There is no right or wrong way when it comes to spending quality time with the family. The definition changes -- or adjusts -- depending on a family's lifestyle and needs. Often, we equate family bonding with watching a movie together, hitting the beach or traveling to a new place. Let's be honest -- it can get expensive. But now a study suggests that there is one type of quality time that can result in making every member of the family happy -- and it won't cost you anything.
A new study found that family leisure time spent at home may be the more effective route to having a happy family life. Researchers from Baylor University asked 1,500 parents and their 11- to 15-year-old kids in 884 families in the U.K. about what they do when spending quality time with the family. They found that those who stayed home and participated in familiar activities were happier than those who tried more adventurous activities. (According to Real Simple, the study didn’t examine exactly what families were doing in their homes -- only whether their activities were familiar or unfamiliar.)
"That may be because when the brain is focused on processing new information -- such as taking part in an unfamiliar activity with unfamiliar people in a new location -- less 'brain power' is available to focus on the family relationships," said lead author Karen K. Melton, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and family studies.
However, Dr. Melton stressed that every family is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to being a happy family. In fact, Real Simple says the authors acknowledged a "discrepancy between best practices and reality” -- staying home does not always equate better relationships. You may be at home, surrounded by the kids, but family time doesn't count if you keep checking your phone for messages. In short, you are not fully engaged with the moment.
That's why Dr. Melton says it's important to define what quality time means for the family and set rules around it. You can start by reducing distractions during family time that could take away "feelings of connectedness." What kind of distractions? We can start with phones and television.
"While kids -- and possibly parents -- may not like the idea of rules, providing boundaries around family time and during family time actually enhances the time together for everyone," she told Real Simple.
“For some families, quality togetherness is having dinner together or playing games; for others, it may be hobbies, videos or TV, music,” Dr. Melton added. “At the end of the day, what matters is that we are social beings who crave a sense of belonging and connectivity.”
So pick to stay in this weekend and engaging fully in the family activities you have lined up. And don't forget the positive vibes all throughout. You and your family are set to keep the happy smiles on your faces.