Click here for previous Parent Forum articles.
NOTE: This page has not yet been updated to the new AnnieFox.com design.
I’ve got a favorite family memory of an unscheduled holiday we Foxes celebrated in January 1996. A tremendous windstorm roared through our area, knocking out the power for five days. No school, no computers, no work. My husband David and our kids gathered round the fireplace as I read aloud from a big book of obscure folktales. We paused at crucial plot points and guessed what would happen next. We acted out alternative endings. We played Crazy Eights by candlelight. We roasted marshmallows. We all shared memories from childhood. And by the second or third day, we were eating outrageous ice cream sundaes for breakfast (hey, we couldn’t let all the Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia melt, could we?).
All in all, we had a blast hanging out together. We depended on each other for warmth, comfort, entertainment, and connection. And when the lights went back on, I think we all felt a little sad. (I know I did!)
Our families are essential to our health and well-being. They shelter us from the craziness of the wider world. That’s especially true for our kids, who need strong families as a place to learn what’s really important in life and to de-stress. Don’t think your kids are stressed? Listen to some typical responses I’ve gotten from kids when I asked: What does the word ‘stress’ mean to you?
Heart breaking, huh? And those were from 11-13 year olds!
Most things in this world are constantly changing but our unconditional love for our sons and daughters isn’t one of them. We hurt when we see our kids so freaked out and wound up, but what can we do?
You can’t stop the world, but you can slow down your own little corner of it. By instituting a regularly scheduled Family Time, you can create an oasis in your home that gives your kids (and yourself) a very powerful antidote to stress. The only agenda is being together as a family. Ground rules are simple: Turn off the TV and talk to each other. (HINT: To keep the interactions stress-free, it helps to avoid bringing up past conflicts and asking questions about homework, tests, chores, etc.)
Don’t believe your kids would want to hang out with you? Probably not all the time, but when I asked teens to complete these statements:
I wish my mom/dad would _______ more.
I wish my mom/dad would _______ less.
Here’s what they said:
I wish my mom would:
I wish my dad would:
They want to spend time with you. They need to. And you need to spend time with them. If everyone’s schedule is already packed, I suggest you might eliminate a few things that compete with Family Time. Where do you start?
How about calling a Family Meeting? Sit down with your kids and talk about the daily pressures each of you deals with. Talk about how spending time as a family can help with that stress. Unplug the media (including phones) for one night a week and do something you can enjoy together: Make a meal, bake, work on a project, play a game, go for a hike, make music, dance, look at old family photos or videos, tell stories, read stories, laugh, relax. Try it and you may get the same gift our family got when the storm blew out the power… the gift of time, which is the first step to reclaiming the heart of your family.
I wish you and your family well.
Got a parent-teen problem you need help with?