Everybody Chipping In


For a lot of families the challenge is to find an activity or entertainment that is fun for the entire family.  And the task is often complicated when there is a wide disparity between the ages of the children.   Candy Land probably isn’t going to entertain a 15 year old boy who would much rather be playing at his video game and Monopoly is just beyond the 4 year old.   Before cell phones, before video games, before board games, before television and before radio people played games people entertained themselves in a variety of ways.

In the Victorian Era going for a walk or a stroll was the rage.  Nobility in Britain and the rich of the United States and other countries in the West strutted their stuff on the Avenue.  Whether it was in a local public garden, at a large market area, or just down the street in the neighborhood, people put on their best and went for a stroll.   Picnics in parks were very popular as well.  Youngsters were able to play on the equipment while older children could have their snowball fights off to the side.  Parents watched young adults as they went through the early stages of courting.  Sounds so quaint doesn’t it?  Works great if the lights are off and you can convince folks to go outside.

Winter is coming and with the change of season for many of us our recreational pursuits will change.  Bicycle rides will come to an end for the season, tricycles will be hung by their handlebars, camping gear will be carefully stowed for easy access for camping season come next spring.  Now that winter approaches, how do you get everyone out of their individual rooms and into the family room or living room to do some of that great bonding that families do?

We forget that in days past lifestyles were much different.  Even at a young 53 (Hey! it’s my age and I’m stickin’ to the young part) I have seen considerable change in American society.  However, maybe there are some things from the “good old days” that we could learn from.  The Duggar family is great in showing America one thing…a family that works together and helps each other…each with their own task…prospers.

The Duggars set a great example for familial pitching in.  While not all of us  have a crew of 19 or more to work with, the  theory that each contribute at their own way.  Little ones can at least carry the napkins to the table…even if there are only two of you there.   That could be two trips.   A three year old tends to be a little more concerned about the table when they have helped to make it nice.  Teens may even *gasp* enter into a conversation about the meal they helped cook.  A pre-teen can puff with pride when told that they did a great job setting the table.

It may be difficult, but you can create this scenario just by doing that.  Expect you children to help you.  You’ll be surprised how they glow when you tell them they haven’t only met your expectations, they have exceeded them!  However, don’t make it a trauma event.  Have a family meeting, or whatever your style is, and warn folks in advance.  Explain that you need help and that you are going to be expecting more of all them – but that you are sure they’ll be able to handle it.  Then…put it all on the line – realizing you are going to meet resistance, but work through that and prove that it can be fun.

Oh yes, I know the resistance a teenager can give…we moved our daughter from Alaska to Montana at the delicate age of 13…resistance I understand.  But pushing through that and having the positive experience is exactly the bonding I’m talking about here.

We used to call it the wisdom of the woodpile (everyone worked together to cut, haul, split, stack, move, the wood to stay warm, sharing the challenges), but woodpiles are rare in other parts of the country.  if you don’t have a woodpile, you do have a house.  Helping prepare the evening meal as a family together not only connects but it teaches as well.   Once a month everyone chips in on Saturday morning to do a deep clean on the house.  Little ones can help carry paper towels, age appropriate are vacuums, little ones are great at holding dust pans or helping to carry a piece or two of laundry.  (I have many fond memories of my daughter following me down the stairs, picking up the socks that fell from the laundry basket while telling me “I dgot dit Mom!”)  Teens can man vacuums and help move furniture to get underneath.  Windows a couple times a year are important too.

The point is that children feel more connected with the family of which they are a part if there are shared experiences that help develop a strong bond for the family.  Does it sometimes take extra work on the part of the parent – yup!  That’s why the adults are the parents.  *smile*  But, I know that once you get it going, once you make the effort to put your shoulder to the rock and give it a good shove, you find that other family members are getting behind the rock with you and pushing too.  Chipping in and pushing to help.  Show them where and show them how and they will move the world to help you…why?  Because you made sure the teach them how to chip in.


Tuesdays – Connecting In the Car

With the Labor Day holiday behind us, we start looking forward to the arriving Fall and the change in activities that brings for many of us.  Students young or old return to school, organizations and businesses that have scaled back for the summer months are now gearing back for full days again, and the mornings are beginning to have more than a little chill to them.

Growing up I can’t remember a time when my Mother wasn’t going, always going.  She drove us to the skating rink, the ski hill, the footballs games, bastketball games, friend’s houses, movie theater, and anywhere else it was too far to ride our bikes to go.  Mom always found a way to make the ride interactive.  Normally it was singing along with the radio or playing one of any number of riding in the car games such as alphabet signs, license plate geography, name that tune and so many more.  There are many fond memories of car rides.

Car rides are a great time for one-on-one connection!  Whether it’s your spouse, children, parents, or a friend, use the time in the car to deepen your relationship.   When our daughter was growing up the car was the perfect place to play the “what if” game.  The “what if” game was our way of hopefully preparing her for situations when we wouldn’t be there to protect her.  It must have helped somewhere because she’s good in a pinch and can hold her own in an emergency.  It may take effort to come up with scenarios to talk about with your child, but it really isn’t that difficult.

Of course there are the obvious situations.  First, the “what if” needs to be age appropriate.  If you child is young – start with the basics, don’t talk to strangers, don’t take gifts from people you don’t know, how do you share, etc.  If you’ve got a pre-teen, the questions need to dig deeper.  The whole point is to get your child to think – and express their thoughts to you.  The interaction can make for a much stronger parent/child relationship – and may just help give your child tools to work with when you aren’t around.

