As the year rapidly comes to an end, many people think about making the next year better. The idea of New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years. The practice of looking back at the past, then forward to what’s to come is the hallmark of creating New Year’s resolutions for yourself and for your family.
Here are some must-have resolution suggestions for the different facets of your life.
1. Practice gratitude.
Believe it or not, an attitude of gratitude and appreciation affects your perspective of the world and what’s happening around you. Gratitude helps you recognize that it could be worse – no matter how difficult something is.
2. Care for yourself.
Self-care is a trending term these days. You may actually be resistant to self-care because it can be seen as selfishness. However, at a minimum, it’s essential to make sure that you are eating and sleeping well, and moving. Intentionally taking care of yourself can make you a better person, spouse, and parent.
1. Practice “couple” time.
Spending quality time together can enhance your closest relationships. This may look different depending on your stage of life and interests. Be intentional about making time for each other in the new year.
2. Show appreciation.
Show appreciation for your partner affirms that you see them. It doesn’t matter how small the task is. Appreciation keeps you from taking your spouse for granted. Make a habit of trying to find the good in your spouse and watch what happens.
3. Work on deeper connections.
It’s easy to get so overwhelmed with the busyness of life that we forget to connect. In the new year, be aware of how you can connect with your spouse during these four times in the day:
1) When you wake up in the morning
2) When you depart for the day
3) When you reconnect after work
4) When you say good night
These little moments can totally impact how you build intimacy in your relationship.
1. Eat meals together.
For years, dozens of studies have shown that family meals decrease substance use, eating disorders, and depressive symptoms. Family mealtimes also increase academic success and self-esteem. Additionally, eating together strengthens the parent-child connection. Schedule at least four meals to eat together. It can include Saturday breakfast or Sunday dinner. (Now you have two more to put on the calendar.)
2. Volunteer together.
Children can often believe that their wants, needs, and desires are the most crucial thing in the world. Volunteering allows them to get out of their world and help others. You might start small by helping a neighbor or planning to volunteer monthly at a local animal shelter.
3. Take an annual family trip.
The purpose of a yearly family trip is to take time away from the day-to-day and have focused time together. It’s easy to get disheartened about financing a family trip to, say, a famous amusement park. Instead, focus on adventure and making memories that last a lifetime.
4. Unplug from technology.
Technology has become an integral part of our lives, but it can be a distraction sometimes. In the new year, make a conscious effort at specific times to step away from the phones, tablets, etc. Have a bowl near the dining room table where everyone can place their phone before you sit down to eat together. For a more significant challenge, take one day a month where everyone unplugs.
5. Schedule weekly family fun nights.
Playing board games or watching a movie together once a week is great for bonding! You can share the games and movies that you enjoyed growing up with your children or discover new ones as a family.
As the new year gets closer, choose an activity from each category. Remember, your goal is to increase the connections in your family by spending time together. Start slow. You don’t have to do it all! Keep your focus on bonding with your spouse and your children. And remember to have a GREAT and prosperous new year!
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Untitled-22-01-1.png5001200Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-12-28 19:30:002021-12-21 10:46:42Must-Have New Year’s Resolutions for Your Family
Halloween stress got you downright scared? Does the thought of taking your little monsters trick-or-treating give you nightmares and send shivers down your spine? Does the sugarfest at the end of the evening just make you want to screeaammm??
We all know that kids can sense the stress that we feel, which affects their stress levels.1 And that can make for a harrowing, horror-ific Halloween night.
But there’s no need for the stress of Halloween to drive you batty. Instead, try using these spooktacular tips below for a stress-free Halloween with your kiddos.
Scare up an easy dinner before you go out. Full tummies make for happier trick-or-treaters. Don’t make it complicated for yourself. Shoot for frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, or easy grilled-cheese sand-witches. And save a few leftovers for when you get back home.
Join forces with other families. The candy-hunting trip can be much more fun and manageable when you’re together with friends. Adults can help look out for each other’s kids. A long night of trick-or-treating can feel shorter (not to mention more relaxed) when you have other parents to share the experience with.
