Recently a mom asked this question for a Mom’s Corner topic:
One other area I want to improve is our family time together. Our children are growing up so fast. We often are busy doing our own things at home. We homeschool our three youngest children. Our oldest is taking classes at a nearby Christian college, but he lives at home. We want to make sure we are living in such a way that we are making time for each other and that we have our children’s hearts. We so admire reading your blog and seeing how your family gathers together for special occasions or ordinary time that is also special. I know those times don’t happen without planning. I would be grateful if you would write about how others could cultivate those times in our families. I was better at planning fun things when our boys were little, but I find it harder to do now that they are older. Our sons are 18, 15, 13, and 9 years old.
A Planned Evening
For our family, scheduled dinner time with clean up and family Bible time right after it was key to having consistent family time. We picked a dinner time that fit best with the whole family. Sometimes we would float it earlier or later if that would accommodate someone for one particular evening, but generally it was a stable time, and everyone showed up for dinner at the right time.
Our evening meal together allowed the family to debrief about their day. There was always lively conversation around our dinner table that everyone enjoyed and participated in. When someone wasn’t there for that meal for one reason or another, they were disappointed to miss the family news that was shared and the discussions that had gone on.
In the process of these discussions, there were opportunities to discuss God’s truth and how it applied to what we had observed during the day, what we had experienced, or what we were dealing with. “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge (Proverbs 5:1-2).
Even now, with three grown daughters having busy schedules, we still value our family dinners and plan a time for dinner that will work for all of us on the evenings we have activities.
Clean Up and Bible Time Together
Working together on dinner clean up made it go faster and continued our family time.
When clean up was finished, we transitioned to family Bible time. Family Bible time was a habit that we prioritized for every night. Often as we gathered in the living room our family talk was still going on and would continue for a while before we moved into reading the Word.
What better way to grow together as a family than around God’s Word as we read it, discussed it, and sought to nurture our walks with Jesus. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Working Together Is Better Than Fun
A few years into our parenting, Steve and I became disillusioned with fun being a good basis for growing family relationships. Experientially we observed activities that had no benefit besides fun generating selfishness, greediness, and laziness in our children. So we transitioned to focusing more on quality talking time, working, and serving together. In the midst of those projects we did as a family, there was lots of laughter and enjoyment, plus the accomplishment of a productive goal.
When the girls were in their teens, I planned regular time (usually once a month) to take a daughter with me on errands and out for dinner.
For many years, once a month Steve and the boys went to an inner-city mission to minister to the men. The girls and I made and individually wrapped chocolate chip cookies for them to bring. Steve would often take a child with him on errands. It was a great dad-son or dad-daughter time. There are many special family memories tied up with these activities.
With communication key in family relationships, we regularly took family walks in the evening or on the weekend (And still do but not nearly as often, and it can be a much bigger group!). During those walks, we had the family gathered together doing one focused thing, we were talking with each other, and we got some exercise in the process.
Often we saw neighbors when we walked so we could stop to visit for a bit and develop those relationships as well.
We have five married sons and 17 grandchildren, along with my mom, who all live less than an hour from us. On holidays, we generally have a special meal here with whoever can and wants to come. Also, on Sundays, after church, those who are available are welcome to come over for lunch. Some Sundays we have a big group, sometimes fewer or even just one other family, and occasionally, it is just us. Each of those Sunday groupings has its own benefits and joys. And both of those traditions we’ve had for many years, even when only one or two sons were married, and we’ve continued that on. There is no pressure to come, but they know they’re welcome, and we think that has fostered family relationships.
Prioritize Family Time
I doubt you will regret prioritizing family time and protecting it. When that time is built around the Word, you not only develop family relationships but also help your children to grow spiritually. When family time involves working and serving together, you have the added benefit of showing your children the joys of giving rather than taking. Strong families come from purposeful parenting.