You know you should be spending more time together as a family, but when you are together…Well, things seem to not go so smoothly. Everyone is in different rooms. Or maybe in the same room, but engrossed in their personal devices. Or everyone starts getting on each others’ nerves and you spend more time separating your kids than bonding with them and teaching them.
If you’ve gone to the trouble to clear your schedules a bit to create some intentional quality family time, taking a few extra minutes to plan can help things go more smoothly. Your family is used to entertaining themselves, doing whatever it is they personally want to do – it’s no longer necessary to negotiate the sharing of the one tv in the house.
Not having to compromise, means entertainment has become a bit selfish. What everyone else wants to do with their time is of little consequence. No wonder conflicts can erupt when suddenly a family who can usually do whatever they want for entertainment is now forced to agree on something and do it together for a period of time.
No worries though! A few well planned, fun, family activities will keep your children engaged and asking for more family time. Not everything has to be overtly religious. It’s amazing how many opportunities you will have for teaching your kids about what God wants them to do in the course of something simple like playing a board game together.
There are a million things you can do together as a family, that give you plenty of opportunities to bond, teach and model. Here are some of the things our family loved to do when our daughter was younger.
Family Game Night – Kids love playing board games with their parents. Library book sales and yard sales often have board games for sale for a couple of dollars. Our Five Below store even has a lot of fun games for $5 or less.
International Night. This was a huge hit for a variety of reasons in our house. I cooked several recipes from the “mystery” country. They were easy to find on the internet or you can buy many types of cuisine already prepared in many areas. The rest of the family tried to guess the country as we ate their most famous dishes. Often we would also listen to their music, try a few words of their language or participate in a few other things from the culture. It’s also a great way to introduce missions to your kids.
After dinner family walks. Recently, I was in Ukraine. It seemed like every family in my neighborhoods in two different cities went for family walks after dinner. Along the way, they were talking and playing with their children. They even continued their post dinner walks when school started.
Family projects. Whether it’s making a tarp into a car track for an orphanage or cleaning the garage, working together on a project is great. Often, these are things you normally do, but separately. So instead of everyone being assigned a different room to clean, for example, everyone works together on the same room.
Making cookies. This is a classic for a reason! What’s more fun than baking cookies together? Sugar cookies that you can also decorate are always great. They don’t have to be Christmas cookies either. After enjoying a few of your creations, take the rest to someone who could use a little cheer and company – as a family.
Exploring. Whether it’s geocaching or visiting a new area of town (or a new town), exploring can be a great bonding experience. Let your kids help plan the adventure for even more quality family time.
Picnics. Take a blanket and take-out if you don’t want to cook and hit the road. Picnics are great conversation starters. Don’t forget to take a frisbee for more family fun after you finish eating. (When the weather is bad, indoor picnics and “camping” are usually a huge hit with kids.)
So grab your kids and start spending time together. Having fun as a family is great. It strengthens family bonds and gives you chances to slip in little bits of God’s wisdom from time to time. It also gives you a chance to model godly behaviors for your kids and chances to see your kids’ hearts more clearly. Plus, you are creating wonderful memories you will all cherish for years to come.
If you read any book or article on parenting, the author usually suggests plenty of “family time”. Yet, millions of families around the world barely see each other and their kids seem to be turning out just fine. Or are they? Is family time really that important? And what exactly are you supposed to be doing during this mysterious “family time”?
Believe it or not, family time was part of God’s plan. Twice in Deuteronomy (11:9 and 6:7) God tells parents to spend lots of time every day teaching their children His Words. He doesn’t call it family time, but if you are teaching them at home, as you walk along the road, when you get up and when you lie down – that’s quite a bit of time interacting with your children in meaningful ways during the day.
And that is what family time is really about – creating stronger relationships with your children and teaching them directly or indirectly the things God wants them to know. In fact, that famous verse in Proverbs about training up your child in the way he should go (22:6) implies parents are actually the spiritual coaches for their children. If you have ever had a coach – especially a successful one – you know how much time and effort they put into coaching each player as well as the team.
Listing the benefits of quality family time would take an entire article. Almost every study that gauges children who are healthy and successful usually mentions family time as a contributing factor. Other studies examining risky behaviors almost always mention that young people who do not participate in risky behaviors usually have more quality family time than young people who take unhealthy risks.
