I waited all year for summer. In between school schedules, busy holidays, homework and short dark days, I would dream of aqua water, the smell of fresh cut grass, long sunny days and free time.

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But then something happened. My open, clean calendar started to look like it was getting chicken pox. It began with a few birthday parties, then a couple barbecues, a vacation, some work events, swim lessons, soccer games, get-togethers with friends and all of a sudden our schedule looked slammed. My freedom was feeling a little hemmed in.

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And, look at us now. It’s August and every store is decorated with pencils, apples and backpacks. How on earth did this happen?

What I am realizing is that if we want family time, good food, and quality conversations, I have to be as conscious about scheduling it in the summer as the school year—if not more—to make it happen.

We all know family time is important. Research says, it’s, like, really important. A study done by Hammons & Fiese, 2011, showed that children may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight if you engage in a family ritual – shared mealtimes.

As a working mom, these stats scare me. I miss a lot of family dinners on weeknights.  What works for me (special fun lunches, Sunday night dinners al Fresco, etc.) might not work for you. What works for you, might not work for me. I take refuge in the belief that there’s no “one way” to infuse our kids with healthy eating habits and quality time together.

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As a therapist, I know that with intention and consciousness, being aware of my feelings and emotions, focusing on the here and now, I can make even 10 minutes meaningful and magical. A lot of it is the way I look at my kids, the way I listen, using my body language and talking to them with respect, and simply intending to have a connection, that make my time more meaningful.

So, just when I start thinking — summer’s over — I remind myself, if I have 10 minutes with my family, or even 5, there’s no excuse as to why I can’t make it meaningful and impactful.

It’s never too late to get started. Even in August.

The bottom line, family time is important. And every family is different, so find something that works for you and with a little consciousness and effort, anything is possible. You still have a whole summer left!

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