Ever wonder what happened to the family dinner hour? Or for that matter the family dinner half hour? Monday is Soccer Practice, Tuesday is Piano lesson, Wednesday is Church Activities, Thursday is a Soccer Game, Friday a birthday party to attend. A number of events will fill up the weekend. Do you feel like a professional scheduler and taxi driver? Are you finding yourself increasingly irritable as you go from one activity to the next? Maybe you and your children are overscheduled.
As a coach and family therapist I see more and more people wanting to find balance in their lives. In the past few years I have seen a marked increase in children with anxiety and depression. Children are now saying they are 'stressed out'. I remember one child in particular who just wanted to play a board game with his parents, the only family assignment was to play the board game. The family did not have 'time' to play the game. Children no longer seem to have time to goof off and just be children - goof off time is not on the schedule.
As parents we need to guard our children and ourselves to protect our children's unscheduled time to be children. Children need time to create their own games and also to learn to entertain themselves. Children often want us to entertain them or the television instead of figuring out how to play by themselves. I would hazard a guess that some of your fondest memories as a child were playing out in the backyard with some friends and really doing nothing in particular. Just laughing, playing, talking or 'being'.
Ten Suggestions to keep your family from being overscheduled:
1. Each child in the family has one outside activity (i.e. sports, music lessons) besides church activities. (If you have a big family even this may be difficult.)
2. If your child wants to add an activity they may consider giving up the current activity in exchange for the new one.
3. Set family nights on your calendar. Order a pizza and play board games. No one can schedule anything on family night.
4. Help your child learn to say "No" and help set appropriate limits on their activities away from home.
5. Do not say "Yes" to any new activity for yourself or child till you have weighed the costs (i.e. financial, emotional, loss of family time, etc.)
6. Assess your irritability quotient. Do you find yourself frequently saying, "Hurry up, we are going to be late?" How can you slow down? What can you give up?
7. Resolve to eat dinner together as a family at least 3 - 5 times a week, even if this is sandwiches before you head out to a game or lesson.
8. Schedule "goof-off" time for your family and children. Give your child down time to explore a hobby or play outside.
9. Set priorities for your family. How many hours a week do you want to be together as a family?
10. Take time as a family to enjoy God's creation away from home. Examples: Go to a park, go for a bike ride, go hiking, etc.
As Christian parents we are modeling for our children how to handle stress and how to balance our time. What lessons are we teaching our children? The Bible tells us in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God..." I'm afraid in our hurried society we are teaching children to "Be harried and know that I am God." We all need down time and time to answer the many beautiful, challenging questions our children have about God and our world. Make the time to slow down and enjoy the gift of your children.