Part Three: Happy Family Evenings Start With “Happy Time”

Family time

Wouldn’t it be nice to start each evening with some time to sit, relax and chat with your husband, wife, or significant other? Learn how this couple starts their Happy Family Evenings.

Evening parenting takes a lot of energy after a full day of either working outside the home or parenting. One couple I worked with used to try to sit and talk when the working dad got home from work. However their sons would whine, “You want to talk to mommy more than to me!” Their kids would be disruptive and demand attention. Mom and dad just wanted a few minutes of peace to relax and catch up. Sitting and talking with each other became more frustrating than it was worth.

This family made their evenings with their boys, ages 3 and 4, so much more enjoyable by doing the following:

  • Mom now tells the boys that when Daddy gets home, the grown-ups are going to sit and talk for 20 minutes. It’s their “happy hour” because sitting and talking to each other makes them happy.
  • She says, “I know that when Daddy comes home, you want his attention right away and it’s hard to wait. So this is your time to tell me how you feel about that.”
  • When they tell her how they don’t like to wait and how they want to play “Hop On Pop” with daddy. She encourages them to say it a bunch of times to get it out of their system. Mom listens  lovingly and encourages them to say everything they have to say about the matter. Then she asks, “Is there anything else you need to say to get it out of your system?”
  • Next, mom asks them, “What can you do to keep yourself happy while Daddy and I have our Happy Time? She gives them choices of playdough, an art project, a TV show, their train set. Mom even write these choices on popsicle sticks and lets them draw an activity each evening. The kids love it because it feels like a surprise to see what their activity will be.

When Daddy comes home, he gives hugs, kisses, and smiles to everyone. Then explains to the boys that for every minute they entertain themselves peacefully and without interrupting, they earn a minute of “Hop on Pop” wrestling time with Daddy.

This smart couple now gets to start most happy family evenings with time to relax and connect before they head into “parent duty.” And now, even if they collapse into bed after the kids are asleep, they’ve gotten to enjoy each other’s company for a few precious minutes. Kids may seem to WANT every minute of your attention, but giving them the gift of modeling a good relationship is invaluable, even if it means they must entertain themselves for a bit.

Kerry Stutzman, LMFT, MSW



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