It’s already February! 2019 is well under way, and despite our best intentions, it may already be running away from us! As we discussed in January, the start of the new year signals a time to set goals, perhaps find our “word of the year” and make plans to really be intentional. As parents we can start off strong and optimistic, thankful for a fresh start. But quickly as the weeks turn into months we can often find ourselves overwhelmed by too many lessons, games and activities.
As the excitement of the new year celebrations wear off, we can again question ourselves, wondering how we as parents can set up our lives to use our family time wisely, set a sustainable pace and engage in the best opportunities for our children when there are so many options available.
I have three suggestions that I think might help:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
1 - Define
The most important thing we can do is get clear on our family’s most importants. Where is our treasure? Our values and priorities should be our guiding principles when making decisions. If all things are equally important, it is impossible to really set apart the things the make our family unique, identify the opportunities for our kids to use their individual gifts and talents, and pursue the purpose that God has put on our hearts. The problem is that there are so many good things, how do we know what to focus on?
So we must define what we truly want our family to be about. What do we care about most?
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28
Once we have a clear understanding of our family values we can start building a framework from which to operate. We take into account talents, strength, gifts, time restrictions and even the current season of life we are in -- with all of its opportunities and limitations. What is the home culture we want to create to support our priorities? And what boundaries do we need to set in place to protect them?
For example, in our own family we really value growth and learning. We all are avid readers, so books are a big part of our life. As a way to stay connected and foster that value, we started a family book club a few years ago. We each take turns each month selecting a book for the whole family to read. Then, we set a date for our “meeting” and have a lively discussion on that month’s selection. It’s a great way for all of us to stay connected and also to read books that we may have not discovered on our own. It’s an activity that fits well within our family culture.
“. . . In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6
3 - Align
Finally, we engage in the ongoing work of evaluating activities and obligations. New opportunities are constantly coming up, and we must determine if they are our family’s best “yeses.” If they’re not, we can give ourselves permission to put them aside in order to create space for our best. We then prioritize the opportunities that are most in alignment with our values.
Our faith is extremely important, so we tend to prioritize activities that help our children grow in their faith. For example, we prioritize their AWANA group on Wednesday evenings above other activities. When other opportunities come up, we know right away that we won’t be able to participate if they conflict with our Wednesday evening group. That gives us the freedom to say no to some things, as well as the peace of mind to know we are engaging in our best choices for this season.
We like to operate in a quarterly or seasonal schedule where we may try out a class or activity for a season and then re-assess if it’s still a good fit. This is helpful because there are times of the year that are busier than others and it provides an opportunity to try new things while also being creating periods of rest when needed.
Checking in with these three steps throughout the year can help us not only start the year well but continue to stay on track and not get distracted or overwhelmed when thinking about what to add to our schedule.
How is your family adapting to the new year? Maybe you’re excited by the steps your family is taking to listen to God’s voice and follow his path for you family! We’d love to hear about your family’s journey, and how you intentionally think about your family’s time and priorities.