Sometimes this is presented as having family meals, while often it is just mentioned in general. Regardless, family time makes a huge positive difference in the life of any child – perhaps especially a child who is being raised to become a productive Christian. Your kids can’t learn everything God wants them to know from attending even the best church in the world. There’s just too much teaching and coaching that needs to be done. To be done successfully, you will need to spend a lot of intentional time with your kids.
So assuming you create time in your busy schedules for family time, what exactly should you be doing during that time together? Should you be preaching sermons to your kids? Can you have fun together and count it as family time?
There are actually a lot of fun, meaningful things you can do doing your family time each day. In our next post, we will share some specific ideas of things you can do with your kids. In the meantime, pull out your family calendar and schedule some family time each day. It will provide long term benefits for your children that will last years beyond their childhood.
Many families make at least a day trip to the beach during the summer months. It’s a great way to enjoy nature, get some exercise and just have fun. Did you know though you can also have fun at the beach using its resources to teach your kids about God? You don’t have to “sermonize”, just work in casual observations and conversation as you do various activities.
There are probably a ton of things you can do at the beach to point your kids to God, but here are a few of our favorites:
Watch the sunrise or sunset. Take your towels and sit with your kids enjoying the beauty. It’s a great quite time to have a family devotional. Or just talk with your kids about the beauty of God’s creation and how much He must love us to give us so many beautiful things to see in our world. End your time with a prayer thanking God for His blessings.
Take a walk along the shoreline. This is a great time to have those important parent/kid talks about anything and everything. Let your children take the lead. If they are reluctant to talk, asking an open ended question might get them talking. This isn’t a time for lecturing, just listening and trying to get to know your children’s hearts.
Collect seashells (Don’t keep any with animals still inside.) This is a great way to get your kids to notice God’s creativity. Talk about the diversity in the shells you find. If you keep finding the same type of clam or oyster shells, challenge your kids to look closer and see if they can notice differences in the same type of shell. Talk about the creativity we have if we are reflecting God’s image. Discuss the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Encourage them to think of creative ways to use those gifts to serve others and share their faith.
Notice the waves and the tides – high and low. Talk about how God knows what the world needs – and more importantly, what we need. What are the advantages of each tide? Or just tides and waves in general? (For example, coral needs the action of waves to grow. Coral tanks in aquariums have to create fake waves to keep the coral alive and growing.) What things does God give us that we need? Or have a discussion about needs versus wants. There are a lot of possible application lessons in the waves and tides.
Do something with your child that is exercise – running, swimming, biking on the boardwalk bike path, peddle carts, etc. Afterwards talk about the importance of keeping our bodies healthy so we have the strength and health to serve God. Talk about the other areas of health like mental, emotional and spiritual. What does God want us to do to stay healthy in those areas? What new healthy habits can your family develop?
Build a sand castle. If you build it near the water’s edge, you know what will eventually happen. When your castle is damaged or destroyed by a wave, you can talk about the things that can destroy or damage us. Talk about the ways you could protect your sand castle. Then talk about the ways God tries to protect us by giving us commands to follow.
The beach can be an amazing fun family vacation. It will create lots of family memories. Why not also use that special family time and the teachable moments at the beach to strengthen your children’s spiritual foundations? It’s time well spent.
If you’re a Christian parent, you are well aware there are a couple of verses in the Bible about children obeying their parents. You may have even used them from time to time to remind your kids to obey you.
As your kids get older, the obedience part becomes more natural (hopefully!). The part that causes them issues at times is the part we forget is in the verse. Here’s the entire passage found in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth.”
Have you ever heard words coming out of your mouth that didn’t sound like you? Most likely, you had been around someone who constantly used the same phrase or maybe they used curse words in every sentence. One day those words start coming out of your mouth.
That is often how ungodly speech patterns begin. Either we are constantly around someone who has them or we just get lazy about monitoring our speech.
Your kids may also pick up bad habits from ignorance – repeating friends, not realizing what they are actually saying. Or maybe they look up to someone famous or listen to the music of someone who degrades others with their speech.