With the door to 2018 opening wider each day, I find myself thinking and daydreaming about what I would like to see beyond that door. What do I want 2018’s story to be? While I don’t have the title finalized just yet, there are certain chapters that I already have written. Here’s a sneak peek into a couple of entries:
MORE TIME WITH FAMILY
If you don’t have tweens or teens yet, stick this chapter in your back pocket. Right now is the time to start emphasizing family time is the most important time. Equip yourself for the independent years – by the time they are 12, they’ll be asking to hang out at the mall with friends every opportunity they have. The prep work you do now will set you up for less of a fight when you say the dreaded word “no” and insert family plans.
Once they are officially teens, they have a social calendar that rivals and often trumps yours. You find yourself taping your eyes open while waiting for the late night “can you pick me up now” call. You decline a dinner invitation with your friends because it’s your turn drive your teen and friends to Carowinds. And if you think the Carowinds thing ends with summer, wrong: Scarowinds and Winterfest will keep you driving past your bedtime. Compound this scenario by the number of teens you have.
During the teens years, when you throw out the “hanging out as a family” card, there will undoubtedly be more pushback. And then enters the guilt about “sabotaging” your child’s social life. After all, you want your child to have a solid circle of friends in middle and high school. Priming them from a young age to prioritize family first will help them understand the importance of balance and at the end of the day, family is always first.
HOW TO INVEST MORE TIME WITH FAMILY
This is where you have to get creative and intentional, so that you can manage expectations and reduce pushback: start traditions. With a new year arriving in a couple of weeks, the perfect time to start thinking about your family’s traditions is now.
Here are a few ways how our family constructs time together each week:
– Sunday night dinners: we traditionally have marinated tuna and sides. And the kids don’t just show up for the dinner bell like most nights – they hangout with us while we prepare the meal. Do your kids have a favorite meal? Make that your Sunday night dinner and cook together as a family.
Movie night: we try to have “Sunday night movie night” to decompress for the upcoming week. Procrastination runs in our family and too often, we find ourselves frazzled and separated by individual deadlines and to-dos. The good dinner vibes turn into stress. Solution: complete tasks after church or better yet, before Sunday.
Church: a time to reflect as a family. Church provides a scheduled time to be together, talk in the car, discuss the message afterwards, and sometimes eat out together afterwards. Not a church-goer? Have a productive discussion over a big breakfast.
Gratitude: get together and talk about what you are all grateful for. Not only will you realize you have so much to be thankful for, you help one another develop a mindset of gratitude.
Homework (insert sour face here): but really, helping your children with homework, or at least having a discussion about it, creates dialogue and reminds us to be present. When I realize that I have no idea what my children are learning in school, I know that I am out of touch with them.
Look for minutes in the day: moments matter. Again, it’s all about being present. When my husband and I find ourselves alone downstairs for a period of time, we call our kids to come be with us. It’s too easy for all of us to fall into the black hole of technology, whiling away time.
Occasionally, we have family game night. I’d like this to have more nights like these. Carefree and fun.
Teens and their social lives will provide you constant reminders of how much time you truly have left with them. You start missing them before they have even moved out. In less than four years, my son will have graduated. Strength in family now translates into strength in family later, when they will have the choice to visit home or not. Here’s to it always being an easy choice for them, and to us, forever holding our doors wide open.