Hit the restroom before candy-sniping. Ok, you probably know this if you’re a veteran parent. But it’s a good reminder. Bladders are small, and frustrations can arise when you’re across the neighborhood and one of them “has to go…reeeaal bad…”
Pack for the road. Tote along a backpack with extra jackets, water bottles, an umbrella, and a plastic shopping bag (either for candy wrappers from “on-the-spot” taste tests, or in case the plastic pumpkin bucket snaps a handle). Your kid may insist on wearing their sparkly cowboy boots or dinosaur feet, so carry along an extra pair of sneakers in case they get tired, achy feet later in the trip. (A stroller or wagon is a good idea, too!)
Plan for the cold. If possible, have the rugrats wear PJs or sweats under their costumes. It adds an extra layer to cut off the chill, and they can easily peel their costumes off when they’re ready to sift through the spoils when they get back home.
When it’s time, kill the porch light. You and the family may like to hand out candy to other little witches and ghouls once you get home from your own trick-or-treat trip. But don’t forget to take the opportunity to spend some alone time together as a family. Close the door, turn the porch light out, brew up some hot chocolate, and cue up a kid-friendly Halloween flick until it’s time for lights out.
Relocate for trick-or-treating. Is your neighborhood not the most lucrative on Halloween night? Is the candy supply in short supply on All Hallow’s Eve? Trying to avoid taking your kid by Old Farmer Johnson’s abandoned shack to see who has a pack of licorice to offer? Find out who in your town is offering treating opportunities. Sometimes the stores in the mall will hand out candy. Churches, community centers, and other organizations will often host Halloween festivals or “trunk-or-treat” nights. This keeps the candy-hunting in one spot, facilities are close and convenient, and high-grade candy is usually abundant.
Offer candy credit. Before the little monsters start goblin up all the processed sugar, make a deal with them that they can trade in a portion of their loot for other incentives. Maybe they give you 80% of their lot for a trip to buy a $10 toy. Or for half their chocolate, you’ll take them to see a movie at the theater. Donate their trade-in candy to a good cause.
When it’s all said and done, Halloween should be an opportunity for families to draw closer and share a fun experience together. And being stress-free doesn’t have to be just witchful thinking. Trick-or-treat yourself (and your kids) to a stress-free Halloween night!
1Laurent, H. K. (2014). Clarifying the Contours of Emotion Regulation: Insights From Parent-Child Stress Research. Child Development Perspectives, 8(1), 30–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12058
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-9-01-1.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-10-27 14:59:562021-11-01 09:41:33Tips for a Stress-Free Halloween
I hit the road every Saturday morning. Usually, I’m gone for an hour or two. Saturday is my long run day. The time commitment of training for a half marathon is significant. As I walk out the door, my little ones are wide awake and active. They hit me with the questions… “Where are you going, Dad?” “When will you be back?” “Why will you be gone for so long?” “Can you stay with us?”
Up to a few months ago, I felt guilty for leaving them. I felt like I was being selfish. I questioned if I was neglecting my wife and kids to do something I wanted to do, which took so much time and energy. This was me overthinking, being flooded with negative self-talk. They didn’t tell me I was being selfish. They were my biggest cheerleaders. But my overthinking was affecting reality.
When I think I’m neglecting my family to go on long runs one day a week, I’m listening to negative self-talk. Acuff calls these soundtracks. They are symptoms of overthinking that get you nowhere. We are just wasting resources on dead-end thoughts. He refers to overthinking as “the greatest thief of all. It steals time, creativity, productivity, hope.”
We can all be subject to overthinking as a spouse, a parent, a boss, an employee, or a friend. In any scenario, overthinking can be detrimental to furthering our relationships.
So, how do I stop overthinking?
Jon Acuff suggests we retire our broken soundtracks, replace them with new ones, and then repeat the new ones so often that they become the predominant thoughts you hear. The soundtracks we listen to are associated with an action. A broken soundtrack leads to inaction. It doesn’t take us anywhere, and doesn’t motivate us to push toward our goals.
Let me give you a real-life example. Training for a half-marathon takes anywhere from 4-6 hours a week for 12-18 weeks. This is time I would normally spend with my family. My negative self-talk led me to believe I was neglecting them and that I needed to spend that time with them, having fun. This made my training difficult because I felt guilty. That’s my broken soundtrack—all in my head.
My wife told me, “We are so proud of you. You are setting goals and doing what you love.” She helped me see that even though I was giving up some family time, I showed my kids what it looks like to set goals and take steps to achieve them. And there’s a bonus: they’re getting some weekend trips to races that they are super excited about.
