Our Two Cents: Missing family time

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to [email protected]

As the single mother of three pre-teen and teenage children, I am looking for some practical advice. Our schedules have gone haywire this this year. We are always going in different directions. Working full time and juggling my three kids’ busy calendars has left me feeling somewhat disconnected. Days can go by without us ever spending any time together. Is this just what happens in the teenage years? I miss my kids! D.P., Sonoma

Sharon: Just recently I read something that I posted on my fridge ages ago. I don’t even know who wrote it, but the advice seems to still be good. It’s titled “10 Ways to Enrich Your Life — Every Day.” Two of the ways directly relate to your question.

No. 5 is “have breakfast and dinner with your family.” This is the time to reconnect with your kids. If every day is unrealistic or impossible, then pick two mornings and two evenings to all eat together. When kids are young, it’s easy to have mealtime as a moment to share stories. Try to create some mealtime ritual for your family. As it becomes routine, you will be amazed how much there is to find out about one another. We chose Friday nights as a way to keep alive a family tradition of Shabbat dinner and made sure there were no exceptions to everyone showing up, even if it meant being late to something that they ran off to later that evening.

No. 9 is also good: “Hug and kiss your family. Tell them you love them.” No kid gets too old for love and affection. Even if you don’t have as much time with them as you would like, a supportive hug or expression helps makes those teenage days a bit more bearable.

Saul: Some of my favorite times with my family as a teen were when we all invited friends over for Shabbat dinner. My friends loved being included in our family time and grabbing a great meal before we went out. I also would recommend trying to make some time with each of your kids individually. It is nice to get that one-on-one attention from Mom and not be interrupted by another sibling’s opinion.

Alexis: The teenage years are certainly a time of increased independence and involve a lot of activities that don’t pivot as conveniently around sacred family time as afternoon ballet class once did. I suggest brainstorming a fun activity that you’ll all enjoy doing with one another, regularly. Find a time in the week when all of your calendars are a bit more flexible and squeeze something fun into that free window. Even better, if you have a routine activity that your kids might like to get in on (I could never decline an invitation to get a manicure with my mom), offer to bring them along. If you’re all committed to spending more time with one another, I’m confident you can make it happen.

Jessica: While Shabbat dinner was my favorite time with my family, we had dinner together almost every night. I think for families with kids who play team sports, the dinner hour is a more difficult time to coordinate. One suggestion I have is for family members to make an effort to sit together, even if only one person is home late and eating dinner. One of the kids may have missed dinnertime, but that doesn’t mean they have to be on their own. I often get home late from work, and having someone to listen to me while I rehash my day over dinner makes it so much more enjoyable! I certainly appreciate the company.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg
is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.