Routines are those planned, recurring activities and habits that add health and value to your family on a regular basis. What follows is a list of five simple routine ideas to try with your family. Find the one that works best for you or start with number one and work your way down to see which routine fits your family best.
1. Playing Together
The family that plays together stays together! We like having fun as a family. Most everything we do turns into a game. I don’t know if it’s everyone’s competitive nature in our family or that we just like to play; either way, we find ourselves playing. You don’t necessarily have to play board games. I know that board games are spelled “bored” games for some families. What I am suggesting is that you get together––inside your home or outside––and have fun together.
2. Reading Together
Reading together is an activity that can become a routine before your kids are born! We did. When Mary was pregnant with Alec and Cameron, we would “read to her tummy” several times a week; and right after they were born, we continued to read to them. The great news about this routine is that our kids have become avid readers to the point of sneaking a flashlight to bed when they were younger so they could stay up and finish a book past their bed time.
3. Eating Together
The more times per week you can have dinner together, the better. Researchers have found that the benefits for families who eat together vary “based on the frequency of weekly family meal times (i.e., low=0-2, medium=3-4, and high=5-7 meals),” and they have discovered “that medium and high levels (i.e., 3 or more days a week) of frequent meals yield the most positive benefits for children.” (4)
Although more recent research about the benefits of eating dinner together as a family indicated that the benefits may not be as great as earlier thought, the studies did suggest a positive bottom line:
Our findings suggest that the effects of family dinners on children depend on the extent to which parents use the time to engage with their children and learn about their day-to-day lives. So if you aren’t able to make the family meal happen on a regular basis, don’t beat yourself up: just find another way to connect with your kids. (5)
4. Mom and Dad Together
Since this a book is about the entire family, I feel it’s important to talk about mom and dad time together as a routine, as well as family time as a routine. I certainly understand the season of married with three kids. I have talked about how being parents makes great demands on our time, and we have to be careful not to become over committed; but what I have not yet mentioned is that as the family flame begins to spread, the spark of romance can die out. Spending time with your spouse, without your children, will make you a healthier parent. That’s not just my experience and observation.
5. Praying Together
Praying together as a family is another one of those routines that isn’t easy to establish. Getting everyone together at the same time may seem like an impossible task, and let’s not forget that most people don’t like to pray out loud. In our family, I believe it’s the last one that gets us stuck; but for most families the hardest thing to do is gathering everyone together.
One of the ways our family has solved the gathering problem is to pray together when we’re in the car (eyes open!)––pray on the way to school, on the way to the grocery store––anytime at all is good, and now that our boys have started driving, we pray all the time in the car!
How about praying at dinnertime or at any meal you have together as a family? What about bedtime? Getting the whole family together just before going to bed is a great time to pray. You don’t have to spend 30 minutes praying, how about three minutes? Ask God to go before you the next day and help all of you trust and rely on Him.
There you have it. 5 family routines worth repeating.
Which one will you start with today?
(4) B. Fiese, K. Foley and M. Spagnola, “Routine and Ritual Elements in Family Mealtimes: Contexts for Child Well-Being and Family Identity,” New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development (2006) 111, 67-89.
(5) Ann Meier and Kelly Musick, “Is the Family Dinner Overrated?” The New York Times Sunday Review, June 29, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/opinion/sunday/is-the-family-dinner-overrated.html?_r=0 (accessed May 2013).
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