survey of 2,000 UK families. The bottom line? It’s harder than ever to spend ‘quality’ time with our families, with the average family totting up just seven hours a week and a surprising 10% of UK family reporting that they spend no quality time together at all.
The study was complied by Dr Richard Woolfson (a Child Psychologist) and supported by Charlotte Stirling-Reed (a Registered Nutritionist) and Elizabeth Leigh-Firbank (a Bassetts Vitamins Development Scientist Nutritionist). It highlights the importance of quality family time, looks at how parent/child time can benefit both parties, discusses the role of nutrition in family life, and tackles the barriers to family time as well as some possible solutions.
The following statistics highlight how varied family time can be, both in terms of its availability and what we perceive as ‘quality’ time.
- Almost 50% of parents with children under 18 said they were truly ‘desperate’ to spend more time together
- 59% of UK parents consider watching TV together as quality time
- 33% consider talking in the car together as spending quality time as a family
- 20% of survey respondents admitted that they regularly go a full week without getting together as a family
- 10% of parents explained that their lives are so busy they don’t spend any time together at all
- There are regional differences in our perceptions of family time. Over three quarters of families in the East Midlands and South West think discussions over dinner is the best time to spend time together, while 79% of Welsh families prefer to play game together, and nearly three quarters of families in the North West prefer visiting attractions.
To delve a little deeper into the report findings, Bassetts Vitamins invited me and four of my fellow bloggers (Cathy from Mummy Travels, Kirstie from The Family Adventure Project, Mel from Le Coin De Mel and Maggy from Red Ted Art) to a roundtable discussion.
Talking us through the report was Dr Richard, with nutritional input from Charlotte and Elizabeth. During the morning, the six of all chatted through the report, discussing not only the Family Life Survey, but also what the findings and recommendations meant to us. Here’s a taste of what we covered.
Recognising that ‘family time’ matters
Right now, I’d estimate that we as a family spend approximately 25 hours a week together as a whole family, made up of about 10 hours during the week, and 15 hours at weekends (we’re around each other more than that, but children of course need some time to themselves, or with friends without direct parental input!), but it wasn’t always thus.
About four years ago, there was a point in our family life where both myself and my husband Mark were working full time in office-based roles, and an hour of quality of time on weekday evenings and snatched hours at the weekend became commonplace. It wasn’t long before both of us decided that squashing everything into the current setup wasn’t the kind of life we wanted, so one after the other, we went freelance and worked to create jobs that would allow us to continue our chosen careers whilst still carving out meaningful family time.
Of course, not every family is fortunate enough to be able to take such radical steps, but I think every one of us, whatever our circumstances, can benefit from reflecting on our work/life balance from time to time, and taking steps to claw back a little time for what really matters. Mark and I still have to do that even now, as work or other demands encroach on family life.
Certainly around the room at our roundtable, the battle to make the most of family time rang true for all of us. We all agreed how important quality time with our children is and that we all do what we can to make the most of it.
Playing and growing together
Use of the phase ‘quality time’ of course cropped up during our discussions, since it’s such a subjective phrase, as borne out by the stats above.
I think I underestimated how different it can be for families. For some, family time is only really quality time when you’re out and about, trying something new or breathing fresh air at the partk, for others, my family included, quality time of course includes such adventures, but can also be had anywhere, including in front of the telly. What really matters to us is that we’re all present (turning off tablets, laptops, and phones) and enjoying a shared experience – it can be so subtle we don’t even notice, but it’s valuable nonetheless.
Take last Saturday, when I had a conference to head to in the afternoon and I was conscious of making the most of the morning. The kids, Mark and I were still in various states of undress/PJs at lunchtime, laughing together, running around the house, simply having fun.
We’re all huge fans of forest walks but that morning with limited time, simply enjoying each other’s company and being in the moment ranked higher on the agenda than going out, or even getting dressed.
Active lives and healthy minds
Despite a love of cosying up at home together, perhaps unsurprisingly, many of our most treasured family memories involve getting out and about.
We find being active together is therapeutic. Whether it’s the park or an adventurous holiday abroad, going places and having those shared experiences can be really character forming, and cement a bond between us that is hard to put into words.
