Last week I wrote an article which generated a lot of discussion called Can Too Much Friend Time Hurt Children? Since I received so many emails about the topic I feel it is important to address it again. Some people expressed thanks, and others confusion. Today I am discussing how much friend time certain age groups should have, and how to find good friends.
Here are some of the thought-provoking comments:
One friend said, “Nicholeen, after looking at your amount of hours I realize that I don't let my children have that much play time. Should I be giving them more?”
First, I think people give their children more friend time than they actually recognize. If your child goes to scouts, or soccer, Tae-Kwon-Do, or dance class, or is in a school group, that is time with friends. This is a list of the regular social activities my younger children have had this past week.
Monday: Go to the track and walk with mom and some friends. (2 hours)
Monday: Have cousins over for a hotdog roast and fun (3 hours)
Tuesday: Get watched at a friend's house while mom and dad were away. (3 hours)
Tuesday: Activity Day Girls Group at the church (1 hour + play after) Londyn
Wednesday: Play outside with neighborhood friends (1 hour)
Thursday: Tiger Cub scouts ( 1 hour + extra) Porter
Thursday: Play outside with neighborhood friends (1 hour)
Friday: Play outside with neighborhood friends (2 hours)
Sunday: Saw friends at church ( I don't count this, but could count it for 2 hours)
Sunday: Family barbeque with cousins ( 3 hours)
The total is 16 hours for each of my younger children. You will notice, this is a lot of regular stuff, but it adds up. I think we don't always recognize the play time, because it is on the schedule. Scheduled activities are a still play time. However, some play should also be unscheduled. It's good to have down time too.
Each week varies a bit for us. Sometimes we have a bit more neighborhood friend time, and other weeks we are busy with Spanish club, or playing with other homeschool children while mommy teaches a homeschool class. Sometimes we even go over our goal, but we really try not to. Ideally, we stick to 12 hours or under. But, we are kind of a social family and find that discussing the social interaction is a good way to train our children to develop proper social skills.
The second part of my answer to the question above is this. Be intuitive. You know what is best for your family culture and your child. You know when they become overstimulated and selfish. Set a goal that works for them. If you only have 5 hours a week and your children seem well adjusted socially, and your family is happy, then stick to it. I say, “'Good for you. You know how to put family first!”
"I don't think anyone should play with friends more than one day a week. So, my children don't play with friends more than 12 – 16 hours each week."
This is quoted from your article, "Can too much friend time hurt children?" The two sentences seem conflicting to me, not more than one day a week, then the total of 12-16 hours a week? 16 hours is nearly half a the total of a work week. I am confused. Thank you”
I see where you are having some confusion. My children are homeschooled. They are with the family all day, most every day. When they see friends, even for school things, this counts as friend time for us. For instance, today my children had Spanish club at my house with some friends. This school time counts as friend time too. It was a 3 hour club meeting. This is a lot of play time for one day.
So, you are totally right. If a child is at school all day and then comes home and plays with friends for 12-16 hours in a week, the child would never be home with family. This means the child would have friend overload. School, in this case would be considered friend time, so the formula would need to adjust. If my children were at school all day, I would make the play with friends time much less, like 6 hours a week tops. I hope this clears things up. Very good point.
The main idea is to have a larger quantity of family time than friend time in order to improve family relationships. And, if you plan how much friend time is appropriate for your family, you will have a better chance of meeting your goal.
Does Age Matter On How Much Friend Time Is Needed?
"I'm curious about the ages of your children. Are some of them teenagers? Of course they would spend more time with friends when they get older so at what age does this schedule for friend time change. When they go to college or before?"
Yes! Age is definitely a factor for how much social time is needed in our home. I am going to explain how we adjust by age, but I need to warn you. The way we look at age groups may be different from most people.
Ages 0 – 4 is time for mommy, daddy and family. Babies and toddlers need to be kept close to home to develop security and adequate bonding for a healthy parent-child relationship. To avoid over-socialization at this age, my children only had a couple of play times per week. A good rule of thumb would be from three to five hours per week.
Ages 4-8 brings the ability to socialize longer with friends even though lots of time with mommy and daddy is still very crucial. Having a friend is usually very important to children at this age. Not only do friendships create excitement, build confidence, and offer new social learning opportunities, they also teach valuable inter-personal and relationship building skills. At this age, children are learning many things very quickly. Learning is exciting and enjoyable so children spend many hours exploring and learning new skills such as reading, constructing, creating, and basic problem solving. Due to the overall excitement of life and learning, in our family, friend hours increase to 6-12 hours per week.
Ages 8-12 children are ready for more social interaction and group learning experiences. This is the age when community groups and talent improvement activities generally begin. At this age, my children usually participate in Co-op groups and special classes for skill development. My 8-12 year old children have 12-16 hours per week for friend time, which also means clubs, groups, and classes.
Age 12- 15 year old youth at my home experience a decrease in friend time because their academic study time increases and their involvement in meaningful projects increases. Also, once the children enter the teen years they take on more adult responsibilities in preparation for adult-hood. I know it is common for many people to let youth run wild during these years and hope for the best, but I have found that a youth who has purpose and is allowed to have time to pursue deep study is happy and motivated. Historically, they also maintain open, respectful relationships with their parents.
If a youth is allowed to be too socially involved he will become detached from and uninterested in family. This goes against the whole point of being a youth, which is to learn to become an adult. My youth ages 12 – 15 have from five to nine hours of friend time per week. Again, this also includes school groups, church activities and talent groups.
There are two other numbers which matter to my youth. Their study hours and their family hours. My two youth study from six to ten hours per day. Their family time fills the majority of the remaining hours. We work a lot together; teaching them adult skills for success in life.
Age 15- 19 year old youth follow the same hour plan as the youth ages 12 – 15 except for one thing. Sometimes youth this age get a job. If that is the case, the hours surrounded by friends can increase with work time.
The hours I have shared here are for my family, which homeschools. I know many of my readers don't homeschool and so some of the information presented here would need to be modified. Usually, I would suggest modifying the friend hours to be less since they are with friends all day at school. Friends come and go, but family is forever, so the greater emphasis on time should always be put on the time with family.
So, how about adults? How much friend time do adults need? Each person is different and requires different amounts of socialization depending on what they were groomed to require in their youth. However, it has always done me good to remember that I need social limits too. This means phone calls, emails, and personal visits. All of these things are friend time. My rule is; if I ever feel like my family is getting in the way of my phone calls, emails, or friend time then I have put too high a priority on friend time. It also means I am probably taking too much time from family for socialization. You may want to set yourself an hour limit too, if you have a social problem.
Cultivating Whole Family Friendships: Making and Keeping Good Friends
Good friends and proper socialization is important for raising good, confident children. My mission as a mother is to “raise joyful adults, who know what their mission in life is, and can't wait to fight for it, and have a solid relationship with God and family.” To find your mission and know how to fulfill it, you need to have a basic understanding of people, roles, and relationships. Almost all missions will require relationships with others.
Not only do I want to teach my children about the world and discuss with them what they see, I want them to have peers who will lift them and and inspire them to reach for higher goals. I also want them to have some friends who understand them because they are like them. I have mentioned multiple times in this article how I homeschool my children. Since this is a bit unusual to many people it is important for me to find friends who are doing the same thing we are so that my children can have friends who understand them and appreciate their successes.
Likewise, a child should have friends who are the same religion. It is much easier to be a religion if you have friends who understand your beliefs and like to discuss them with you. Of course all kind s of friends, from all different beliefs and ways of life are good to be friends with, but deliberately building relationships with people like your family will create security and social happiness for your child.
So, how do I cultivate good friendships for my children? My husband and I choose families we want our whole family to be friends with. We pick people we identify with and who respect how we live. We regularly invite these friends over for dinners and activities and treat them as family. Since our whole family becomes friends with the other family, the relationships are whole and all connected. The children don't want to separate from the parents and other siblings, because from a very young age they have seen this other family of friends as safe, close, and part of their family experience. These families have given my children their very best friends and have made it so my children's friend relationships are not a mystery to me and my husband.
Probably More to Come
I know I didn't address all the great comments and questions about the article, but hopefully I have cleared up some of the confusion and added more insight on some of the issues. I will try to get to some of the other friend related questions as soon as possible. Thanks so much for all your great comments.