Gloria and Blake Paulos both work full time. In addition to running their retail gift shop, they have church activities and club meetings to attend - demands that can make it hard to spend time with their teen-age son, Josh.
According to a YMCA survey conducted this year, the Paulos are like 62 percent of parents in America: they have very little room in their schedules to spend quality time with their children.
But the Pauloses recognize the need to spend time together.
"Other than a relationship with Christ, I don't think anything is more important," Mrs. Paulos said.
So eight years ago when they opened the Audubon Nature Store, they made sure time with Josh wasn't sacrificed.
At age 11, Josh learned to do his homework behind the counter, occasionally stopping to help a customer. ""I was usually here because they were here."
To combat the continuos family time crunch, Mrs. Paulos tailored the store's work schedules so her family members could go to church together on Sunday mornings.
"And when one of us is working, we bring dinner to that person," she said.
Because of the family's other interests, such as kayaking, hiking and bird-watching, working together at the nature store was an extension of hobbies they did together.
Although Mr. and Mrs. Paulos recognize that sometimes it may have been hard for Josh because so much of their time was tied up in the store, they feel that he also benefited in several ways.
"Josh has always had a job here, he's learned the valuable skill of working with people and he sets goals and goes after them," Mrs. Paulos said. "He's always had his head on straight and I like to think we had something to do with that."
In its September 1997 issue, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that parents spending "key" times of the day with their children appears to make teen involvement in alcohol, tobacco and marijuana less likely. Key times of the day include after-school hours and dinner time. The same article stated that shared parent-teen activities and parent's high expectations reduce the chances that teens will use drugs or alcohol.
Jane Armstrong of Augusta instilled the importance of family dinner time in her children.
Julie, Carolee and Wick Armstrong, now grown, still consider the dinner table a place of refuge.
"My daughter Julie called the other day and said, 'I just want to come home, have dinner and talk.' "Mrs. Armstrong said.
In the Armstrong household, dinner was strictly for the family and they planned their schedules around that special time.
"Friends went home, the TV went off and the phone came off the hook," Mrs. Armstrong said. "And we just talked about what happened that day."
Because family discussions were so important, even the family's table encouraged it.
"With the 54-inch round oak table, everyone can see eeach other," Mrs. Armstrong said.
As a speech therapist, Mrs. Armstrong knows the value of communication.
"I cannot tell you how important it was in building the relationships. It nurtured and created this bond," she said.
And the statistics show that having this kind of connection can decrease a child's chancees of getting into trouble.
"Teens with strong emotional connections to their parents are less likely to engage in early sex, experiment with drugs and alcohol, or behave violently," a 1997 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported.
According to ta 1998 study on crime and violence among teen-agers published by the Family research Council, children who don't feel connected with family will seek attention elsewhere.
"Being a member of a gang satisfies the basic emotional need of belonging that they don't find at home," the studt reported. "Craving for family leads normal teen-agers to assert themselves violently in hopes of gaining their peers' acceptance."
The Georgia Family Council and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network are sponsoring The Family Time Kids' Art Contest for Georgia's children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Participants may submit drawings and short essays of their favorite way to spend time with their family. The essay should be 25 words or less and explain the picture.
Twenty-one grand prize winners will be selected and announced in November. In addition to prizes and $100, winners' artwork will be displayed in the Lenox Artwalk in Atlanta and featured in the Georgia Family Council's Family Time Report.
Deadline is Oct. 23. For more information or for a free Family Time brochure, call (800) FAMILY-1 (326-4591) or visit www.georgiafamily.org/artcontest.
|FAMILY TIME TIPS|
Here are 10 tips for creating family time from the Georgia Family Council:
1. Eat together and listen to each other.
2. Read to your children.
3. Develop teamwork skills by doing chores together.
4. Help children with their homework.
5. Start a hobby or project together.
6. Play games together.
7. Plan a family outing.
8. Encourage athletic activities.
9. Create a family calendar.
10. Pray together and attend a house of worship.