BIG rewards of quality family time

Time flies is an old saying, but in today's fast-paced world, it's never been so true. Before we know it, our kids are all grown up - out on their own or off to college.

Time flies is an old saying, but in today's fast-paced world, it's never been so true. Before we know it, our kids are all grown up - out on their own or off to college.

Most parents realise the rewards of close family ties. Yet the demands of jobs and household activities can be stressful and tiring. So it's easy for quality time with our children to get squeezed out.

You won't want to find yourself looking back, amazed at how quickly it went and realising you missed something special. More important, spending time with your child gives you a chance to shape his values.

As your child gets older you can provide a good frame of reference as he is exposed to the growing influence of peers and popular culture. The more time you spend with your child, the more you will be able to help him tune in to his abilities, skill-building activities and healthy friendships.

Okay, but does your child want to spend time with you? As kids get older they begin to declare their independence. But studies show that most youths like spending time with their parents. So if you set fair rules and give your child the freedom that's right for her age, you most likely will be able to enjoy each other's company.

Time set aside works well - family dinner hour, homework time, shopping, trips or a game in the evening. Still, finding real quality time can be tough. So take advantage of that one-on-one time that just happens as you are cooking, caring for a pet or driving.

Quality time means communicating in an upbeat and useful way - watching television in silence does not count. Talking is one of the best things parents can do to help children grow up confident and secure.

Strike up a chat by asking questions that take more than a yes or no answer. Ask younger children to explain something or talk about a story you read together, objects you found in nature together or their take on school and friends.

With older children and teens, talk about issues and events that occur outside the home or neighborhood. Ask teens for their opinions. Mention problems you had during the day and how you dealt with them.

Problem-solving skills can keep kids away from alcohol and drugs, to deal with troubles or from going along with risky activities. Be positive. Praise your child for things you might take for granted, such as getting up on time, helping set the table or doing homework without being told. Praise hard work and success. Avoid value judgments. Show you understand, even if you don't agree.

Let your kid know you respect his feelings and help him work through hard situations. He'll probably welcome your attention even if he does not admit it. Most youths say they turn first to a parent for help in solving problems.

Spending time with your child takes more than talk though. Find a chance each week to do something special.

Exposing children to activities, people, places and ideas can stir their imaginations and provide a menu of tempting choices. Take trips, look at art, gaze at stars and play games.

These pursuits will fuel a kid's curiosity and build creative-thinking habits. Find out what she likes. For every interest, there is something to try. Sure, life can be hectic. But don't forget, when it comes to spending time with your kids, the rewards can be great - for you and them. If you have not done enough, don't waste time feeling guilty. Get started. It's never too late to be the best possible parent. - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration