5 Practical Ways to Focus on Your Family
No one gets to the end of his or her life and says, “I wish I had spent more time at my job.” But often you will hear people reflecting on poor choices with their families: “I wish I had been around more when the kids were little,” or “We invested all our energy on the kids, and then when they left home there was nothing remaining for our relationship with each other.”
Here are a few practical ways I've found that have helped me focus on my family through the years:
- Date nights. Dating is fun before you’re married, it is natural when you are newlyweds, but it gets difficult when the babies start coming. New parents are nervous about leaving their babies with someone else; then a few years into parenting it’s hard to find money for childcare; later it’s extra challenging to juggle the kids’ crazy schedules with sports and school activities. I know it is a pain, but it is crucial that you have a regular routine of spending time alone with your spouse. This communicates to each other, and to your kids, how you value your relationship.
- Daily Connection. Find ways to connect for a few minutes each day. If you wait until the kids are in bed, you will likely be lacking the energy. Perhaps it's the first 15-minutes when you are both home, and the kids have some play time or room time. Or a walk in the early morning or evening hours. I realize this is more difficult if your kids are smaller. Be creative; perhaps trade off with neighbors who have the same priority.
- One-on-one time with each kid. We have four children, so trust me when I say this is very hard. When they were all home, in a good month I’d probably give myself a C plus. To be effective at this, you have to know what communicates love to your kids. My boys are not athletic. If I took them out to play catch, they would run and duck, wondering why I was throwing something at them. For one child it might be playing video games; for a daughter it might be dressing up for a date night; for another it might be going to a concert or event. Do intentional things so they know they are more important to you than your job. I heard a famous pastor of a large church say recently, “We knew when we started a church we were going to disappoint people. We just decided that we were never going to let it be our kids who were disappointed.”
Yearly trips (no kids allowed). This will never be easy and it will likely not always make sense. But your regular trips give your kids a security that mommy and daddy love each other. They will face scores of friends from broken homes, so you need to go overboard to assure them that your love is strong.
Check the thermostat. Men, this is especially for you. Your wife may be a better thermostat about your relationship than you are. I don’t know how many times my wife has said, “How do you think we are doing?” and in my heart of hearts, I think we are doing great. I’m sure it’s never been better. Then I hear her talk, and she reveals some areas where we could improve. In those moments, I can choose either to listen or to justify. I’m not saying she is infallible, but I do need to listen to her and stay tuned in to her sense of how the family is doing.
Focus on your family. You won't regret it.
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