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How Happy Are Your Kids?

Let's Be Together

Worried that your family doesn't get enough of you? Don't be. Seventy percent of kids say they're pleased with how much attention you give them. But 9 percent of kids complain about spending too much time with you -- and a third of kids say their home life is iffy. "Don't be a hovercraft parent," advises Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads (Crown) and a Family Circle contributing editor. "Kids need to make mistakes and learn from them."

A quarter of kids want more time with parents. And 17 percent of moms say they feel the same way. Most kids just want to hang out, chat about school, share meals. But a third wish you'd find time to talk about what's important to them.

A third of tweens and nearly a quarter of teens wish their parents would spend less time working and more time with them.

Improving Time Together

  • Set up a routine. They are never too old to be tucked in! "Teens and tweens tell me that the most comforting bonding moment is at night when they're in bed, the lights are out and their parents sit on the edge of the bed to talk for a few moments," says Wiseman.
  • Take back your day. "Eliminate one activity to make room for family," says Michele Borba, EdD, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know (Jossey-Bass). Or combine activities. To have more together-time with her three daughters, 14, 11, and 8, Brenda White, 40, of Louisville, Kentucky, says, "I'm now leading all three of their girl scout troops." That means a meeting a week and a field trip once a month on top of a demanding full-time job, but, says White, it's worth every minute.
  • Make a plan. Arrange a one-on-one date with your child every other week. Take each child on an overnight once a year. Have family movie nights.
  • Gather regularly. "Everyone meets in the kitchen at 8:30 every night to go over the events of the day or just hang out for a half hour," says Borba.
  • Lower expectations. "Don't overwhelm yourself by always striving for 'quality time,'" says Wiseman. "Go to the diner or coffee shop and have a conversation that's not about schedules and responsibilities. Even if your child is silent, just sitting together is time well spent."