Don’t forget to use this time wisely with adults in your life as well.  Some great conversation starters to learn more about someone are the “dreaming” questions.  Things like:  If you could eat at any restaurant in the world, where would it be?  What would you eat?  If you could design the perfect (insert whatever here), what would it be?  If money was no object what would you want for a house?  If you could spend a week anywhere you wanted where would it be?  Interact with each other in the car or truck.  Talk about dreams and schemes.  It’s not only fun, but you’ll find it helps to deepen that feeling of togetherness and bonding.

This week is also a good week to set the family schedule.  Just as counselors recommend that couples schedule and conduct “date nights” to help keep the relationship strong, the family needs the same type of attention.  Schedule a game night or family night.  Set aside the time for a family dinner followed by an interactive family activity.  Take a bike ride together.  Dust off the board games and play a game together.  Get a deck of cards and play a game of cards.  Whatever the activity make sure it involves everyone.  (By the way…game night, like date night, needs to have rules:  no telephone calls during game night; no getting out of game night because homework isn’t done – they can get up early in the morning and finish it; parents need to be as diligent.  But before the family calendar becomes nearly unreadable from all the entries – fill up a night a week to dedicate to … being a family together.

Try Turning Off The Electronics

Here at yourspiritualgrowthcenter.com, we believe that while spirituality is a personal thing experienced by each person individually, each individual is also responsible for being a part of the community in which they live. At http://www.northernsun.com/n/s/Build-Community-Poster-%284193%29.html they sell an absolutely fantastic poster which talks specifically about the things you can do as an individual to help make your community stronger. For the next few weeks we’ll take each of the specific items listed on the poster and discuss in real terms what we all can do to help make the communities we live in better places for us all to live. Remember, by helping others we not only receive rewards far greater than we can imagine, we also are granted the opportunity to grow spiritually by seeing life from a different perspective.

Here’s what the poster lists as ways to build a community: Turn off your TV. Leave your house. Know your neighbors, Look up when you are walking; Greet people; Sit on your stoop; Plant flowers; Use your library; Play together; Buy from local merchants; Share what you have; Help a lost dog; Take children to the park; Garden together; Support neighborhood schools; Fix it even if you didn’t break it; Have pot lucks; Honor elders; Pick up litter; Read stories aloud; Dance in the street; Talk to the mail carrier; Listen to the birds; Put up a swing; Help carry something heavy; Barter for your goods; Start a tradition; Ask a question; Hire young people for odd jobs; Organize a block party; Bake extra and share; Ask for help when you need it; Open your shades; Sing together; Share your skills; Take back the night; Turn up the music; Turn down the music; Listen before you react to anger; Mediate a conflict; Seek to understand; Learn from new and uncomfortable angles; Know that no one is silent athough many are not heard. Work to change this.

The first thing to do to build a community is a no-brainer. “Turn off your TV.” While the poster recommends turning off the TV, we change it up a bit to say “Turn off your devices.” That has some pretty powerful stuff attached to it. Think about how many hours a day a television, video game, smartphone or computer is running in your home. One? Two? Seven? Sixteen? Now imagine what could be done with that time instead!

A TV commercial features a young man discussing how sad it is that his parents are getting older. They only have a few friends, they retire early. The young man bemoans how his mother has gone to bed without preparing his dinner. During his monologue there are cuts to a group of people in a vehicle singing along with the music and all in all having a great time. The young man feels the computer is the answer to a happy social life and he spends much of his time there. The parents? They’re the ones in the vehicle – out living it. It’s a great representation of what’s happening in our society today. With Facebook, twitter, instant messaging, Skype and more, it is a wonder that we would want to do anything but be on the computer or watching TV. Electronic devices of all kinds have an off switch for a reason – and that even includes cell phones.

Okay, so volunteering down at the local homeless shelter might not be your cup of tea. You don’t think you could stomach going to the nursing home and visit patients there, that’s ok. If you aren’t comfortable around children, you don’t have to volunteer at a school. There are lots of other ways of getting involved in your community. Start taking a walk around your neighborhood and see what’s happening. Is there someone who needs help getting groceries in their house from the car? Does old Mrs. MaGillicutty need help getting her trash out to the curb for pick up? Is there a neighbor who is ill that may need to have their lawn mown or dog walked? Finding a way to help is as easy as opening your eyes and looking around. There are endless possibilities for giving back and helping when you aren’t glued to the screen of your favorite electronic device.

Show your family you can put them first. And, that they can do the same for themselves. Have a family night or even a family hour. Shut off the TV, computer, and all the phones in the house for an evening. Set parameters so that it is specific: “From 5:15 pm until 9 pm electronics will be off.” Then enforce it – and use the time well. Think up ways to entertain each other. Read out loud, share favorite family stories. Hold a family meeting and let everyone give input as to what to do with the time – but it can’t involve a “screen” (smart phone, telephone, computer, television, etc.). See what innovations you and your family can come up with for being able to spend positive interactive time with one another. Board games are a great place to start.

Here’s our recommendation on what to do with the time: Take a walk as a family. Slow down and smell the roses in your neighborhood. If there aren’t roses, take the time to savor the sounds and flavors of those around you. Smile and greet the people you meet, reach out – you just might end up making a few more friends – enjoying life instead of watching a screen, and *gasp* help to strengthen not only your family, but your community as well! So shut off all those screened devices and get out there and have some real fun playing hookey from the virtual world.

Time for Togetherness on Tuesday

Time for Togetherness Tuesday: Spiritual growth is for communities too! When like-minded people get together to make a good thing happen, amazing things can result! Here we provide articles with concrete ideas of how to help build your community!