“Eight Tips for Building Stronger Families,” Liahona, Dec. 1999, 30
Investing time and interest in our families pays long-term dividends. I know a father whose work took him away from home 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 outings or sporting events, three months in advance with his children. During the weeks the father was away, the mother kept a journal of happenings, including discipline problems. When my friend returned, he spent time talking with his wife about each child. This family found ways 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” (Liahona, October 1998, 24). Taking time to build family relationships within a gospel context is one of the most important tasks parents face today. As we raised our children, the following activities helped us create strong bonds of love and understanding.
Eat dinner together. We found dinner 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 his or her life and what could be done to help things work out better.
Have family prayer each morning and evening. These special moments help build unity, and they teach family members to pray for each other. They also help family members establish worthy goals, such as serving missions and marrying in the temple.
Encourage active participation in Church meetings and activities. However, if a family activity conflicted with an optional Church activity, such as a sporting event, we felt comfortable putting our family’s needs first.
Show affection. Appropriate physical affection is 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 be involved as you balance the checkbook, establish a budget, or pay the bills. This involvement 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 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 ignored.
Remember that laughter goes a long way. I was fond of telling my children about a championship football game where one team was down seven points with less than a minute and a half to go. A serious error left the team with very little hope of being able to score. 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 scored 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 the guidance of the Holy Ghost, satisfaction and enjoyment are the results.
Consider the following questions and suggestions to help apply this article in your own family:
What family activities could strengthen your family?
Plan for times when each parent can talk or be with each child individually. Find out from your children their concerns. Offer your support, and, most important, assure them of your love.
How can you help your children understand current events as they relate to the Lord’s counsel through His prophets? Plan a family home evening lesson in which you discuss current topics in a scriptural context. Look for statements from our living prophets to guide your discussion.
For more information, consult the following resources available at Church distribution centers: A Parent’s Guide (31125), Family Home Evening Resource Book (31106), and Family Guidebook (31180).