PINE BLUFF, Ark – Spending time with family and adults is healthy especially for children, said Dr. Janette Wheat, associate professor and Cooperative Extension Program specialist in human development and family studies at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The fall of the year presents opportunities to share time with a child especially with the prevalence of harvest festivals, said Dr. Wheat. Schools, communities and places of worship conduct Octoberfest or harvest festivals, and most feature food, games, sharing, and family time along with moments of thanksgiving.

The English settlers took the idea of a harvest festival to North America with one of the most famous being Thanksgiving, now a national holiday in the United States celebrated the fourth Thursday in November.

“Providing a child adult time is as important as nutritious food and plenty of exercise,” she said. “Kids who don’t get enough adult time find a way to get adult attention, and usually it is through negative behavior,” Dr. Wheat said.

Besides lengthening lives, spending time with family and adults has other benefits especially for children. It builds self-esteem, Dr. Wheat said.

Children who have quality time with loved ones have more self-confidence. Spending time together creates bonds as family ties are strengthened. It nurtures positive behavior because loved ones influence them. It creates memories, she said.

Spending time doesn’t have to be costly, according to Dr. Wheat. It can be as simple as talking with your child while he or she is in the car with you as you run errands.

“Family communication is important,” said Dr. Wheat. “It determines relationships with each other. Communication is sharing. Words are one of the most common forms of communication, but nonverbal messages are conveyed with eyes, facial expressions and body movements.”

Listening is an important part of communication. It sends a nonverbal message of care and concern even if parties are not in agreement. Thoughtful listening builds relationships, said Dr. Wheat, who advises taking advantage of seasonal activities to enhance family relationships through sharing time, communication and listening.

Families who enjoy each other build strong family relationships, said Dr. Wheat. Families often bond better with each other when they are playing together. This helps reduce arguments. When family members are having fun, they are calmer, she said.

Dr. Wheat suggests taking advantage of upcoming seasonal events to enhance family relationships.