I retired my broken soundtrack, replaced it with a new one, and it’s playing on repeat.
To stop overthinking, we have to identify a broken soundtrack. But, how do we do that?
Jon Acuff gives us a simple way to figure it out. Write down something you want to do. Doesn’t have to be anything significant. Maybe it’s, “I want to have a weekly date night.” Then, listen to the first thought you have. What is your first reaction? If you immediately start saying, We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, or we can’t afford a babysitter, you’re overthinking.
Congrats, you just found a broken soundtrack. Now ask three simple questions about that thought:
Is it true?
Is it helpful? (Does it move me forward or hold me back?)
Is it kind?
You don’t have to ask these questions about every thought, but ask about the big ones.Question the thoughts that seem to be holding you back the most. You might be surprised at how many broken soundtracks are playing in your mind.
Overthinking doesn’t have to kill your relationships. If you are an overthinker, evaluate those thoughts. Identify if they are true, helpful, or kind. And if those thoughts are hurting your relationships, it’s time to release, reshape and repeat new ones. You can choose what you think. Tell yourself, “I have the permission and the ability to choose what I think during the day to lead me to action I will take.”
Undivided attention is GOLD in marriage. When you focus on listening and understanding each other, that’s 24-karat magic right there. (Read 3 Ways to Be a Better Listener.)
Remember the important things.
Who hasn’t forgotten a simple social engagement before?
Steps to aProductive Marriage Check-In
Set a Time
Saturday mornings before kids need you and Sunday evenings after kids’ bedtimes are two great times. Put it on your calendar. Set the notifications. If you have to miss it, you can reschedule it right then. Weekly or every other week is a good idea, and 30 minutes is a reasonable length of time. As you get consistent with the check-ins, you may decide to do them monthly.
No kids allowed. No technology except when it’s obviously adding to the value of the meeting, e.g., using your calendar or planning a date and looking up attractions.
You’ll probably have a routine. You may discuss on Saturday mornings over coffee or sit on the couch after the kids are in bed. Occasionally, change it up. Check-in while strolling through the neighborhood or a park, driving around town, or while you’re out for breakfast. Enjoy the environment with the one you love.
Always start by Appreciating Your Spouse
Your spouse will look forward to the check-ins because they know they’ll hear something positive about themselves. Start with something like…
You know what I like about you? I’m gonna tell you. ___________
I liked when you ___________ earlier this week.
I noticed your ___________ yesterday.
When you ____________, I appreciated it. That was helpful.
Thank you for _______________.
Discuss upcoming schedules
Work schedule/changes, community meetings or activities, kids’ events, and social calendar all fall into this category.
Answer the questions:
What’s the cost?
What’s the time commitment?
What needs to be done to prepare?
Are there any conflicts?
If you need to make reservations, sign forms, or contact people, clarify who will do it.
Listen to Your Spouse’s Emotional, Mental, and Physical Needs
Generally, save this for last because it’s the most open-ended. These 3 questions are good starters. And if you use them every time, you may both start thinking about the answers beforehand.
How are you doing and feeling?
How do you feel like we are doing as a couple?
Are there any issues or concerns you’d like us to talk about?
What To Call It
Some of you will call it a Marriage Check-In and be good with that. More adventurous people may want a name with more personality. (Let us know what you come up with!)
Keep in mind: a productive Marriage Check-In isn’t like those never-ending staff meetings, which are a necessary evil. This is with the one you love. It’s a chance to connect, grow, and course-correct so you’ll enjoy your marriage to the fullest.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/flavia-gava-ul6CnGAlQRM-unsplash-scaled.jpg8772048Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-04-29 11:49:092021-08-25 11:41:45Steps to a Productive Marriage Check-In
When each of my sons was born, I was ecstatic to add another person to our family. I thought about things we would do together, like buying matching outfits and taking family photos or trips together. I clearly remember one trip in particular. The boys were 11, 6, and 3. As we were driving to Florida, I heard my 3-year-old mumbling to his 6-year-old brother, “Stop touching me.” The mumble went to a yell, “STOP TOUCHING ME!!!” I was at a loss for words, but I was able to quell that disagreement. However, it was the beginning of what I call the “Rumbling Years,” that time where it seemed like every interaction between the boys escalated into sibling arguments.
