“Tips for Raising Stronger Families,” Ensign, June 2000, 8
Investing time and interest in our families pays long-term dividends. I know a father whose work took him away two weeks at a time. When he was home, he compensated by spending extra time with his children. To make the most of his time at home, he calendared interesting activities, such as skiing or bowling, three months in advance with his children. During the weeks while the father was away, the mother kept a journal of happenings, including any discipline problems. When my friend returned, he spent time talking with his wife about each child. This family found a way to build strong relationships even under difficult circumstances.
Though all families have different schedules and different family requirements, it is important to plan for family time together. The proclamation on the family states, “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). Taking time to build family relationships within a gospel context is one of the most important tasks facing parents today. As we reared our children, the following activities helped us create strong bonds of love and understanding.
We found that family dinnertime was a good time for each person to review his or her day at work, school, or home. We sometimes included scripture reading at the end of our meal.
Take time to talk on a regular basis with your children. While formal interviews work well for some parents, I tended to be more casual. I often invited one of our children along when I ran errands. It was a great time to discuss what was happening in their lives and what more could be done to help things work out better for them.
Have family prayer each morning and evening. These special moments help build unity and teach family members to pray for each other. They also help family members establish worthy goals, such as missions and temple marriage.
Encourage active participation in Church meetings. However, we felt comfortable putting our family’s needs first if a family activity conflicted with an optional Church activity.
Show affection. Hugs and kisses are important to a child’s proper development. At bedtime, we took time to talk with our children individually, give them good-night kisses, and tuck them in.
Invite the children one at a time to help with family financial matters. Let them help balance the checkbook or establish a budget. At tax time, get duplicate tax forms and let your son or daughter work with you to fill them out. This helps prepare youth for adult responsibilities.
Discuss current events with your children, such as modern trends, crime, politics, or human interest stories. Ask how they might handle similar or difficult situations. Discuss current events in the context of your beliefs. Help children connect what is happening in the world with scriptural and prophetic counsel.
One day, after reading about the prophet Lehi, we talked about the frustration a prophet must feel as he sees his warnings go unheeded. Then we talked about what the Lord’s prophets today are saying and how they must feel when they see their counsel taken lightly or going unheeded.
Remember that laughter goes a long way. I enjoyed telling my children about a championship football game where one team was down six points with less than a minute and a half to go. A fumbled kick return left that team on the one-yard line, with 99 yards to go for a touchdown. As the quarterback huddled with his teammates, he said, “Well, guys, we’ve got them right where we want them.” The team laughed, and feeling relaxed, they went to work. Play after play found the quarterback with a grin on his face. With 10 seconds left in the game, the team made their touchdown and won the trophy.
Investing time in families, setting goals, and having fun together create strong family bonds. We’ve found that planning good family times takes imagination and effort, but when done under guidance from the Holy Ghost, satisfaction and enjoyment are the results.
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:
Do we set aside time to plan activities where our family can be together?
Do we plan for times when we can talk or be with each child individually?
How can we help our children understand current events as they relate to the Lord’s counsel through His prophets?