As you know, summer can be busy. Sometimes it is hard to get everything done, be with the kids, go on vacations, stay active, and still keep your sanity. I was flying on an airplane a few weeks ago and the man next to me loved to talk. He talked about his job and how it was like a funnel. I thought more about it and decided that not only our jobs are like funnels but our whole lives are like funnels. Let me explain.
As we go about our day to day activities we have choices. Wake up on time or wake up late. Exercise or don’t exercise. Eat breakfast or don’t eat breakfast. We live in a fast paced world where we are trying to get as many things done as we possibly can. Because we try to pack so many things into our lives, the things that come out throughout the day aren’t always the most important. So this summer, I challenge you to try and put family first a little more often. Here are some of my tips of what I do to keep our family bond strong.
1. Make a Schedule
When we were little, my Mom would sit us down and we would make a list of everything we wanted to do that summer. She usually gave us a budget so we tried to fit as many things as we could with our money. After we figured out our activities, she pulled out the calendar and we filled it up. We were able to do many activities as a family because we were organized.
2. One a Day
Kids usually have a lot of down time during the summer. Make a goal to do something with your kids everyday. Being on a budget, we like to keep our daily activity simple such as eating lunch in the park, going on a nature walk, going to the library, or running through the sprinklers (and yes, I like to run through the sprinklers.)
3. Limit TV Time
The average American child watches more than four hours of TV a day, despite a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that kids 2 and older should watch no more than one to two hours. I’ve noticed that when my kids watch TV or play video games for hours, they become cranky, lazy, and they seem to fight a lot more. This summer we have decided that our kids have to earn their TV. Before any screen time is allowed then need to clean their room and read for 20 minutes. With the TV off, my girls are using their imaginations more, and we are spending more time together.
4. Teamwork Beads
Every summer we have a rewards jar. This year we filling our jar with Teamwork Beads. Everyday we work together as a family and do a chore such as pull weeds, put dishes away, fold the laundry, or vacuum. If they complete the task (without complaining) they can earn a bead. Once they earn 20 beads they can trade it in for a family activity. We let them pick from a variety of activities such as: swimming, bowling, camping, hiking, or even going out for ice cream.
5. Family Dinner
There are many benefits of eating family dinner together. Not only can it be healthier, but it really brings a family together. You have the opportunity to ask your kids questions about school, sports, friends, or anything that happened that day. If you have older kids, it can be hard to get the family together to eat. Try setting a goal to eat together once or twice a week. When a few of the sisters were teenagers, my Mom always had a nice dinner on Sunday evening in which we rarely missed. Looking back, I am grateful for the memories we made over family dinner.
As girls, we watched my parents serve many people. I remember one bad winter where our Dad grabbed a shovel and started shoveling all the neighbor’s driveways. The next day he bought a few extra shovels and as a family, we were able to shovel many side walks that year.
My Mom also taught me how to serve. She is known in our neighborhood for her desserts because she shared them with everyone. Whenever someone was in need or having a bad day, she would always bake something and take it over. Now being a Mom, it is very important to me that my children know how to serve others. This last year we had the sweetest neighbor who turned 100 years old. She had mentioned that it was getting hard to cook so as a family we decided that we would bring her any leftovers we had. It was my girls’ job to deliver the dinner every week. They began to develop a relationship with our sweet neighbor and began to love her as they would a family member. Serving her was no longer something I forced them to do. Soon, they were able to do things for her on their own because they truly loved her.
There are many people in need and there are many ways we can help others as a family. Some easy ideas are: mowing lawns, weeding the neighbors garden, walking a dog, raking leaves, or even just sitting down with an elderly person and talking. I believe a family that serves together, stays together.
7. Kids Journal
Every Sunday we write in our journals. My husband and I help with the younger kids since they can’t write yet. They tell us what happened that week and we write it in their words. We have been doing this for 3 years now and it is so fun to go back and read about the fun adventures we have had (especially in the eyes of a child). It really only takes about 15 minutes and it helps us remember everything we have done as a family.
8. Family Home Evening
As sisters, we belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as Mormons). Every Monday night we have something called Family Home Evening. After dinner on Monday we sit in the living room as a family, sing some songs, read a scripture, have family prayer, give an uplifting story, play a game and have a treat. We try hard to have Family Home Evening every Monday and it has become a day that the kids look forward to.
Now comes the hard part. As humans we tend to stick to habits we are used to. So if you want to change what is going into your “funnel” it is going to take some work. The easiest way for me to change is to have a constant reminder. I like to write down my goals and place them in a spot that I will see regularly. Then I tape my list onto items that I am around often (such as the refrigerator or a bathroom mirror).
We believe that the Family is the most important thing on this earth. We are given a family to provide for us, protect us, and to help us in this life. We are here for a reason, we are in our families for a reason.
To learn more about strengthening families and putting family first visit: http://beta.mormon.org/beliefs/the-family.php.