10 Signs You're Spending Too Much Family Time Together

Recognize when you, your spouse or your kids could use a break from each otherBy Melody Warnick

"Too much of a good thing" tends to apply to chocolate consumption and marathons of The Real Housewives, not to something as wholesome as family togetherness. After all, research shows that children who spend a lot of time with their families do better in school, make better choices and are happier. But hanging out too often, especially if you force it, can cause problems like making kids dependent and leaving parents feeling resentful. These 10 warning signs tell you when it's time to take a break. Photo by Getty Images

1. You and your husband haven't been to the movies in five years…

…because you won't leave your kids with a babysitter.
It's tough to tell whose separation anxiety is more agonizing: yours or your little ones'. But hire a sitter anyway-for the kids! "Life has turned into one long, teachable moment, but we think we're the only teachers," says Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children Without Going Nuts with Worry. "Children learn a lot from us, but also from other people, including babysitters"-things like adaptability, resilience, even new vocabulary words. Plus, research shows that the more couple time (read: date nights!) you have, the happier and more stable your marriage will be. That's a better deal for your kids than a night with Mom.

Related: Discover 8 secrets of sexually satisfied couples.

2. Your kid begs you to play endless rounds of Sorry, and mopes if you pass.


It's the parent-as-TV model: Children whose parents constantly entertain them can lose the ability to play creatively and independently. A little boredom actually can boost their imagination, though. Plus, it's good for kids to see that you won't cater to their every whim. "My little guy always wants to play," says Denise Schipani , author of Mean Moms Rule. "He says, 'Come play a game with me.' The other day I said, 'I play with you a lot, but I can't play with you all the time.'"

3. You're offended when your teen opts out of taco night to sleep over her BFF's house.

It hurts that teenagers need (and want) you around less, but "being with their friends is really important," says psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, author of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child's True Potential. "It's part of their identity, and they feel left out if they miss something." Consider your kid's "see you later" as an opportunity to get back in touch with who you are, and what you like to do, when you're not being a mom. We're guessing it doesn't involve taco night.

4. Your six-year-old wants to chat with you in the bathroom as you pee.

Every family has different boundaries, but if this happens, it's time to explain privacy, which most kids start to understand around age five, says New York-based pediatrician Alanna Levine, MD, author of Raising a Self-Reliant Child. Try saying, "There are some things like blowing your nose that you can do in public and other activities that are private." A household policy of "knock before entering" can help everyone get their space.

Related: Check out 9 bad habits that are good for you.

5. You're torn about accepting a job promotion because of your kid's sports schedule.

"A lot of moms feel like they can't lean in because they have to spend all their time with their kids," says Skenazy, who advises companies on creating work-life balance for employees. "But we don't have to lavish as much attention on our kids as we think we should. Don't latch yourself to the desk, but don't feel so guilty if you can't watch every soccer practice." It's wise to figure out how a new job will affect family time, but passing up opportunities can leave you simmering with resentment-not a good cocktail for family happiness.

6. You call in sick to girls' night out because you feel like you're abandoning your family.

Mom guilt can make you reluctant to do something for yourself, but your kids should see you as "a whole person living a whole life, because that's what you want for them," says Schipani. In other words, when Mom has coffee with friends, your kids realize you're more than just their mother. But never mind life lessons for your kids. Take time out because it's fun for you! "You might sign up your kid for tap dancing lessons. Why shouldn't you have tap dancing lessons? It has nothing to do with your kid; it has something to do with you as a person."

7. Your child has been talking for five minutes, but you haven't heard a word.


If you never left your job, would you pay as much attention to your inbox as you do when you arrive in the morning? Time apart from your kids offers a similar refresh, so it's easier to concentrate on them when you're together. "Say, 'For the next 30 minutes, we're going to play together and not do anything else,'" suggests Dr. Levine. "It doesn't have to be a huge quantity of time, but you want your child to feel she has your undivided attention so she can look forward to it." When time's up, you can focus on other things sans guilt.

Related: Learn 10 things you should never say to your kids.

8. Your teens stay up late watching TV with you-so you and your husband never talk anymore.


On the one hand, you're thrilled your teenagers want to spend time with their parents. On the other, their omnipresence can leave you feeling disconnected from your spouse. "Say, 'Mom and Dad just want to hang out,'" suggests Dr. Kennedy-Moore. Or choose other ways to work couple time into your family schedule. "My friend used to go into the city with her husband for breakfast. They'd come home at 2 P.M. and the teenager hadn't budged."

9. You haul your kids along to grown-up events.


Schlepping your tots to adults-only gatherings because you can't stand leaving them behind annoys everyone-including your children! "I was giving a lecture in a ballroom of people, and a couple of parents were trying valiantly to keep their toddlers occupied," says Skenazy. "Here's the thing: There was free babysitting across the hall!" Sitting in a boring conference vs. playing with a bunch of new toys? No contest for your kid. Child care emergencies happen, but if you can help it, don't bring wee ones where they won't feel comfortable.

10. Everyone in your family has stopped saying thank you.


"There's a concept in psychology called habituation, which means you get used to what's always there," says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. "A little missing allows people to look forward to being with someone." If you're taken for granted or ignored because you're constantly around, take a break. Sign up for a night class, slip out for a walk or lock yourself in your bedroom with a good book. Your children may be more grateful to have you around-and you'll definitely be happier to see them.

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