Spending time as a family won’t always be rainbows and sunshine but by following these seven simple guidelines, your family will see a lot more smiles and significantly fewer frowns.
Let’s face it: Between work, chores, errands and unexpected incidents, family time is a little too easy to push to the side.
So what are the consequences?
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the less time children spend with their family members, the less likely they are to reach their intellectual potential in school, behavior, attitude and, on a grander scale, in society.
Before we had cell phones and thousands of television channels, we had family dinners, conversations and more family outings.
Parents got involved in their children’s lives and kids wanted attention from mom and dad.
Think about your children and ask yourself how often you spend time together without a TV, tablet, computer or cell phone involved.
If your answer is only once or twice a week, perhaps you should consider these seven methods of maintaining a happy family centered on the Lord:
Spend Time Together
It’s easy to spend time together as a family. Sitting down to share breakfast may prove difficult at first but it is definitely an opportunity to get the day off to a great start.
Enjoy a picnic lunch at your local park on the weekend, share a family dinner at the table or even a restaurant. Need exercise? Take the kids, spouse and family pet for a walk around the neighborhood!
The very first, and arguably most important, part of making your family happy, is spending time with them. How else will you understand each others’ likes, dislikes, what is happening in their lives and what their goals are?
When your 5-year-old tells you he wants to be an artist when he grows up, you smile and pin his pictures to the fridge.
Unfortunately, when high school graduates say they want to be an artist, suddenly most parents question whether their child is making the “right” decision.
Rather than questioning your child or encouraging them to seek a more financially stable job, try looking into their interests. Without artists, we wouldn’t have cartoons, comics, advertisements, art in the traditional, hang-it-on-the-wall sense, curators or other lucrative and creative positions.
If your daughter tells you she wants to be the first female president, start looking while she’s young and get her involved in appropriate extracurricular activities and encourage her as she grows up.
It is our job to not only be encouraging of dreams and aspirations but to also encourage each other to be the best we can be in every aspect of our lives.
Encourage your husband to be kind to the office snoop. Encourage your wife to say something nice to the rude coworker. Encourage your children to stand for what’s right at school. Encourage one another to show God’s heart through words and actions throughout the day – then talk about how you each did so over the family dinner!
Forgive One Another
Families squabble. This isn’t new information. There’s always someone who says or does something without thinking – or worse, who purposely upsets their parent, child or sibling.
Remember to forgive each other.
No problem is so great that an apology and time thinking or praying about it can’t fix.
God is greater than any of our petty problems. Turn to Him when you fight with a member of your family and encourage your family to do so as well. Remember we must keep our hearts soft toward one another and we must not be afraid or too proud to apologize when we are wrong.
Even in the story of the Prodigal Son, his father forgave, just as God forgives. We must be like the Prodigal Son’s father and we must not hold our family’s past against them, especially if they come with apologies and asking for forgiveness.
All of us are born with our own personalities. These personalities must be groomed as we age so we understand how to be polite and live our lives in accordance to the morality of the Church, Bible and society.
But what happens when your family members treat all kids like they are the same person?
In a world swept away with gender, sexual, emotional, relational, societal and religious identities, remember to keep God at the center and to pay attention to what your spouse and children need.
Even as adults we can sometimes lose ourselves as we take on the role of “Mom,” “Dad,” “Parent,” “Teacher,” “House cleaner” or “Cook.”
Remember God gave us each individual and unique gifts, whether it be musical talent, a mind for mathematics or a heart for children. Either way, when you spend time with your family, try encouraging each others’ gifts and respecting all members in a manner that is both Godly and respectful.
Cornell University says kids are 35 percent less likely to wind up with eating disorders just by sharing meals with family at the dinner table. The study cites several sources to reveal kids are less likely to be delinquent and are more likely to achieve greater academic success.
Sharing meals also leads to improved psychological well-being.
What does all that stuff mean?
It means engaging with your kids and spouse during dinner will help raise a stronger, happier, healthier and even a smarter family.
Even if it can’t be every single night, make sure to take some time to enjoy a good meal with the kiddos and spouse. Take a few minutes to enjoy good food paired with good company. Learn a little more about each other. Pray for the food together and maybe even close out the meal with a prayer of thanks for health, love and family.
At the center of every family, Christ needs to be present.
It’s easy to be the helicopter parent, who can’t trust their child do make their own bagel without worrying constantly of them somehow burning their hand on the toaster, cutting their fingers with the knife as they spread the cream cheese, or dropping the freshly cream-cheesed bagel onto the floor.
Best to just do it for them, even at 19-years-old, right?
God gave us children to encourage and develop into God-loving men and women who spread the Gospel. The great thing about it is they eventually grow up and move out, get married and have children of their own.
It is our job to make sure they know what they’re getting into and how to take care of themselves by that time.
Have faith that you have taught them everything they need to survive in the real world, outside your home. Have faith that they’ve learned enough from the Bible and from the Church to live their lives with a sense of Christian morality. Have faith that you did the best you could and your children will make the right decisions in their lives.
We may not have all the answers and we may be afraid for how our children make out on their own – but be faithful to God, who will watch over them just as closely as he has always watched over you.
All kids require some form of discipline at some point in their lives, whether it comes in the form of being grounded from hanging out with friends or having their favorite toy removed from the table until they finish all their vegetables.
Though discipline is necessary, the fun times will always outnumber the sober ones. Follow the previous rules to have fun during dinner. Make it together then play a game to see who has to clean up after.
Spend a few minutes each night giving each other encouraging words and sharing about your day. Go to a theme park, make snacks and enjoy a family movie, play a board game or work together to create a brand new game of your very own.
However you choose to have fun, just make sure it happens and that it happens often!