5 Ways to Really Slow Down Your Life and Connect
eat dinner. even if it is late. as a family.
We have four children and there is not one weeknight that is a free night. Mondays our daughter has Bible Study. Tuesdays all the kids are at Awana. Wednesday is youth group. Thursday is our couples' small group. Fridays and Saturdays are musical practice. Just to write this makes my heart start to race wondering where we have to be at what time tomorrow.
But one place where we know we will be is at dinner. This tip is coming straight from my childhood where we would often eat a later dinner in order to eat with my dad if he was working late. I remember many dinners where we would sit around the table and my dad would go through each of my classes and ask me what I did. It was a place where I felt safe and could share my thoughts. I applaud my mom for making that such an important part of our days together. And it is not just a feel good tip, but a crucial one for our children's lives: Children not eating dinner with their families are 61 percent more likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs; check out other statistics here. So, even if you have to eat it late, make that commitment to eat together for most of your meals during the week.
Remember the days when you could be outside all day long with your friends, but when you heard that dinner bell, you ran home for dinner. Dinner was the place where families could reconnect. As a family.
By the way, we actually do have a bell to call the kids home from outside for dinner and Mike, my husband, will say that is one of the single best parenting things that I have implemented in our lives. Hmm, maybe I should ask what the other ones are...
play. inside. outside. just play. together.
As a whole, we are not as busy as we think we are. If you really measure the amount of time that an average child is in front of TVs or computers, you will see that a normal child has some free time, but parents are not using that time to get involved with their children's lives and being interactive with them. I do not mean just driving them around to the countless activities that fill each day.
I mean playing with your child. In recent years, interactive TV has taken over interactive parenting. Before this wonderful technology, parents had to be creative when there were not as many activities.
Now, please know that I am not bashing computers, computer games, or netflix. I love a good family movie night just as much as the next gal. What I am saying is that I think more parents, me included, need to get in there with the kids and play those games with the kids or play a board game, or take a walk together.
Again, my parents made games an important part of my growing up memories. Whether it was playing Big Deal with my sister, playing matchbox cars with my brother, or even now, my parents playing the card game, War, with my children, games were vital to us staying close and enjoying our days together.
So we have recently implemented a screen free week. Unless my children are using the computers for an educational activity, computer and TV screens are off during the week. Fridays are okay for the occasional family movie night or even a Good Luck Charlie rerun, but besides that, I am trying to be more intentional with my time that we have as a family.
make sundays special. together.
Whether you are into keeping the Sabbath holy or just keeping it set apart for a family time, there needs to be one day that is set apart for restoring a sense of refreshment to your family.
For our family, that does not mean we do not do anything on a Sunday. What it does mean is that we try to stay together as a family. We might go to my daughter's volleyball game or go to a nephew's chess match. The point is that we are together as a family. Cheering each other on and making memories together.
Remember when Leah had a ballet recital and the last group to dance was a bunch of older ladies who did a hip hop song wearing very inappropriate clothes? Of course you don't, because you were not there, but our whole family does remember that and we still talk about it today. And it was hilarious!
give up one activity. as a family.
Our family has always had the rule to only have one extra activity in addition to church activities for each of my children. Using that rule, even if each child was only involved in one activity, we would still have 8 different activities that we needed to make time for in the week. That does not even take into account that activities that my husband or myself are involved in as well. Well, this year we broke that rule and like I said in the first paragraph, our days are no longer our own. It is driving from one activity to another with no time to breathe.
We did not mean to do it. We just slowly slipped into a super busy schedule. We just did it. And how can these kids be in two places at once? How can my daughter? It seems to be unheard of to miss a game, but are we sacrificing our families in order to not let the team down? We are still working on what balance looks like in our family. If you have any tips, please comment and let me know.
All I do know is that over Christmas vacation, when the activities take a break, our family reconnects, enjoys each other, and looks forward to our time as a family. I feel as a society, we have lost the whole concept of the family unit: Dad takes son to baseball while mom takes daughter to soccer. Dad leaves baseball to pick up daughter because mom needs to leave to pick up other daughter. No one ever gets to just sit and watch an activity as a family. I know having four children lends itself to a busier schedule, but I see parents of fewer children dealing with the same thing.
Is it possible to look at your schedule and give up something? Even if your kids really enjoy something, is it best for the whole family?
And now, I am going back to one of the ideas from the article:
read. every. night. as a whole family.
Whether it it is poetry, the Bible, or your child's reading book for school, take time to read everyday aloud to your child. Even if they are older. We read a higher level novel to the whole family every night while our kids are all tucked in. This is in addition to the picture books that we read. It is a time of snuggling and cuddling. A time when the clock really does seem to stop or at least slow down.
To go to bed after reading of God's promises of love and compassion is a way to refresh your child and the extra ten minutes that he might not get in sleep will not matter as he will be blessed by the promises and the meditations of God's word that he will hold in his or her heart for years to come.
God wants us to slow down and enjoy all that he has given us. By doing this, we will be refreshed as a family, possibly have more time to use for Him in serving or divine appointments, possibly enjoy dinner more, but for sure have the memories that will last for a lifetime. Even if it is awkward dance attire!