April 1st is more than a fool’s day in our family. It is also the day we review our plans for the upcoming summer. Since the kids were young we have been very intentional in planning our summer, instead of letting the summer plan our family.
We start with a list of all the options and tentative plans. The list will look something like this:
- Summer camp
- Vacation Bible School
- Dad’s work trip
- Family trip to visit Grammy and Grandpa
- Grandmom’s July 4th visit
- Volleyball camp
- Sunday school camping trip
- Family camping trip
- Volleyball team
- Soccer team
- Vacation trip
- Music camp
I’m out of breath just reading the list! The more children in your family, the longer your list. There is no way to do everything on the list, so as a family, you have to start making choices. First, we ask each member to list their highest priority for the summer. Sometimes, we are able to fit in second priorities and other times the schedules conflict. When the choice was between a family event and a sports event, the kids always chose family. When the choice came down to either a group event or a family event, again the kids chose family.
Being intentional worked in our family for two reasons. First, we started when the kids were young. Younger children want two things more than anything else in the world: they want their parents’ undivided attention and they want to play. During summer family events, they get both. Because we were intentional, sports and music fit in around our family events. My son and daughter might have to tell a coach or teacher before they even started band camp or volleyball camp that they would miss specific dates. Being intentional can still work with older children, but often the family events will fit in around the established sports, music or camp events.
The second reason it worked is because being with family is an option throughout the year. We are intentional throughout the year in spending time together as a family. Many families build patterns around favorite TV shows, school activities, church activities and family isn’t considered an option.
Ask yourself these questions:
When children come home on Wednesday (use any day of the week) after school, do they know that doing something with their parents is an option? Is it possible that they heard “no” so often when they were younger that they no longer ask? Do children know that doing something with mom or dad on Saturday morning is an option? Too often family members get in ruts around their own interests because doing things together as a family wasn’t an option.
Family time is a tool that we used to be intentional about spending time together—parents and children. The goal of family time is to spend 20 minutes once a week intentionally teaching a character quality, value or spiritual belief using a fun and effective activity.
For example, imagine a half-gallon bucket full of gumballs. Each child has a small Tupperware bowl sitting on the floor equal distant from the bucket of gumballs. The child goes back and forth from their bowl to the bucket to get one gumball at a time. They also know that a timer has been set. When the timer goes off, they must have their hand on their own individual bowl or they lose the gumballs they have collected.
The timer forces them to answer the questions, “How much is enough?” “Should I stop at six gumballs or try for one more?” They are faced with issues of greed and self-control. The activity is tied to the story of Achan from Joshua 7. Achan lacked self-control and stole some treasure. It also teaches the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 which includes self-control.
Every person is given 10,080 minutes in a week. As a follower of Christ, would a parent give 20 minutes once a week to lead an intentional lesson that is fun and teaches an important spiritual value? That 20 minutes of intentional training sets up informal training throughout the week! With a 6- and 7-year-old at home, how often can you apply a lesson on self-control? A least once an hour!
This summer, in addition to being intentional about making family an option for trips, camps and vacations, start offering a weekly family time activity. FamTime.com designed a packet of ten summer family time activities. For your free packet, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take advantage of the summer months to be intentional about making family an option every week—spring, fall, winter and summer.