Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Suggestions for Parents: Where does your family focus their time?

Yesterday I wrote the first part of a 5 part series on Suggestions for Parents. You can read the first part called "Faith Starts at Home". I am not here to judge or say that I am better. Most of these suggestions are ideas that I need to implement. I know that we, as parents, have a huge responsibility in developing the faith of our kids. We all need help, me most of all. I get the privilege of working with students being able to take the time to research and learn from others as part of my job. Most other parents do not have that benefit, so I am trying to help them.

Time is a very limited for everyone. We each have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 52 weeks in a year. No matter what we do, we cannot go back in time to change things. When your children are born, you can't imagine them turning 18 years old.  When they head off to school, you begin to wonder where the last five years went.  They move from elementary to mid-high to high-school and your mind is just blown with how time flies.  You think back to all the things you told yourself you were going to do but you never got around to.

If you were to ask most families in America, they would tell you that they never had enough time. They were busy.  Most families are wrapped up in school, band, music, sports and much more.  Many of my students were involved in more than one activity at a time, sometimes three or more.  I remember sitting in a meeting at church once and one of the parents in room began talking about how they didn't have enough time.  She began to explain that her 7-8 year old was involved in swimming lessons, baseball, tennis and a few more.  I was blown away at how much this child was being pushed to being active, all the time.  What happened to just being a kid?  What happened to just hanging out in the neighborhood with other kids?  I heard this same comment the other day at my son's football game.  The parent was complaining because their child went from having four hours a day of activities to only one.  They were wondering what their child was going to do.  I couldn't believe it.

The bad part about this is not the busyness but the fact that most of our busyness takes away from us spending time with God.  I had a student who told me they couldn't come to church on Sunday night because that was their only night at home.  She was doing stuff six nights a week.  Where does your family focus their time?  Some of you might be thinking that it is too late, your kids are already so involved, you can't imagine them not being.  Don't fret.  Here are some steps to take to determine your time focus.

  1. Do a Time Audit: Put your family schedule on paper (mom's, dad's, kid's) to determine where your time is going.  This is similar to preparing a budget.  Try to list out everything you do during a given week.
  2. Where Is Your Time Going: Once you have done the audit, check to see where your time is going?  Do you spend most of your time at sports or other extra-curricular? Are you involved at church or just attend on Sunday mornings?  Go through each activity and determine if it is worth your time.
  3. Determine What the Appropriate Time Is: Your family needs to decide what is the appropriate amount of time you are going to spend on one activity.  This might be hard if you are already over involved but if you have younger children, start now.  If you determine ahead of time, it will be easier to say no when decision time comes.
  4. Trim the Fat: Once you know where your time is going, figure out what can be eliminated.  This might mean cutting back on a specific activity for a time.  This might mean just being more efficient with the time you have.  I would also encourage you to pray that God will show you where you need to spend more time.
  5. Tithe Your Time: Many of us know what tithing your money is (giving to the church) but do we do the same thing with our time.  When you become a member of the United Methodist Church, you say that you will support the church with your time, talents, treasure and witness.
  6. Slow Down: Take some time to do nothing.  Go for a walk. Go camping. Do something with just your family.  No cell phones, no electronics, nothing.
Our family tries very hard not to overextend ourselves.  We have talked to our children about it and they know our rule.  We want our kids to be active in community events but we also don't want to be so busy that we don't spend quality time with them.  Our biggest time waster is the television.  We love to watch movies, so we can get caught watching a few movies in a row and bam, four hours has flown by.  You need to control your time with your kids or you will reach the end of their high school days and wonder what happened.  

Keeping your kids active is great but at what cost...
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