Protecting Family Time

We live in an increasingly fast-paced society, with many demands placed on the time, energy, and means of families. Research shows that extracurricular involvement benefits children and is associated with positive outcomes such as higher levels of academic achievement, higher standardized test scores, positive religious development, stronger sense of self, prosocial development, and lower levels of problem behavior. Such involvement appears to benefit children of all ages, with benefits during younger years extending into young adulthood. Thus, involvement in extracurricular activities is more than just child’s play. It helps young people discover and share talents, develop character and competence, and often provides the added benefit of close relationships with caring, principled adults outside the home. This helps parents do their jobs more effectively.

Notwithstanding the benefits, for many families, these activities can lead to overscheduled children, overbooked and “over-taxied” adults, and under-connected families, seriously eroding the amount of time families spend together. These outside activities, as helpful as they may be, may make it difficult for families to give highest priority to family activities. Some family scholars, noting the serious decline in the amount of time families spend together, are calling on us to “take back” our families from so many external pursuits. Are there ways of finding harmony and synergy among these activities, including well-planned wholesome recreational activities, to minimize stresses and detriments to families while preserving the benefits of community and extracurricular involvement?

As we learned in Strengthening Families, Part 1, time together is a major strength found in strong, healthy families. But it is also a strength widely threatened in our time-starved society. How can families spend enough time together that is satisfying to all members of the family? See the articles in this section for ideas.