By KAREN WHITE
Stop. Breathe. Be Intentional.
By the time you read this, the back-to-school preparation and rush will have died down and the routines of another school year will be going full steam ahead. So many things on the agenda—for children AND parents! Sports practice and games, piano/art lessons, birthday parties, dance team practice, fundraising events, tailgating preparation, work functions—this list goes on and on, so just use your imaginations. Or, insert your own family’s weekly schedule and see how you feel after thinking on it for a few minutes. Anyone stressed yet? Oh, and I didn’t even mention HOMEWORK!!
The schedules and the activities and just trying to get everything done can be so overwhelming sometimes! And again, I’m talking about for parents and for children. Don’t get me wrong—there is nothing wrong with being involved or trying new things or extra-curricular activities! These things can be beneficial and fun, and even stress reducing at times.
Sometimes, I think we’re trying to accomplish so much, or provide so many opportunities for our children, or try to get so involved that we miss the mark of what we were trying to accomplish by all of that in the first place. Does that make sense? Think about it for a minute—what ARE you trying to accomplish when you volunteer for a certain project or organization, when you sign your child up for another after-school activity, or when you agree to host next month’s supper club and the church group’s kick-off dinner?
I’m NOT saying that we should give all these things up or not encourage our children to participate in extra-curricular activities. I just want you to spend a minute thinking about it all—and especially the bigger picture. What are we and our children—our FAMILIES—potentially missing out on?
I had a really good conversation with my almost-92-year-old grandfather the other night and he started telling me about a sermon he preached years ago about “the rat race of the real world,” as he referred to it. We talked about how so many people just want the next best thing or the next best opportunity. We go and go and push and push until oftentimes we don’t even remember what we were going for and pushing for in the first place.
Maybe this is an issue that we have been dealing with since Eve wanted that little something more! Anyway, my challenge to you is to think about what we’re missing out on when we go and push too much, and how that can affect our families’ short-term and long-term relationships in negative ways.
It seems as if today’s families have never been more disconnected than we are no—even though there are endless new ways of “connecting” than ever before! I see and hear about families weekly who are struggling for various reasons and with various issues, and in the majority of them, I hear they’ve somehow lost their connection with one another. When I start talking with these families, I hear an almost desperate desire to regain that connection.
Teenagers and young adults yearning for quality time with their parents, dads not sure how to keep connecting with their growing daughters, young children desperately trying to get more attention from their parents—this desire for connection manifests in so many different ways. Yet for most, they have gotten so accustomed to the status quo of busyness that they’re not sure how to go about reconnecting.
Parents, start by reevaluating the goals and values you have for your family in regards to relationships and meaning—and determine what changes need to be made in order to begin to strengthen family ties. Start small and start incorporating more family time and opportunities for connection into your daily and weekly routines.
Have dedicated “No Phone/No Device Zones” during meal times and bedtimes. Use conversation starters to generate discussion with your children—and with each other, so you continue to foster your relationship as husband/wife not just dad/mom!
Look at your family values and how you can create meaningful rituals around holidays and birthdays, meal times and bedtimes, and maybe even eating pizza at the same pizza place every Friday night! Get input from your children so they will feel involved and so you can find ways where everyone feels and enjoys the connection.
In short, become INTENTIONAL about connecting as a family. Work hard to create and implement a plan for family connection so that your family doesn’t naturally drift apart into a place none of you want to be. It takes work and patience, yet the rewards are oh so incredible!
Karen White is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Lifeworks Counseling in Madison. You can contact her at 601.790.0583.