How to Build Memories
Children grow so fast - build some childhood memories while they're still children!

Some time ago we visited some friends who had four children. We hadn't seen them for a while and as they showed us in, they apologised for the well-worn furniture. "We've been building memories for our children and having as much fun in these years as we can - posh things don't seem very important to us". That said something important to me about my priorities and made me think about our family values. The years go so quickly and it's easy to be so busy with our own affairs that we miss the chance to build those good memories - and do the things that really matter.

How about reading and singing Nursery Rhymes to the under-fives from those lovely, colourful first books and reading bed-time stories? Making popcorn together in the winter evenings and reading an exciting story, chapter by chapter. When your children recall their childhood, they probably won't remember the stories - they will remember sitting on Mum or Dad's lap feeling happy and secure. I have warm memories of my Dad reading Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe to me. I asked a class of 12-year old boys recently if they ever played games with their families in the evening - not one said yes, three said they wanted to but their parents were too busy. I wished I could have said to each one of those parents ... "Time is running out, is what you are doing more important than getting to know your growing children?"

Our children feel good about themselves and grow in confidence if we tell them they are important - not necessarily by words but by the time we give and one-to-one contact we have with them. The effort we make to listen to them and to answer their questions tells them how important they are.

If you have promised your children to do something - to take them fishing, camping, to the pictures, for a walk, to make fudge or toffee apples, hang-gliding or sailing - do it now! If you don't, the next time you look round they will be grown up and it will be too late. In the Easter holidays one year, we got up early and went off to the woods, collected wood, built a fire and cooked ourselves breakfast. We had the works: bacon, egg, sausage, fried bread, bread and marmalade, orange squash for the kids and coffee for Mum and Dad. By the time it was ready our appetites were keen and then we had all the time in the world to eat, watch the fire and talk. Next time we tried to do it, it rained and the next time we turned round - the children had grown up! So don't wait - do it now!

Is television 'Big Brother' in your house?
A teenage friend of my children said to me recently, "Our family has spent a lot of time together, but we don't know each other, we only watch television." He was commenting on the easy way in which our family talk about current affairs, sex and moral issues together. I believe that has happened because when our children were young they had to ask if they wanted to turn the TV on and had to know what was coming on - they couldn't just switch the set on. And because I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to distract them from watching without them knowing! I used to read stories, play cards and board games - do quizzes (there are lots of paperback quiz books for all ages) - I encouraged them to cook cakes from about the age of 7 which they loved because they were always allowed to sample their efforts ( by the time they were 11 they could all follow a recipe and wash-up!)

Why is it important to reduce the amount of television viewing?
Many psychologists and teachers are concerned about TV viewing because it tends to make children impatient, easily distracted and unable to concentrate for long periods. Children who watch a lot of television generally have less general knowledge and curiosity - watching TV is so undemanding it can make youngsters lazy.

A recent British newspaper survey involving 664 children revealed that:

60% of the children spent more time in front of the TV than in front of a teacher at school.

60% of the children watched more than 44 hours of TV a week and 20% watched 70 hours or more a week.

90% of the parents had no rules about how late children stay up or what they watch.

Many children take their models of behaviour from television - and never know what their parents believe about what is right or wrong because their parents don't tell them. They only ever hear other people's ideas.

WILL YOU think about the impact of television on your family? Could your family life be more fun? Will you try to reduce viewing?

How to do it!
Choose. Teach your child how to plan what to watch - that way he'll be able to make the most of the best.

Turn it off! If you know a programme is unsuitable OR you feel the child has been watching TV too long, switch it off. Don't be afraid to draw a line, particularly when it is peer pressure pushing your child to see the latest blockbuster. Be ready with suggestions and be prepared to get involved with them in doing something else.

Don't use it as a baby-sitter. It is tempting, and we've all done it, but try hard not to keep your child out of your way by putting her in front of the TV - try to involve her in what you're doing.

Don't give your child his own TV set - you won't have any control over his viewing.

Avoid eating in front of the TV. The times when the whole family is together and talking to each other are mealtimes - it won't happen if everyone is glued to the TV!

Building happy family memories into the lives of our children does not, definitely not, depend on how much money we can spend on them. Remember all the glowing memories that many older folk have of their families in simpler, poorer days? What it does depend on is our willingness to give our children our time and attention. Turning off TV and doing something together is the first and best step we can take. How about TODAY!

Author's Bio: 

Eileen Jones is the mother of four children and a founder member of Positive Parenting Publications (PPP). She is currently the Executive Director of PPP.

Her e-mail address is: