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Q:  We have two kids and both of us work. We feel overwhelmed, to the point that we're feeling like bad parents because it seems like we just don't have time to actually “parent” our children. It's really affecting our kids. What advice do you have for making time for our children so that they don't feel left out, or worse, that they're not important to us?

From the mailbag:

Both of my parents were physicians and time was not an element that they had much of for my siblings and I. We had plenty of material things, but family time was rare. When I had children of my own I made a personal decision that I would spend quality time with them and enjoy the simple things in life that didn't cost much, if anything. Spending uninterrupted time with your children is the best way to ensure that they feel loved. — Cassie P. in Rhode Island, N.Y.

FROM JODIE:

During our time as parents, we all wonder just how much time and attention kids need to feel loved and secure.

In today's society, whether we will admit it or not, our smartphones can and do take a lot of our time. This is one way we can manage our time spent with our kids by simply putting them down or turning them off for a while. A self-imposed "no phones allowed" rule, if you will.

Plan ahead and do things as a family. Take a vote to decide on some special activities and maybe do one each week.

Spending time with each child on a one-on-one basis is good as well. Maybe have a special night once a month with each kid.

Try not to put off important actions like taking the time to discipline your kids. They need this to learn life skills like being fair, knowing the value of listening to others, limitations, etc. Read, play, cook and talk with them regularly and without interruptions. Again, keep your phones off unless absolutely necessary and if you must keep them on, let people know that at certain times you're simply going to be unavailable.

When talking to your kids, if you don't have time to answer a question and your response is “just a minute,” be sure to go back to the question and talk with them without rushing through it.

Additionally, don't try to appease them with things that you feel will give you a little more time to do whatever it is that is keeping you busy. Make time to give them your full attention. It doesn't have to be for a long period of time because the quality is much more important than the quantity. If you need to schedule time for them, do it.

By doing these things, you will be showing them that they are important, heard and loved, which is all that they want and need to be achieve that happiness and security.

CAN YOU HELP?

After almost 10 years of marriage, I am considering getting a divorce, but I'm worried about the effect it will have on our two kids, ages 8 and 10. The children really love their dad, but I find myself volunteering longer hours at work just so I don't have to go home. I thought this might work, but we still argue just about every minute we are around each other. What are some things I should consider for my family and myself before following through?

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