Today in the mail I received all the welcome information for our kids to start school. It is hard to believe it is that time all ready. Soon the summer days will be gone and we will be back "at-it." I love not having to be up and out the door with three kids at 8:30. I appreciate the flexibility that summer gives our family.
I start to wonder, can I really do this again? Packing lunches at dawn, homework, baseball practice, teaching, piano, dance, grocery shopping, rushing home to get dinner on the table, the kids in bed, just to start it all over again the next day? I am not the only parent concerned about the rush that the school year brings. I have received a number of questions from concerned moms about how to focus more on family and less on the hectic lifestyle that they are living.
As your thoughts turn to the new school year, I offer some suggestions to help you find more quality family time.
#1: Limit Your Children's Activities.
Limit your kids to one, maybe two, after-school activities. Shoot for one. This may be a harder decision for you than for your kids. We tend to want our children to be involved in everything and learn every skill and talent. Kids also feel pressure from teachers and peers to be involved in lots of different activities. Choices have to be made. Think of it this way: Teaching your kids to make choices is an essential part of a parent's job. These activities build skills and give kids a sense of what they can do. But time spent with the family gives them a sense of who they are. Plus, if your kids are always away from the family at their different activities, they can't be spending time with the family. Don't over schedule your kids.
#2: Limit Your Activities.
As parents, we need to limit our activities. A good rule of thumb, no more than one night out for each parent, per week. When we are gone all the time we can't be there for our families when they need us. The rituals that build closeness- bedtime stories, walks after dinner, playing games, talking-can't happen when Mom and Dad are always gone. Don't over schedule yourself. This doesn't include Date Night. Date night is essential to keeping marital relationships strong and on track.
#3: Turn off the T.V.
Turn the TV off during meals, especially dinner. In fact, consider turning the TV off Monday through Thursday. You will love the difference it makes in your home. There will be less contention. There will be more talking amongst family members. More will get done around the house and you will appreciate the calm atmosphere. There will be more time for homework, reading, talking and playing. Remember the TV post? There are better things for families to do than spend excessive amounts of time watching TV. Plus, having the TV on in the background adds another level of noise and stress.
#4: Eat Dinner Together.
Set a standing time for dinner and stick to it. Make it clear that all family members are expected to be there to eat together. This could be one of the most important rituals you have with your family. Do what ever it takes to sit down together. Make it special. Light candles, set the table, use special dishes. Don't discuss discipline issues, don't answer the phone, turn off the TV. Make it a safe place where every family member feels loved and accepted. If dinner is impossible for you to eat together, eat breakfast together. Just eat together everyday.
#5: Get Some Sleep.
Set a bed time for your children, and for you. 10 pm or 11pm at the latest (for you of course.) Stick to it. When we are rested we feel calm. When we are calm we are better able to deal with our families. We are more calm, more clear headed, more loving and compassionate. I know what you are thinking. "I have too much to do and I only have time when everyone is asleep." I hear you. I understand. I am the same way. Regardless, getting the sleep we need will bless our lives. If we are not over scheduled we will be able to admonish this suggestion. Do what needs to be done, and let the rest go. It will still be there in the morning, promise.
#6: Read Together.
Whether it is at night as part of your bedtime ritual, or during the day, find time to read with your children everyday. We read stories every night before bed. We also like our reading tree. We take a blanket and a book outside and sit below our favorite tree and have reading time together. Great bonds are created when we sit down and read together.
#7: Cook Double.
Dinner is one of the hardest times of the day. Everyone is tired, hungry and there is much to do. Simplify your meal prep so that you can spend more time with your family and there will be less stress. One way to do this is to cook double. Double your recipes, freeze, and save half for another night. It is worth finding a dinner plan that works for your family. Plan ahead, try to prepare, and simplify.
#8: Plan a Fun Family Activity Every Week.
Friday nights are perfect for a family activity. They don't have to be expensive. Remember, Family Fun Friday is always around to give you ideas. Be creative. Check out what your communities and cities have to offer. Take a hike, play a game and make a homemade dessert. Anything together. I know a family that goes out every Saturday night together. The children take turns planning the activity. They are given a 5 dollar budget. They have been carrying out this tradition since their children were very small. The children have become so creative, most of the time they don't even need the 5 dollars. These weekly activities give your families a chance to regroup, and reconnect.
There is a great analogy that I like to use in class from Stephen Covey.
Pretend that you are trying to cut down a tree. Next to you is someone else trying to do the same thing. You work and work and never take a break. Never the less, the person next to you finishes before you do. You question what they have done.
"How is it you finished first? Especially when you took breaks every hour?"
The response, "I might have taken a break every hour, but what you didn't see was that during each break I sharpened my saw."
We often think that our families will function better if we put our noses down and never take a break. That is not the case. We need to take a break and sharpen our saws. Take time to spend with our families, engaged in fun, interactive, meaningful activities. We will be more productive, and happier.
These 8 suggestions will make a HUGE difference in your family. If we want to protect our families from the 24/7 world that is trying to take over, we must decide to make our home and families our fortress. We have to be intentional with our families time. Family time will not happen unless we make it happen.
ANYONE ELSE SAD THAT THE SCHOOL YEAR IS UPON US?
DOES YOUR FAMILY STRUGGLE TO FIND TIME TO BE TOGETHER?
P.S. Thank you for all your kind comments and support with yesterday's post. It made my day.