Today’s families are not like the families before the age of computers, cellphones, video games, social websites, etc. Back before 1980, families gathered around the table for dinners, for meetings, board games, etc.
When I was a kid, every night we sat around the table for 2 of the 3 meals of the day and on weekends, all 3 meals. We watched movies and sports as a family, all 6 of us stuffed into a small living room in front of the TV.
When I was 15 and my family moved to the farm, all of us including my parents pulled weeds, tilled the ground, planted seed, harvested the fruit and vegetables and then spent weekends canning, processing and preserving the harvest.
I admit, I hated everything about it. I hated the work, the lost free time and the fact I was “stuck” with my sisters, brother and parents.
When I was baptized LDS however, I held Family Home Evening with my son, now 25 and even though he was disabled, my FHE weren’t long but then they didn’t have to be long, just long enough to fit his attention span. We were celebrating as a family.
When I was a kid growing up, I really loved the holidays. We trimmed the tree during Christmas. We had our own little job during the Thanksgiving Dinner and on Easter, my mom and us kids went to Mass for the Easter service, my father hid the Easter Eggs. By golly we celebrated as a family.
Even as I solo raised my son, I did so for a good share of his life in the church as a convert. He was about 7 years old when I joined the LDS church and he saw how others celebrated. At times we were the adopted family the church then gave us boxes of wrapped presents and we never knew who quietly snuck them onto our front porch, knocked, giggled as they ran. I taught my son that this was “Service” and why it was important we have it in our family and lives.
Growing up, in the times of plenty, my parents took vacations. When there was a trip for vacation, all of us decided: Disneyland or Magic Mountain and we voted. Dad had the final say, of course.
My son’s favorite game was Candy Land. When my Respite worker (a fellow sister of my Ward)found this hand-held gem at a yard sale, son took to it like a duck to water, and he played with it for it’s music.
The board game he was actually very good at playing, so good, he creamed us both just as he did when he played Uno.
Mom would cream us at Scrabble and Crazy 8. Dad creamed us at sports. Family discussions were done once a week and we learned how to problem solve.
When was the last time your family gathered around the table for a dinner or to discuss the vacation destination or to discuss a problem? When was the last time the family got together for Charades or to pray?
Now more than ever the family dynamic is facing tough opposition with sporting practice, social hang outs, parents working long hours or any number of reasons.
What happens when a family doesn’t take time out each week for family centered activity be it dinner, a game, a movie, discussion, planning? The family fails.
We have a lot on our plates these days as parents and as kids. If we’re not job searching, dealing with lack of money and lack of work, we’re dealing with our children losing their innocence sooner and sooner with drugs, gangs, social ills, hunger and poverty forcing many to crime and the entire change of what constitutes “family.”
Many children come from broken families or where one or more parents are either abusing them or drugs/alcohol. The family dynamic has never been the same since the introduction of the technological age and the gadgets that come with it.
Kids learn by example. If the parents fail to set time aside, communication fails and problems go unresolved. Kids fail to learn they can turn to the family time for answers and that each learn to take turns, has a voice and a place in the family.
So what’s the solution? Where do we start?
Heavenly Father made the family a unit for a reason, father, mother and children all working together in harmony but it starts with the head of the house, the nurturing mother backs up her husband and the kids learn obedience.
Family night doesn’t have to be complicated. Kids can learn to plan just as well as the parents can. Kids can select an age appropriate theme to do for the next week and parents can teach their child to plan out and prepare for the night.
Movies, games, discussion, themed dinner, themed activity or even a themed trip are all great ways to spend ONE night per week just as a family.
Turn off the TV (unless to watch a movie), turn off the cellphone, the computer (unless to watch a themed video) and just as a family, be together as a solid unit.
Families can be 2-? in memberships and if you are solo, join in on another family or use this time to do some service, visit a sick or ailing neighbor or friend; take over some baked goodies to a family or hold your own “family” evening with other single ladies or gentlemen. No rule or law against having a singles game night.
Don’t forget to make it count. Just getting together once a week is wonderful, but, make it themed. Service might be one theme. For service, you might discuss why it’s important, study service by reading about it in the Bible, watching a themed video demonstrating service, serve in a soup kitchen or shelter, have the kids “serve” parents and parents “serve” kids and so on.
As LDS Brothers and Sisters, we know the Church dedicates Monday evenings each week for Family Home Evening but, that doesn’t mean it’s the only time you must hold it. Anytime during the week is fine as long as you hold it for your family.
Now more than ever we must preserve the family unit because the world won’t preserve it. The more we do as parents and Saints, the better our children will carry FHE with their families and teach their kids the importance of FHE and why we hold them.