As a family, whether it’s swimming down a rainforest river in Jamaica (yes, we’ve really done that!) to riding a 4ft high zip line in the local park, we’ve enjoyed challenging ourselves, making each other laugh, getting our heart rates up and gulping in fresh air.
Spending time together as a family is to revel in the richness and variation of what quality time means and I love how often quality time just sort of happens – no planning needed – as long as the time to do it is there.
Something all of us at the roundtable agreed can make for fantastic family time is heading out on an aimless walk through the countryside. We all agreed that the natural silences that come with walking, and the fact that you needn’t look someone in the eye constantly while side by side means the pressure is somehow off a little and children can begin to talk more candidly. (Interestingly, this rapport is also something many of us agreed rings true for the school run – another moment of time that can be brief, yet perfect for quality conversations.)
Also highlighted in the report is the importance of physical exercise during childhood – both in terms of physical and emotional well being: 68% of parents surveyed said that their children were happier as a result of spending time together. I couldn’t agree with this more and, in fact, I find my children are calmer, more settled, easier to engage and easier to parent when they’ve had time to be active with us.
Learning from each other
In the Purple Report, 63% of parents revealed that their children remind them how to laugh each day and 45% said that spending time together had helped them overcome a fear of a new challenge.
This again rang bells with everyone at the roundtable. I confessed to being an absolute coward when it came to physical challenges before having children, but my desire to be a good role model, and witnessing how much fearless fun they were having, has over the years had me learning to do somersaults in the pool (I could barely cope in the deep end before!), zip-lining through rainforest and going on rollercoaster I wouldn’t have dared look at 10 years ago. My kids have taught me the value of risk and challenge and a happier person for it.
We all also agreed that kids are great for reminding us to get off our phones or laptops and be present. As a toddler, if Jay spotted me trying to squeeze a few emails in as she played, she toddle over and close my laptop – bam! Frustrating at the time, but a great reminder that we’re not really there if we’re buried behind a monitor.
But how easy is it to make time when you’re busy? Interestingly, the report identifies scheduling conflicts among the main barriers to quality time. Mealtimes popped up as a great opportunity to all come together and be present – it’s very much the case in our house. Among reported barriers to quality time are housework (29%), homework (22%), and cost (21%) – for us, we try to tackle those challenges by turning them into family time. We cook or tidy together, do homework at the table together, and never let a lack of funds get in the way of a good run around in the park. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
A well fed family is a happy family
Alongside the social aspects of family life, the report also outlines how important good nutrition is in supporting family life.
As Charlotte Stirling-Reed explains:
“The food we eat and the nutrition it provides also plays a central role in keeping families both happy and healthy. […] We need nutrients to survive, but eating well and enjoying a healthy relationship with food can also bring colour and fun to all our lives too.”
To support both healthy eating and a balanced, active family life, Bassetts Vitamins has released the Colour Quest Activity Book. It’s a great way to kick start a change in your routine and is designed to help you pack more family moments in your daily lives.
The rainbow-filled Colour Quest Activity Book is full of ideas big and small to make every day a day worth remembering. There’s something for everyone, from rainbow eye-spy and tea-time chaos to a purple-themed cook-off. You’re bound to find something your family will love.
As Skye Lucas-Banks from Bassetts Vitamins says:
‘Now that we’re back into the usual routine of school runs, work patterns, homework and chores, it’s all too easy to lose sight of those moments which add colour to family life. That’s why we wanted to create these Colour Quest Activity Books with some quick and easy ways for families to connect in those little moments we have every day, whether going on a ‘treasure hunt’ in the garden or choosing and preparing a nutritious dinner together.’
Head over to www.bassettsvitamins.co.uk to download your own copy today, and then pop back and let me know how you enjoy quality family time.
Win 1 of x20 Bassetts Colour Quest Kits, plus 1 winner will receive a children’s umbrella
How would you like to win one of twenty Bassetts Colour Quest Kits? Complete the widget below for your chance to win. One lucky entrant will also receive a children’s umbrella.
This is a commissioned post for Bassetts Vitamins.