By Bev and Phil Haas
My spouse and I work full-time jobs, our kids are involved in sports, and the older ones also have part-time jobs of their own. We’re feeling like the most we have in common as a family is that we live at the same address. Can you suggest ways to make time for some fun together as a family?
Even though it can be tough to schedule, it’s important for your family to find ways to spend time together regularly. With all that’s going on with your family, you’ll need to get creative with your attempts to spend time together. It will be challenging, but you’ll find that it will be worth your efforts. Your family will be closer because of it.
Don’t try to figure it all out as parents. Get your kids’ input on how to spend family time. You may be surprised to learn they want your family to get out more—or stay home more. It might be unrealistic to designate a regular family time as part of your routine. Instead, you may set aside an afternoon or evening as a family check-in time—perhaps during dinner or sometime before everyone goes to bed. And remember, just being home together doesn’t mean you’ve spent time with each other if everyone is tuned in to a favorite electronic device. On a recent trip to spend time with my mom, I was unsettled to look up and see all three of us giving our full attention to our iPads and iPhones!
Time together having fun is an important element of successful marriages and families. Various studies have linked family activities and outings with fewer problem behaviors in both children and adults. Bev’s aunt and uncle are consistent game players in their family—if two or three are gathered, there is a game! No one is allowed just to sit around. Having had teens, we understand that getting teenagers to spend time at home with the family can be challenging. Help your kids find a balance between self-interest and family interests. If your kids— especially older ones—balk at participating in many family activities, make it clear that certain family times are non-negotiable, like holidays and family birthdays.
Planning Fun Family Vacations
Many families go on regular vacations during the summer break from school. Family vacations can be some of the best times your family spends together. Consider several strategies for making sure all members of your family enjoy your
vacation. Set a vacation goal. Are you going to relax at the beach, take in the activities at a theme park, or participate in something like the North American Christian Convention? Get everyone’s input! Consider a stay-at-home vacation. Save money and explore local treasures. If your budget allows, invite a friend along for the older kids.
If your children have been involved in the planning and some of the decisions about vacation, they will be more invested in its success. Whether you’re going on vacation together or just sitting down for a meal, enjoy the time you spend with your family. Not only will it help keep your family close; you may also find that it’s a great stress reliever!
Use Available Time to Your Advantage
The time your family has together may be limited, so you may have to make orange juice from your lemons rather than lemonade! Driving to and from practice? Ignore the cell phone and remove the ear buds. You have a captive audience, so let the conversations begin. Leave personal obligations behind and cheer your children on in their activities. They really do want to see their parents at their events.
Even the necessities of routine living can be shared so that you spend time together. Running errands? Who wants to go with you? Make an extra stop for fun along the way. Maybe you could pitch in and help one of the kids clean out his or her closet; it’s a great time to reminisce and talk. Perhaps dad and one of the teens can spend time washing cars together.
Be creative. Evenings when the entire family sits together at dinner may be few. Rather than bemoaning what you don’t have, analyze how you are spending the time you have and adapt. Jesus was with his disciples for three years during his ministry on earth. However, if you read about those years in the Gospels, you’ll find he seized every moment to be “with them.” That’s what we are suggesting you do. Seize the moments you have and make the most of them while your children are at home.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have one grandson.