Family time a thing of the past

When it comes to family time, many families are finding themselves further and further away from the dinner table.

Daniel Letternberger-Klein, a marriage and family therapist at Disc Village Inc., said social media is a large factor that divides family time.

“Everyone has a role in the family, and there should be a time where everyone is together without any technology,” Letternberger-Klein said. “I advise my clients to set up ‘family meetings.’ “

The effects of technology play a role on each member of the family, even down to the youngest sibling. Oftentimes, parents are checking emails or “Facebooking” and children are either on their cellphones or playing video games.

Finding balance between work, family and parenting seems to be the challenge families’ face.

Even after being married for nearly 10 years and having two children, Priscilla Jean-Louis, an account associate at Florida State University, said she is still trying to find a balance in her family life.

“Most of our family time is on the weekends,” Jean-Louis said. “Because of our schedules, we don’t have time to come together during the week.”

Letternberger-Klein encouraged families to use their Sunday evenings to clear their schedules and prepare for the week. Setting up activities that are simple and inexpensive are a great way to build family time, he said.

Jennifer Waddell, 17, who is the daughter of Doug and Carolyn Waddell, said family time is key because she does not want to lose the connection to her family.

“Bonding with family is important because family is all you have at the end of the day,” Waddell said.

Family togetherness even plays a role for students who leave home for college.

Andrea Pringle, a freshman pre-nursing student from High Springs, Fla., said family time is the best time to be with the people she loves the most, and she wishes she could spend more time with her family.

“I miss being away from home,” she said. “I’m so ready to get back to a Sunday dinner and being around my family.”

For some students, family times are different.

Dorothea Rhodel, a freshman health care management student from Miami, said her family time is spent going to church every Sunday. She said she is enjoying her freedom from family gatherings while in college.

“I have three younger siblings, and I miss them, but I can do without Sunday dinners,” Rhodel said.

Lacoadia Burkes, a marketing coordinator for the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida Campaign, does not have any children and admitted that she finds herself spending more time on her iPhone and other gadgets than spending quality time with her husband.

Burkes said once she becomes a mother, she wants to have a family dinner every night because her parents instilled in her that this was the best time for family bonding.

“Growing up, my parents made sure that our family time was dinner every night,” Burkes said.

“Success with Kids,” a website for parental guidance said family dinners have decreased by 33 percent in the past 20 years  and family vacations have decreased by 28 percent.

Bringing the family together can be something as simple as taking family walks, going to see a play or even a picnic at the park, Letternberger-Klein said.

“We have to set aside other things to make time for the important things, like family,” Jean-Louis said.