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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reconnect: How to Spend Quality Time in Your Family

I have an idea for spending after-school time more effectively in your home. This works for families where both parents work and the children go to school. It works if you homeschool. It especially works if you make it a tradition in your home. I’ve gleaned my “novel” idea from different media sources. One was a teacher in a secular school. Another was a man who recently wrote a bedtime book for children. I formulated an idea that I believe will work in your home. I hope you’re curious enough to give it a try.

My idea has to do with the cell phone dilemma. What do you do with kids who always have gadgets in their hands? What if you need yours, too? This isn't about "check your phone at the door." That doesn't quite do it in a world where kids actually do their homework research online. 

I haven't tested this out myself. Why? Believe it or not, my kids never had a cell phone while they lived at home. We didn’t have Internet access until our youngest was either in his senior year or was already gone. (I don’t remember.) Sooooo, we simply didn’t have disturbances to connecting with our kids. Plus, I homeschooled, and I was my kids' taxi-driver—in Spain, you need to be eighteen to drive. We ate all meals as a family, too. Believe me, we connected well with our children! 

But, now is now, and things—life—is different. Many children, especially teens, have cell phones, and they are always connected—or are playing games. It’s hard to break through and communicate with them. “Helloooooo, Johnny, are you there?”

So, how can we improve life at home? I believe I’ve come up with an easy way to do so without ruining your child’s homework or social life. Hang on for my suggestions, and I’d love to hear back from you if you try this.

The Reconnect Method 
  1. Establish family times. For sure, they should include dinner, commutes in the car, and the thirty minutes before bedtime. You can include others, too, of course. During “family time,” no one in the household may hold a phone or tablet. Some families have a special basket for phone collection. Do what works for you. Phones need to be in silent mode during family time. Every member of the family switches off at this same time every day. If friends always call at dinnertime, for example, your kids can advise them that Mom and Dad insist on dinner without phones.
  2. Make sure bedtime is special. Some people pray with their children during this goodnight time. It's important to kiss each child goodnight and tell them you love them. (I confess; I often ended my tender goodnight with my teenage son with a pillow fight. But, to this day, he caught the love as well as the pillows!) Even big children need a sweet goodnight.
  3. Talk during your family times. Your talking doesn’t have to be about anything special. Your family needs to be a safe place where kids and parents can express opinions without recriminations. You can laugh, share, enjoy, and discuss. Do not have the TV on during family time! Around the table for meals and afterwards is a great time to discuss the day and have fun together. Our family used the time after our main meal—middle of the day in Europe—for reading the Bible together and prayer. Again, do what works for your family, but talk!
  4. From time to time, schedule a Family Fun Time. A lot of people do these on Friday nights, but I can imagine that many working women are absolutely worn out on Friday evenings. How about Saturday noon? A picnic—or playing board games, if it rains? How about doing something together, like biking, walking along the beach, hiking . . . something outdoors, but close to home? How about playing badminton or kickball in the yard? I know you’ve already thought of something your family would enjoy. Again, no cell phones for anyone during Family Fun Time. It needs to be a regular time, every week (if possible). 
By the way, expect to go through a week or two of adjustments. Kids might forget to put their phones in the basket, or they might carry the phone to the table, or they might get six texts from friends during meals. These things are normal. Soon, their friends will get used to your schedule—and so will your kids.

I would love for your family to enjoy the same kind of connection we had/have with our kids. I would love for you and your kids to be close, too. Try my suggestions, and see how they work for you. If you think of it, come back and leave a comment about how the "Reconnect Method" worked for your family.

 He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.
 The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children.
(Psalm 115:13-14)


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