July 13, 2024

By Lois Heron

We’ve been examining how we receive love from others through five love languages and how we can reflect God’s love for our children in the way we love them with their love language. Let’s consider quality time and how to speak love to our children and grandchildren this month. 

When we think of God’s love for us, he is always present, listening and responding. We become an extension of his love as we do the same for our children. Isn’t that a beautiful truth? And when we connect our time and conversation to him, our children learn to understand him as a benevolent and faithful God.

Quality time is the one love language that every human responds to; it crosses the language barrier, so to speak. We crave undivided attention from those we cherish, but we live in a culture that suffers from attention deficit! Protecting the environment of our home life requires much more discipline than just a few decades ago; focused parental attention is essential. Time is the commodity we all have to learn to use well because there are no do-overs with it. The Holy Spirit will come alongside us and train us to be emotionally and spiritually present to our children; all we need to do is ask.

Gary Chapman, author of the book on this topic, writes, “The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together.” How can we improve our family’s daily cadence and optimize time as love for our children? Purposefully doing life together can redeem what might be wasted time. Running errands together without the interruption of technology is a great place to start. Consider beginning your errands by inviting God to accompany you with the traveler’s prayer from Psalm 121 when you leave. 

“Lord, preserve our going out and coming in from this time forth and forever. Preserve our life and get us to our destination and back home safely.” (Ps 121:8)

Keep a jar of conversation starters on slips of paper and allow your child to choose the question to get the car conversation going as you leave the driveway. One question can lead each of you on a path of discovery about the Lord and each other. The internet is your friend for ideas for incorporating the Lord in conversations. Search “spiritual questions to get your kids thinking about God.” Your undivided attention and questions about God are a double-hitter for nurturing holy children.

Lois Heron is a parishioner at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Sioux Falls. She is a retired educator and a writer.

We can quickly become victims of the urgent rather than protectors of what is essential. Whatever appears urgent to us (a text, a news thread, an online conversation) is not crucial in light of eternity. Make a family policy that all cell phones, technology and current reading material are silenced and put away in a bin for a determined length of family only time each day. 

Plan your weeks together by first writing down the most important activities: Mass, CCD and family only time. When your children observe what is important to you, it communicates that life’s priorities are the Lord and the family. 

Doing nothing special together is quality time! Walks together after the school day, hanging out in the same room, sorting laundry together, eating together, and cleaning up the kitchen are all opportunities for uninterrupted intentional conversation. As you work together, asking each other what the day’s highlights and lowlights were gives insight into your children’s emotions. A natural segue would be to express our feelings to the Lord. Jesus, thank you for [the highlight]; it made me happy. Or, I had a lousy day, Jesus. Would you help me feel better? Our children will learn intimacy with God when we include him in our quality time.

If your family takes photos of family life, consider assembling a yearly photobook (Shutterfly and Snapfish are easy to use). Have a specific time each month when you look at the photos together, sharing memories of that photo as you work together on that month’s layout.

Working on homework at the same table each evening provides an atmosphere of cooperation as older children might join you in helping younger children. A simple prayer before study heightens the effect of your quality time around the table. Lord, give us peace of mind as we complete our homework. Give us insight that we might understand what we are studying, and help us to remember it. ~Amen (Adapted Salesian prayer).

Take pilgrimages together, pray novenas together, pray the Rosary together. When we choose quality time with the Lord, he will abundantly bless our lives for generations to come.