You may be experiencing the same thing with your kids. Perhaps they’re constantly arguing, hitting each other (or on the verge of it), or even ignoring their siblings. You may feel like you’re at your wits’ end. If so, you are not alone.
These tips can help you make it through your own “rumbling years.”
Remember that it’s normal for siblings to argue.
Let’s be honest. There’s no way to stop or prevent all sibling arguments. Arguments or disagreements are just a part of life. At home, within the family is the correct place for your children to learn how to handle conflict appropriately. Think of your home as the training ground for how your kids will handle conflict throughout their lives.
Help them learn how to handle conflict – it’s a necessary life skill.
Conflict is something that everyone deals with. You may or may not like dealing with conflict, but it’s a part of our lives. As your children grow up, handling conflict is a vital life skill. To handle conflict in a healthy way, your child will utilize the following skills:
NEGOTIATING. Suppose your kids are arguing over who is using the family computer. In that case, you come in and make a declaration about who uses it when. You have just prevented your children from learning how to negotiate a schedule devised by them. Think about it this way: If there were visiting grandparents and the same scenario arose, would you be there to solve the problem for them? No. Instead, teach them to solve the problem for themselves.
HOW TO AGREE TO DISAGREE WITHOUT BEING DISAGREEABLE. Some issues may not be fully resolved. The best solution may be to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Yes, that sounds silly, but your child won’t get their way all the time. Help them learn that it’s ok to disagree with their sibling while still treating them with love, respect, and compassion.
Establish your rules of engagement.
There will be times when parents need to step in, especially if the disagreement has turned physical. There are times when the best thing to do is let your children work through the conflict on their own. Don’t overreact to their arguments. Remember when they fell as they learned to walk? If you reacted, they did, too. If you were calm, they were subdued. It’s the same with sibling disagreements. You can calmly say, “If you are going to argue, please do so in your own room.” (They may look at you strangely, especially if they are accustomed to your intervention.)
Acknowledge that their arguments make you uncomfortable.
I remember my mother asking me, as the oldest, “Why don’t you and your brother get along?” She went on to say, “My older brother took care of me. Why can’t you do that for your brother?” My mother was well-intentioned, but she was placing the interactions she had with her brother on me and my brother. Has that happened to you? My mother’s fear was that we (my brother and I) wouldn’t be close as adults based on our sibling arguments. Is that a concern of yours?
You are stressed and tired of acting like the referee. And it seems that your children are at each other’s throats all the time. Nevertheless, remain calm, knowing that this time in life teaches both you and your children lessons about patience and compromise. In the end, you all learn that conflict doesn’t have to ruin relationships going forward.
Developing a framework can allow your family to prioritize what you value.
Every time I stand in line at the grocery store, I look at the magazines near the register. I often pick up one that has a headline about being organized on its cover. As someone who is not naturally organized, I’ve worked hard to understand the importance of being organized and having routines or schedules. Learning to juggle my family’s many plans has helped me embrace the need for routines. I’ve even found routines help our family be less stressed. If there’s one thing I need less of, it’s stress. Can you relate?
Through trial and error, I realized that routines provide a structured framework for my family (even for someone not naturally organized). The habits and plans you create for your family should be based on what works best for you. As a result, your routines will look different from other families, and that’s perfectly normal.
When building your routine, allow for flexibility and adaptability over time. For example, your work schedule or your kids’ activities may change, so things will look different for each family. And you’ll probably have to adapt over time.
Here are a few ways that having a routine contributes to a happy, healthy family. Routines…
1. Provide a flow for the day.
Your children learn what’s coming next. They begin to look forward to activities such as helping with dinner, storytime, or quiet time.
2. Create space for intentional family time.
You may have movie night or family game night. One night of the week becomes breakfast for dinner night.
3. Foster brain development in your children.
Children can recognize signals for what’s happening next. When the lights are turned low, your child sees that the bedtime routine is beginning. When you walk to the bookshelf, they recognize storytime is starting, and they go to your “reading chair.”
4. Promote social and emotional development in kids.
Children learn how to clothe themselves, brush their teeth, and clean up after themselves once routines are established. (Hello, independence!)
If you’re ready to create (or redo) a routine that works for your family, consider these things:
Times that naturally lend themselves to routines.
