Times have changed since most families had two parents, a mom who stayed home and a Dad who worked nine to five. Families today are more complex. Single parents, dual-income families, a bajillion after-school activities, and in-house distractions like computers, Play Stations®, and the like mean that time together as a family isn’t going to just happen. You have to make it happen.
Plan time together and insist the kids attend. This might make you unpopular at times. But think about your favorite childhood memories and you’ll realize that most of them center around time spent with your family. Be committed to making family time a priority. Then, be creative about making it happen.
Quality and Quantity
When kids are asked the question, “What makes a happy family?” the response is almost unanimous, “Spending time together.” According to experts, the myth that a large quantity of time can be replaced by less-frequent “quality” time just isn’t true. Karen Dockrey, author of Bold Parents, Positive Teens (Waterbrook) puts it this way, “Daily time is irreplaceable. Five minutes every day is better than five hours on Saturday or a big family trip. The bigger chunks of time are only effective if there’s already a relationship as a result of daily time together.”
It’s up to you to discover when that time works best for your family. Maybe it’s at breakfast, on the drive to school, or just before bed, when things slow down a bit.
Okay, dinner seven nights a week isn’t practical for most of us. But university researchers at Penn State, Harvard, and Depaul agree that children who grow up in a home where parents and kids sit down to eat together three or four times a week are less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol and less likely to engage in premarital sex. They even found a correlation between family meals and success in school.
Meals are a time to share your day, to plan family outings, to air any beefs that crop up during the week. But be careful to keep things fun and light. Don’t use meal time as a chance to reprimand the kids or harp on table manners while you have a captive audience. Keep distractions like TV or telephones to a minimum. In fact, it’s a good idea to place a moratorium on all electronics until the meal is over.
In Matthew 18:20, Jesus promises, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” I think this goes double for families. At least I know that some of the most powerful answers to prayers in my life have come after I’ve knelt with my husband and kids and prayed together. More than a quick blessing before meals, prayer time can be a time to connect with each other’s hearts and see what’s really important and weighing on each other’s minds. Pray on your way to school in the morning or before bed at night. Keep a prayer calendar where you can keep track of special prayer requests and concerns. Be sure to praise together when the answers are given.
Before we had kids of our own, my husband and I took careful note of the way my sister and her husband raised their five children. One thing they did that we promised we’d continue is one-on-one time, each parent with each child. Now that we have four kids of our own, they’ll tell you that some of their best memories are of a day at the zoo with Dad or an afternoon wandering through antique shops with Mom.
Getting a child alone, away from the natural competition that comes from siblings, relaxes something within him. You’ll be amazed how well you’ll get to know this burgeoning young person when it’s just the two of you for an entire day.
Don’t Compete with Electronics
Instead of allowing TVs, DVDs, and computers to take away from family time, try using them to enhance it. Rent a family movie and sit down to watch it together. I’ve started collecting DVDs of my favorite childhood TV shows and share them with the kids. Gilligan’s Island is a favorite. Find an Xbox® game you and your kids enjoy and hold a family tournament. With new advances in home entertainment technology every day, how can a parent hope to compete for their family’s attention? You don’t have to. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Making Time for Family
By Mimi Kight