Recently we decided to offer a survey in our church to assess the needs of our marriages. A little over 11% of our married couples responded, but we expected that. Most people don’t like to throw their junk out there even if it is anonymous. The survey revealed a lot of things but four of the five biggest issues our couples needed help to deal with were:
o 43% Finances
o 41% Communication
o 32% Spiritual Growth
o 25% Conflict Resolution
It depends on what stage of family life you are in, but here are some different ways I have counseled parents (and implemented in my own home) to help convey some sanity to the time-management issue at hand. These are rules for everyone in the house.
None of these were shockers to me. Nor you most likely. One issue emerged; however, that gave me hope that people finally agree with what I see all the time… 34% said they struggle with time-management issues.
There's enough research to show that all of us struggle with it on some level.
One huge struggle for most parents is making decisions that reflect wisdom when it comes to family time-management decisions. Of course, we know the best defense is a good offense. A good plan is written and agreed upon by the bill-paying citizens in the family – namely, Mom & Dad. But what does that look like?
• Be committed to saying “no” to some really great things so you can say “yes” to your family. Sometimes this is very, very hard. Remember that in relationships; time does not equal money. Your kids (and spouse) will not remember what you do for them as clearly as what you do (or don’t do) with them. Don’t let them feel like they are competing for your time or affection.
• Involve the whole family in considering how the family spends their time. An idea-storm session works surprisingly well. You are spending time with them while simultaneously hearing what interests them at this stage in their life.
• Limit EVERYONE’S screen time in front of the TV, video games, phone, and computer. We are prayerfully and creatively working through this one right now with our youngest—our sixteen-year-old. Taking TVs, computers, and video games out of all bedrooms and putting them in family spaces is a good start.
• Have your kids choose only ONE activity or sport per season. If there are brothers or sisters, do your best to have the other kids there to support them at their competitions. If you are trying to live your dreams second-hand through your kid’s extracurricular success, STOP IT!
• Don’t EVER confuse church activity with spiritual growth. Growing in God does not equal growing busier with church stuff. Figure out the balance. And yes. I believe this and work at the church.
• Set a goal to eat at least five meals a week together with the TV turned off. Consider making the pepper grinder the most technological gadget allowed at the family table.
• Regular seasons where the family is committed to PLAY together and PRAY together. “Seasons” because it may be one or two days a week. But when committed to developing a spiritual identity, it becomes a special part of family life. Play opportunities should be as frequent as possible because it is important for parents to spend relaxed time with the family where the kids can see them and join them. Impromptu family times are sometimes the best. Hey, let’s run and grab a snow cone!
• Take a few days a week and set aside the last hour of the day where everyone reads books in the same room or the family reads a book out loud together. This is a bit easier when the kids are younger.
• Kids need to hear their parents communicate and work through things. Talk about anything and nearly everything. Ups and downs of finances, mistakes, and miscommunications, how wonderful Junior did at the jousting tournament, Uncle Buck’s tendency to snort during holiday meals.
As you go through the seasons of your life, these methods may change, but the basic core value of stopping the time-crunch cycle should never change. Be flexible with all of these rules and commit to doing whatever you can to protect the family time. Now, more than ever, it seems that everything in the cosmos is competing for the precious, exhaustible resource called time. What steps are you taking to guard the limited amount you have with your family?