Our Lord WANTS our families to be strong, holy, healthy and fun! But, in this busy, automated and digitized world, it’s all too easy to lose our cohesiveness as a family. Strong families are families that enjoy each other, spend time together and are aware of the great gift of family that God has given them.
Here are a few ideas to help you keep your family strong this year:
- Prayer Intention of the Month – as a family (youngest to oldest) write a list of 12 prayer intentions. They could be general intentions, such as praying for our Holy Father, for our civic leaders, etc…or you can get specific: “Help Janie find a new friend, bless Grandpa during this first year without Grandma”, etc… Then, dedicate one intention for each month of the year. Post your list in your home, on the kids bathroom mirror, in your planner and remember the intention during family prayers at night before bed! It’ll be fun – a secret mission! At the end of the year, go back and look at your list. You might be surprised to see how God has answered your prayers!
- Learning Your Faith – Family Style – I’m NOT saying ditch religious education at your parish! No, we love our RE programs! Rather, find a way to learn about your faith as a family as well. Watch a movie about a saint, go to a class offered at your parish, do a family scripture study. This Christmas, we gave our family Fr. Robert Barron’s The Catholicism Series as our family gift. We will watch ½ an episode once a week and discuss what we’ve learned. We’re super excited about this opportunity!
- Do Something CRAZY! – Crazy, but good! Discover something fun and a bit out there that your family can do together. I recently learned of a friend whose extended family does flash mobs in restaurants and at mall food courts. They’re very musical, and very brave, and have surely created some great memories! Maybe that’s not your style? (me neither, but I’m in total awe) How about running a 5K as a family? Or going on a zip line? Try snorkeling or learn to crochet. Take a pottery class as a family. Find something that you have NEVER done, that you can do together this year and have fun!
- Family Fun Nights – We started these last year with my family and we’ve enjoyed them tremendously. I even have a Pinterest page dedicated to them! Choose a weekend evening (we like Friday) and designate it your “Family Fun Night”. Find a list of movies that you can watch, or games that everyone enjoys. Let your kids cook dinner, or order pizza and make a fun dessert. The point is, reserve some time for you and your family to spend together, every week. Sure, there will be some weeks where it won’t work out, but that’s okay. Just make a commitment, as a family, to be together – and not just to fold laundry or clean out the garage.
- Read Together – Find a classic and read it. As a family. Seriously, you will love it. You’ll feel like Ma and Pa on the prairie sitting before the fire… well, at least I do. Anyway, turn OFF the TV, put away your ‘shiny clicky things’ (that’s what I call them) and read. You probably have some great books on your shelf already. Or, you can ALL listen! Librivox is an “extensive collection of free audio books read by volunteers; the goal is to record every book in the public domain.” Public domain means old. Old books = good books. Don’t EVEN get me started… My favorite reader on Librivox is Karen Savage. She has recorded dozens of great classic books and you can listen to them for FREE!! Yay!
- Go Somewhere New – plan a family trip somewhere new to everyone. This doesn’t have to be expensive, it can even be a simple, day trip. I’m sure there’s some interesting little town nearby that you’ve always been interested in visiting, but have never had a chance. Look up the historical guide to your town or county and visit one of the interesting places nearby. Find a cool museum. In my hometown, there is a Toilet Seat Art Museum. Yes! What 10 year old boy wouldn’t want to go there!?
- Family Service Project – Find a ministry at your church, or an organization in your community that needs help. Volunteer as family to work at the food bank, to organized baby clothes at the pregnancy center, to make Thanksgiving baskets for the poor. Just do it all TOGETHER (getting the theme here?) and enjoy a great opportunity to serve. You’re children will never forget….
- Family Meetings – find a time each week (Sunday nights seem to be best for us) where you can all gather together. Talk about the upcoming week, let each person share what they will be working on, any special meetings, school events, tests, etc… Share prayer requests, special chores. “Grandma is coming, we’ve gotta get all that junk out of the guest room pronto!”. It’s also a great time for Mom and Dad to go over the weekly schedule.
- Eat Together – you already know this, I’m sure, but how can I leave it off the list!? And, as our children get older and busier, I’ve found it really is harder to make family meals happen on a regular basis (I had heard this in the past, but didn’t really believe it. Now I do!). So, make a point to eat a peaceful, beautiful meal together – something that has been planned and prepared with a little thought. In our family, we try to make our Sunday meal a very special time. That is when I might make a new recipe, or a new dessert, or even let the children help prepare something. Serve Sprite instead of milk or water, light a candle, tag on a little extra prayer at the end of your “Bless Us O Lord”. If you need a little convincing on why this is important, let me introduce you to this series from Auntie Leila and her blog ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter’. (one of my clients, and all time favorite blogger in the universe)
- Be An Awesome Spouse – yes, you know it! While this is a family list, it is very difficult for our families to be strong and fruitful if our relationship with our spouse is sputtering. Be sure to spend time together – just the two of you. Set a time to go out to dinner. A time to sip on a glass of wine and talk about your dreams (not just child logistics or finances). Go out of your way each day to make life a little easier for your spouse. Your family is here because you two decided to enter into this marriage and receive the many blessings our Lord had to offer! Make sure your marriage remains a #1 focus of your daily life.
“Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the world” – Pope Benedict XVI (at the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan, June 2012)
That’s all I have for now. How about you? What did I leave out? What would you add to the list?