Friday, February 20, 2009

Making the Most out of Family Home Evening

Families are what matters most in our lives, but we seem to be so busy each day that we don’t spend the amount of time needed to teach and play with our children. There are probably many men (and women) that work jobs from 8-5 where they only see their children for a few hours in the evening. We need to make sure these few hours aren’t wasted on mindless and non-interactive activities. A perfect way to share some quality time is to set aside our Monday nights for a family night or as a Family Home Evening as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints refers to this night.

Family Home Evening can be an opportunity to share our time with our spouses, children, and possibly other relatives. This is a chance for us to focus our time and energy one night a week on teaching and playing with our children. Many of us grew up with the basic format of family home evening: having a prayer, song, lesson, and treat. I have a lot of fond memories of family home evening at my house. My Mom and Dad taught us not only gospel and righteous principles, but also many other ideas and lessons that would help us succeed as we grew older. My Dad taught us about money, how to be self sufficient, how to plant a garden, and how to work hard. My Mom taught us how to cook, clean the house, and how to always treat everyone with love and kindness. I am thankful my parents taught me the teachings of Christ and also the lessons of living happy and being successful.

Just as my parents made this family night special for me as a child, I want to do the same for my children and small family. I have 2 young daughters and 1 baby boy. It can be difficult to hold a formal family evening. The girls love to say prayers and sing church songs while Mom plays the piano. My wife usually teaches the girls with a felt story about one of the many scripture stories from the Bible or Book of Mormon. This is often a struggle for my 3 year old, but my 5-year old listens very intently and has great memory retention. We often read out of the Friend church magazine, too.

At times this process is very frustrating and many times have been tempted to skip family home evening, but as we realize that the most important part of family home evening is being with the family, we start to realize that it is alright if it becomes chaotic and we can’t get through the lesson. Our girls and baby boy know that we love them, value them, and want to see them be happy and succeed in life by spending one night completely devoted to them.

The way we can get the most out of our Family Home Evenings is to first of all hold them every week-no exceptions. Make this night the top priority of the week and let the children know that this night is special.
Second, we need to be sure we have the Spirit with us as we start the Family Home Evening. We need to get in a spiritual mode long before we meet to start family night. How we feel and our spiritual feelings during Family Home Evening will rub off on our children and will help them know this is a special night where they can feel loved and feel safe. This creates a better learning environment and will invite the Spirit of Christ into your home.
Third, don’t get too caught up in the lesson aspect of the family night, especially if you have small children. It is difficult for them to sit still very long and they like more interactive teaching where possible.
Fourth, always prepare some activity or game that can help reinforce your lesson and also prepare them a small treat or snack at the end.
Last, reinforce to each of your children that you love them and are thankful for them. Spend a few minutes while you eat your snacks pointing out things you like about each child. Make them feel valued with lots of praise. Too often during the week we get after our children and discipline them. This is a great time to show love, praise, and point out detailed talents or things you love about your child. This very well may be the most important part of the whole night.

Make your family nights special. Follow the tips above and watch children thrive in school, their personal lives, and everything they do. It is amazing what families can do together when they share one night a week teaching and sharing love with each other.

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