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Things to Do With Your Children When You Only Have a Few Hours

Are you spending a few hours with your child after school, or until 7:00 or 8:00 pm? Here are a few suggestions for ways to spend your time so that it is enjoyable for both/all of you:

  • Each week ask your child spontaneously: Does he or she have something special in mind? Is there a mood from the day that can be continued?
  • Dividing time between several children on an after-school visit can be hectic. Consider alternating weeks so that you spend an after school time with just one of them at a time. That way you can plan to spend the time with each child in ways that that will hold a special place in his/her heart. For two children families, this also gives the other parent time alone with the other child to nurture individual parent-child relationships.
  • Cook a meal with your child, and have him or her help with age-appropriate tasks. Older kids can chop vegetables, and younger kids can open packages and arrange the table. Then you can enjoy your creation together!
  • If you'd rather spend your time doing homework or another activity at your home, use "at home convenience foods" like hot carry out from the kids' favorite restaurant, Boston Market or the grocery store as a reasonably nutritious, economical alternative to fast food.
  • Attend after school functions at the children's school. Even if your child is not old enough to be involved in a sport yet, cheering on his or her future school at a track meet or intramural football game is a fun, free way to be involved school-type activities. It can also help your child think about future choices of extracurricular activities he or she might enjoy.
  • If your child is involved in an extracurricular sports team or activity that meets on a regular day, sign up to be a coach, chaperone, or assistant. If the club or activity your child is interested in doesn't exist, help your child to organize a group, and you can be the leader!
  • Check the newspaper calendar listings for free (and reasonably priced) events like story hours at the library or bookstore, classic movie screenings, and hiking clubs.
  • Get a big local map, and decide with your child areas of your town/city to explore. Let your child navigate and he or she can learn to read the map. A colored marker can chart each week's expedition. Choose a local restaurant to enjoy before your trip home if your journey takes you through dinnertime.
  • If you live too far away to take your child to your home, find a quiet place to do homework, read together, or play ball—just ordinary activities—that can feel "homey" in a home away from home. The library, a friend or relative's recreation room, or park offer needed opportunities to just "hang out".
  • If your child has an activity scheduled, attend or drive him or her there. Although driving him or her to a "kids only" birthday party may not be your idea of fun, it gives you a chance to be a parent. You'll also meet your child's friends and their parents, which gives you a chance to connect more to his or her world. While you won't want to do this every time you see your child, sometimes these things are just part of the ordinary flow of life. If you were still married, you'd drive to the birthday party. Your time with your child should be a part of his or her life, not a disruption that fosters resentment.
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