By Bev and Phil Haas
I’m looking forward to the upcoming holidays. The main reason is that our family will actually get to spend some unstructured time together. However, I don’t want to depend on holidays to enjoy being together. Any suggestions on how we can make this more of a regular part of our family’s rhythm?
When it comes to a healthy family rhythm, it’s helpful to learn from positive models and from research. The most extensive research conducted on healthy families has been ongoing since the early 1970s, known as the Family Strengths Research Project. Their results reveal six family strengths:
• Strong families express appreciation and affection. They speak in positive and affirming ways and express the love they have for each other.
• Strong families have a strong commitment to each other. They are deeply committed to each others’ happiness and welfare. They show their commitment by investing time and energy in family activities.
• Strong families spend enjoyable time together. They know that if they don’t prioritize and schedule time together, it won’t happen.
• Strong families manage stress and crises effectively. They are not exempt from difficult days, but they develop strategies to pull together rather than fall apart when tough times happen.
• Strong families have a sense of spiritual well-being. There are consistent themes of guiding values, as well as commitment to important causes and to God.
• Strong families have effective and positive communication patterns. They talk and listen to each other. They may have specific ground rules on how they communicate with each other in respectful, loving ways.
Enjoyable Time Together
Today’s family is exceedingly busy. Spending quality and quantity time together as a family is a wise investment. Here are some reasons to make time for family togetherness:
• Bonding: Time together is associated with kids and parents having a stronger emotional bond. The activities don’t have to cost money or involve extensive planning.
• Communication: Spending time as a family is associated with better communication among family members (one of the six traits listed previously).
• Growth: Kids who spend time with their parents tend to do better at school. Also teenagers who are actively spending family time with parents tend to have less behavioral problems.
We’re hoping that a reminder of these benefits will motivate you to keep working to make time together a priority when the grind of life gets in your way.
Make Time, Take Time
For tangible suggestions on making time for each other, we’re pulling some practical points from Dr. William Doherty and Barbara Carlson’s book, Putting Family First: Successful Strategies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World. These coauthors remind us that there’s a lot we can do to bring a healthier balance into our family life. Their suggestions include:
• Set aside specific days and times for family rituals. Regular family dinners are a good place to start. Strive for four to five times per week. But at least start with once a week and then increase the frequency.
• Use discernment. When faced with any request for your time, ask if this commitment will sync with your true priorities before saying yes.
• Bow out. Give no a try when faced with requests and invitations to events you’re really not interested in—also when your kids want to sign up for activities that have the potential to overwhelm them and you. (Our grandson is trying out different sports and then his parents will have him choose one instead of continuing to play all of them.)
• Do a trial run. When scaling back or phasing out some activities, first do so temporarily. Knowing you can reverse your decisions will embolden you to try adjustments you might otherwise put off.
• Turn off devices. Establish a rule that all electronic media go off an hour before bedtime. This is a quick and easy way to carve out a little more family time each day.
• Take all your vacation days. Studies show that most Americans don’t use all their allotted vacation time. Block the time out early in the year, make it sacred, and avoid taking work with you.
• Avoid unnecessary debt. Accumulating debt increases the temptation to work more to pay it off, thus giving you less time to enjoy your family.
“Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do” (Hebrews 10:25, New Living Translation). We believe this principle for the church can also be applied to the family. We must not neglect meeting together.
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 two grandsons.