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How Does Spending Time as a Family Affect Children?

By Kathryn Walsh ; Updated June 13, 2017

As you spend your days working and caring for your home, and your children attend school and soccer practices, it's not uncommon to feel like ships passing in the night. Making an effort to spend time together pays off, however. Even dedicating 20 minutes a day to family time can help your children grow up to be happier and healthier.

Builds Confidence

Children are constantly trying to determine their worth, so when a child sees that her parents and other family members want to spend time with her, it signals to her that she's smart, kind and fun to be around. Parents can also help build a child's self-confidence during family time. You might coach her in one of your favorite sports or help her with homework, praising her for her efforts and skills as you go. Pay attention to her natural skills and help her find ways to use them; for instance, if you notice she's a natural artist, sign her up for art classes so she can build even more self-confidence.

Encourages Healthy Habits

Spending time lying in front of the television together won't improve your child's health, but some family activities can help your children stay healthy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one study of preschoolers found that children who had regular family dinners, watched limited television and got enough sleep were less likely to be obese than children who didn't have these routines. Keeping your children busy with family activities keeps them from lounging in front of computer or television screens, and doing physical activities together helps them build healthy exercise habits.

Lowers Risk of Drug Use

According to studies done at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teenagers are less likely to use drugs if they spend time with their families. The Center studied family dinners and found that teenagers who had three or fewer family dinners per week were four times more likely to use tobacco, twice as likely to use alcohol and four times more likely to say they would try drugs in the future as teens who had five or more family dinners each week. Making family dinners a habit when your children are young may help them to abstain from drug use once they reach the teenage years.

Provides Guidance

As children grow older, they often start to look to their peers for guidance about how to think and act. Spending time with your children means they can look to you as a role model instead. As you go hiking or walk around the mall with a child, talk about any concerns he's struggling with, such as bullying or fights with friends. This gives you a chance to help him come up with strategies for dealing with his issues. Demonstrate positive habits during family time, such as using polite language and choosing healthy foods, and your children will notice.

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