There are specific times in the day that make having a routine more manageable. Routines around bedtime, storytime, playtime, dinner, or the mornings are a great place to start. Make it as simple as possible, with only a few steps.
Things you can remove from your routine.
In creating the routine that works best, take a look at what you may need to remove from your schedule. When you write down your activities in order of importance, it will help you decide what no longer fits your plan.
It’s a work in progress.
Your routine may be ever-changing because your children continue to change and grow. The routine you create may work for a while but be open to tweaking it when you need to.
Having a routine doesn’t mean you need to fill all the time slots or that you’ll be the most organized family on the block. The intent is to provide a framework that allows your family to be healthy and happy, and to prioritize what you value. You may love quality family time, reading, or play. If so, build those things into your routine. But remember that your plans don’t have to be written in stone and followed like the law; routines are meant to serve you — not the other way around.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/cute-family-playing-summer-field-scaled-e1617045231528.jpg351900Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-03-29 15:14:052021-04-08 09:56:434 Ways Having a Routine Contributes to a Happy, Healthy Family
Adults are working from home. Students are learning from home. We’re Zooming and following IG stories to keep up with our friends and family. We have become more reliant on technology to earn a living, get an education, and stay connected to loved ones than ever before.
Even in the midst of our dependence on WiFi, apps, smartphones, and social media, we look around at our family from time to time and say, “We’re texting each other from the next room.If we don’t get control of all this screen time, our family isn’t going to know each other.”
There are studies linking technology to mental health problems like loneliness, anxiety, and depression. People are suffering from issues such as video game addictions. Divorce filings are citing inappropriate online behavior as factors leading to marital collapse.
Technology is often dictating how we spend our time instead of the other way around. As parents, part of wrestling control away from the screens working on releasing as many dopamine squirts in your brain to get you hooked means setting boundaries with your family.
Here are eight tips for setting boundaries in your family so technology can increase family togetherness and not cause a disconnect.
Set boundaries so technology serves a positive purpose in your family.
Technology can educate, connect, and entertain us in healthy ways. Boundaries help ensure that technology doesn’t take away from any of those positive things. Make sure a screen is never the only source for educating, connecting, and entertaining.
Be a good role model.
Boundaries can’t be one-sided. “Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work. Yes, there are some perks to being an adult; being a technology-distracted parent isn’t one of them. Telling your kids not to bring phones to the dinner table while you sit at the dinner table and text is not a good plan. As a leader in your home, you must first lead by example.
Protect your family.
Setting technology boundaries helps protect your family’s connection, safety, and both mental and physical health. Whether it’s cyberbullying or anxiety, establishing boundaries can work to safeguard your family’s wellbeing.
Make a plan.
Create a family technology plan which includes the purpose, boundaries, and consequences. Enforce consequences unapologetically. This can be as simple as taking away their game controllers or reducing their allotted tech-time.
Incentivize technological responsibility.
Encourage your family to make good decisions through rewards that are meaningful. Trips to the ice cream shop, extra tech-time on the weekend, choosing the movie on family movie night—anything that brings attention to good decision-making regarding technology usage reinforces the behavior you want to see.
Designate tech-free time.
When possible, replace tech-time with family time. Make space for family movies, game nights, and family meals. Setting aside time before bedtime, when devices are off, will help the family connect and increase everyone’s chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Focus on what’s best for your family. Don’t compare yourself to other families. No two homes are alike. It’s one thing to seek advice from other families, but keep your family values front and center.
Educate your family.
Invite your children to learn what you’re learning about the pros and cons of technology. Our family has watched documentaries, television specials and read information together. Being informed has helped our family understand the potential effects of technology on our mental health, relationships, and even our brains. This helps us hold each other accountable and helps us stay focused on the most important thing—our relationships.
Boundaries don’t have to be restrictive. Good boundaries will help your family enjoy relationships with each other by protecting you from potential distractions. Setting boundaries in your family is your way of putting technology in its place. Gadgets are not more important than your relationships with the people you love. Messing with those relationships is a boundary that you can’t give technology the freedom to cross.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/pexels-august-de-richelieu-4260325-e1603804296998.jpg229600Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2020-10-27 09:11:492022-04-28 09:45:178 Tips For Setting Technology Boundaries In Your Family