Question: Our family life is frenetic with working, carpooling, attending meetings, shopping and all the children's activities. I just don't think we spend enough quality time with our children who are in elementary and middle school. I keep reading about how having family time together plays into our children's success in school, and even in later life. How can we find more quality family time?

Answer: All the mental health experts will agree with you that quality family time is important. Besides increasing the bond between parents and children, it also makes for wonderful memories and leads to more positive behavior by children, as well as success in school.

More and more parents, like you, are seeking ways to increase family time. It does take effort; there is no question about that. One of the best ways to begin is by making time for a family dinner. Parents might need to go to work earlier, and children may need to cut down the time spent on an activity. While it might not be possible for everyone to eat together every night, it should be possible to do so a few nights a week. Additionally, the family dinner needs to be a pleasant time where members share experiences. There should be rules such as no television or phones, and no discussions of disciplinary issues.

Another way to increase quality time with your children is for both parents to initiate dates with individual children. Shared chores with parents and children working together present another opportunity for quality family time. A particularly sweet family time opportunity is to initiate bedtime chats with your children, especially younger ones.