We all have our free agency and God holds us accountable for the way we use it in thought and deed. "Kindness, compassion, and love are powerful instruments in strengthening us to carry heavy burdens imposed without any fault of our own and to do what we know to be right." Elder Dallin H. Oaks
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It starts with the best of intentions. Your daughter excels at music, so you enroll her in piano lessons. The next year, she picks up the violin and joins the soccer team. She asks to join her friends in scouts, then wins a spot on the academic quiz team.
Family dinners become a thing of the past as you shuttle her from one activity to the next. Homework takes up the rest of the evening, leaving her little time to play or unwind. Mornings are frantic as she rushes to find homework, athletic gear, and sheet music before the school bus arrives.
You tell yourself it’s worth it to help her get into a good college. But no matter how much energy she has now, an overscheduled kid runs the risk of burnout by the time she’s ready for college.
“Sometimes we equate the number of activities with good parenting,” says Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, a University of New Hampshire psychologist who has authored books on parenting and home organization. “Colleges are looking for kids that are well-rounded, not manically overscheduled.”
The hectic pace is hard on parents, too. The pressure parents feel to maximize every opportunity for their children may leave moms and dads feeling inadequate and cause them to derive less satisfaction from parenting, the American Academy of Pediatrics has found.
By contrast, numerous studies have shown that families who eat dinner together report stronger relationships and better grades. According to a 2006 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, kids and teens who eat dinner with their families at least five times a week have a much lower risk of substance abuse.
Weighing the Options
If your family is overscheduled, you can ease some of the pressure by finding ways to simplify your daily routine, whether it’s cutting back on extracurricular activities or getting more organized at home.
First, think about your attitude toward your child’s involvement in activities. Do you feel pressured by your peers to meet a certain level of participation? Do you push your children because you don’t want them to miss out on opportunities you didn’t have, even if they aren’t interested? The AAP urges parents to evaluate which activities are appropriate based on a child’s needs, skills, and temperament and to preserve time for children to play and hang out with family members.
Parents should listen carefully to what their children want to do and let them follow their passions rather than of imposing other expectations, says Mimi Doe, author of Busy but Balanced: Practical and Inspirational Ways To Create a Calmer, Closer Family. “For some kids, this pressure to get involved is coming from their parents rather than their desire to try things out,” she says. “They just said they like the piano, and you’re picturing them at Carnegie Hall.”
Instead of thinking about getting an advantage for your children in the college admissions process, she advises parents to focus on creating a manageable family schedule. When considering each activity, think about the time, cost, and transportation involved as well as how it will affect you and your kids. Consider setting limits on the number of activities each child can participate in before the school year starts. Many families limit each child to three activities—one artistic, one athletic, and one social.
Doe encourages families to create more balanced lives based on their own values. If parents feel it’s important to eat dinner together a few nights a week, arrange the schedule to try to make it happen. It’s important for parents to set predictable times that they’re available to listen to their children, she adds, whether it’s taking a walk together after dinner or talking for a few minutes before the kids go to bed.
“It’s really critical that before the school year begins, families consciously craft the best schedule for them,” Doe says. “You want to be proactive, not reactive to what comes home in the backpack.”
The Simpler Life
As you cut down on outside activities, set aside dedicate time for the family to be together. Taking a few minutes to relax after getting home can lower everyone’s stress levels and help family members to reconnect after a busy day, Kendall-Tackett says: “A lot of times, people get home and immediately dive into meal preparation, and it tends to be one of the worst hours of the day.”
Streamlining household routines can also make time at home more relaxed, she continues. (See “The Morning Rush” below for ideas to make your morning easier.) You don’t have to reorganize your whole house or overhaul your whole life. Keep spaces that you use every day, like the kitchen counter or home office, free of clutter. Focus your efforts on cleaning the areas in your house where things tend to gather, such as at the bottom and top of staircases or on the dinner table. Keep things where you use them so you don’t have to search the house just to find a pair of scissors. If you have to spend time rummaging through drawers looking for frequently used items, clean out the junk.
Once you create a pocket of organization in your house, it’s likely to spread, Kendall-Tackett says. “The goal is not to be hyperorganized for the sake of it, but to make it easier.”
Even with the best of intentions, though, changing the family dynamic takes time. Don’t expect to meet every goal right off the bat, especially regarding home organization. Kendall-Tackett and Doe both urge parents to let go of the idea of being a perfect parent and resist feeling guilty if the house is less than immaculate.
“Give yourself permission to step off the fast track,” Doe says, “trusting you’re giving [your children] the best gift: being present in their lives without being exhausted.”
The Morning Rush
Your morning routine can have a huge effect on how you feel the rest of the day. Instead of getting out of bed earlier to do everything, family psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett recommends trying the following tips to save time.
After dinner, prep breakfast food and make lunches for the following day. Have your kids lay out their clothes before going to bed.
Avoid last-minute surprises by asking your kids what items they will need for the following day’s activities. Have them gather everything together in the evening.
