Back in the ’50s, families gathered around the dinner table (and often the breakfast table) to eat and talk and catch up with each other. Today, it’s rare that a family finds the time and circumstances to gather together for a meal. Johnny has basketball practice. Suzi is freshman class president. Dad’s working late. Mom’s trying to catch up with a week’s worth of errands. Life is more hectic and stressful than ever before.
The impact all these activities can have on a family are often the opposite of their intented purpose. When we work long hours at the office, we’re working to provide our families with all those things we didn’t have when we were children. When we involve our children in numerous activities, we want them to have a world of positive experiences designed to help them grow up to be happier, healthier adults. These are the best of intentions. But sometimes we overlook the most important foundation of any healthy family … the time we spend together.
If you feel like your family is perpetually running on high octane with everyone heading in a different direction, here are some suggestions that might help you to start thinking about your family time in new ways …
1. Take up an activity or two that the family can do as a whole. For instance, join a family bowling league or put aside Saturdays for one-day trips to explore the nearby towns, parks, museums, etc.
2. Set aside an evening or two each week when everyone is home together. This can be designated as the family night and it can be spent playing games, or reading great stories outloud to the group, or even watching a movie together as long as there’s some interaction and discussion time when it’s over. This little bit of quality time together can create a family tradition that you’ll all cherish for years to come.
3. Set aside two or three days each week that will be television-free days. This encourages family members to spend time interacting with one another.
4. Whenever possible, do things together. Eat as a family. Plan trips as a family. Build puzzles, play games, go grocery shopping.
5. Do family chores in teams instead of individually. Mom and Suzi can change the linens on Saturday morning, while Dad and Johnny clean out the garage. Then once a week or once a month, shift the teams around so that eventually everyone will be teamed up with each other family member. One of the best ways to open family communication and come away with a sense of pride and accomplishment is by working together.
The more time you spend together as a family, the more your children will come away with the values and ethics you want them to pick up from you.
They’ll learn to be more responsible, to laugh more often, to be confident and caring, to be giving and grateful. And they’ll discover you aren’t a perfect parent, but they’ll also discover you aren’t an old fuddy-duddy who doesn’t have a clue.
Make the time to be with your family. There’s nothing more precious in this lifetime than them.