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Your Space: Family Day Ways in Every Day

Last night, I had the opportunity to drive my middle child to and from her first volleyball practice of the year, and I loved it. She talked almost the whole way, and I loved it. The times she wasn’t talking, we were singing in harmony together to songs we know annoy others in the family, or we were enjoying our supper on the road. And I loved it.

We’re busy.

As a young and new therapist, I remember encouraging the parents and caregivers who welcomed me into their lives to commit to 10-15 minutes every day to one-on-one attention with their child focused on activities that the child wanted to do. In my naive and privileged mind, with a very elitist image of family life and structure, it was a simple goal. In the 1,440 minutes in a day, “how could an adult NOT find 10-15 minutes focused solely on a loved-one who mattered the most to them, around their interests?” Now, I get it. And, I’m not afraid to admit it.

This seemingly simple goal is hard. It is hard enough that there is a LOT of significance to being able to do it. As my son would say, to “ACTUALLY” do it.

No one needs to list the things you’re doing that keep you busy. You are well-aware. So I’ll save you the time of sharing an imagined list. Your space is full. How could I ask you to put one more thing into it?

Instead, this note is to suggest that we keep doing the best we can, to highlight some ideas to keep doing the best we can in new or different ways, and to be reminded of the great impact of time in your space.

Families are changing, and no matter our family make-up, our space is valuable. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of two-parent households are declining and family structures have changed dramatically compared to households with children in the ‘60s. With these changes, “there is no longer one dominant family form in the U.S”. This is reality, and our advice and support for each other needs to adapt.

An opportunity to embrace and show how today’s families can be every bit as loving and strong as prior to the ‘50s and ‘60s families is the annual, National Family Day. Celebrated this year on September 26, this day is highlighted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) to “promote simple acts of parental engagement as a way to prevent risky substance use in children and teens”. CASA want parents and caregivers to know that common activities like driving children to school or activities, bedtime traditions, and family meals have an effect on children that can be made even stronger when adults communicate with the children in their lives and really listen to what they share. ACTUALLY listen.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reminds us:

  • Adolescence is the critical period for the initiation of risky substance use and its consequences.
  • Nine out of ten Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.
  • Because addiction is a disease that in most cases begins in adolescence, preventing or delaying teens from using nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs for as long as possible is crucial to their health and safety.

Some of the most important conversations I have with my kids flow out of just a few expected questions at every sit-down meal we share. And, as my amazing kids sometimes struggle past their occasional annoyance with my follow-up questions, I hope they feel my curiosity as compassion, real listening, and true interest in their daily lives.

I ask because I care and I want to share our space in life together.

I ACTUALLY care.

I know you do too. In the brief and sometimes momentary time you have with them throughout the day, remind the kids in your life you ACTUALLY care.

Thank you for welcoming me into your space as we learn together.

Chad Childs, MSFT, LCMFT