Keep spare school supplies accessible and in a designated area.
Set aside an area for each family member to place items they will take to work or school the next day. Have children check that they have everything the night before so they’re not looking for lost homework in the morning.
Have healthy, self-serve food on hand for breakfast.
Organize bathroom drawers and cabinets so you don’t have to search for the items you use every day.
Is Your Family Overscheduled?
Organized activities can help children gain skills and self-confidence, but too much structured activity can contribute to anxiety, stress, and depression in children and cause kids to become self-critical perfectionists, reports a 2006 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“You don’t get to know each other because there’s not time to just really be,” says family psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. “You’re just interacting between activities.”
Ask yourself these questions to help determine whether your family is overscheduled:
Do your children enjoy their extracurricular activities? Do you enjoy them?
What does the activity accomplish?
Is it being done out of habit?
Do you feel like your kids need to be in activities because everyone else is, too?
Do your kids spend so much time in activities that you don’t know what else is going on in their lives?
Emily Graham is a senior editor for School Family Media. She lives with her family in Oklahoma.
Our Church leaders have instructed members to set aside Monday night as “family home evening.” This is a time for families to study the gospel together and to do other activities that strengthen the family spiritually, create family memories, and increase unity and love.
Every Monday evening we set aside time to be as a family and call it Family Night. We have fun together as a family, eat good together and usually have an activity that we all enjoy. Our family gets together once a month with all of our families. Our son Nathan Osmond captured one of our family night activities when we were invited to The Living Planet Aquarium by our friend, Jana Rae Shaw.
We also have fun together right at home. The home is the most important place for gospel learning. No other organization can take the place of the family. Our Latter-day prophets have repeatedly called on parents to nurture their children with love and gospel teaching.
To help strengthen the family, they called on parents in the Church to gather their children once each week for a “Home Evening.” Families were to take time to pray and sing together, read the scriptures, teach the gospel to one another, and participate in other activities that would build family unity.
In 1970 President Joseph Fielding Smith joined with his counselors in the First Presidency to designate Monday night as the time for family home evening. Since that announcement, the Church has kept Monday evenings free from Church activities so families can have this time together.
Latter-day prophets continue to urge Church members to give highest priority to family home evening. They have promised that our dedication to this program will help protect our families against the evils of our time and will bring us abundant joy now and throughout the eternities. With our family, we also usually sing a few songs together and with the grand kids including our favorite, “Love At Home.” I enjoyed making this video; shooting it, editing it, and putting some of my music under it!
In the world today, The Family is under attack by the forces of evil and wickedness and many things long held sacred are ridiculed. The family is where children are nurtured, educated, and learn values. The family is where individuals turn to first in challenging moments, including financial disaster, health crises, and many other key life transitions. And yet, the family is also under attack in ways that are unprecedented. More than one third of American children currently grow-up without a father in the home. More than half of American adults are not married, cohabitation is at record levels, and the average marriage age is move later and later.
In a world of turmoil and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to make our families the center of our lives and the top of our priorities. Families lie at the center of our Heavenly Father’s plan. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” declares the responsibilities of parents to their families:
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127: 3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”
We need to make our homes a place of refuge from the storm, which is increasing in intensity all about us. Even if the smallest openings are left unattended, negative influences can penetrate the very walls of our homes. We remind you that parents are to preside over their own families.
We hope that by providing you with family helps, members of your family will be assisted and encouraged to build stronger and better families and homes. We hope it will cause a conscious and sustained effort in building an eternal family unit, and we all will be reminded to focus our attention on the most important organization the Lord has established here on earth.
Family activities include (1) writing personal and family journals, (2) holding family councils, (3) establishing and maintaining family organizations for the immediate and extended family, (4) personal interviews between parents and children, (5) writing to relatives and missionaries, (6) genealogy, (7) visiting relatives and those who are ill or lonely, (8) charity work, (9) reading stories to children, and (10) singing Church hymns.
“Monday nights are reserved for family home evenings. We encourage members to set aside this time to strengthen family ties and teach principles and values in their homes.
We also counseled parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities.
May it be our resolve this year to build a gospel-centered home, a safe harbor from the storms of the adversary. Let us again remember the promises and instructions from the Lord to His children:
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
“Light and truth forsake that evil one.”
“But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.”
When you see things that are NOT RIGHT, take a STAND and STAND UP! When others are forcing their ways and ideas upon you and you family that are NOT appropriate, SPEAK OUT! When you hear or see something on the TV, radion, internet or your computer that is inappropriate, SHUT IT OFF! Sometimes silence isn’t golden . . . it’s YELLOW! So OPEN YOUR MOUTHS for GOOD!
If we will do these things, we will be helping to TURN THIS WORLD AROUND! Let’s all be like the people of Enoch who love one another and were of One Heart. They became a ‘ZION People’ and were known as “The Happiest People that ever lived!” Let’s do the SAME!
“And the Lord called his peopleZion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”Moses 7: 18