Family life is challenging, with both parents working, children having extracurricular activities, family members attending church on Sabbath, and having to do household chores. Who has time for everything? Families are doing so much besides the regular going to work and school. Kids are involved in sports, band, choir, pathfinders, adventurers and other church activities. The list goes on. In “20 Ideas for Busy Parents,” Mary May Larmoyeux addresses this challenge. She writes about a dad who had two boys in two different baseball teams that were in the middle of tournaments and the strains that that placed on the family. The dad wanted “to help his boys develop their God-given talents, but at what cost to the family?” He asked his friends for some tips to help him, and the following principles were some of those shared with him:
1. As you choose activities, put God first. Consider the spiritual impact that activities could have on the family. Are there Sunday ballgames or Wednesday night practices that will interfere with your church services?
2. Protect your marriage in the busyness of life. Does your spouse feel like you spend more focused time with the kids than you do with him/her? Could this be relieved by carpooling or limiting the children’s involvement on various sports teams or school clubs? Have you reserved special time for just you and your spouse?
3. Pray about activities. One dad said, “Making choices for our kids requires an enormous amount of prayer … for wisdom and discernment, and an enormous amount of courage as choices made often require standing against the tide.”
4. Remember that your primary God-given responsibility as a parent is to point your children to Jesus Christ and to help them grow in their faith and love for the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; John 8:31). Is there enough time in your schedule for the family to study God’s Word together and to discuss spiritual issues?
5. Focus on key activities that are important to you and your children. This will result in saying “no” to some good things to have time for what you feel is best for each child.
6. Don’t expect your children to appreciate the sacrifices that you make to help them develop their abilities.
7. Compare calendars with your spouse on a regular basis.
8. Schedule regular family meetings so everyone is aware of all of the activities and no one feels left out.
9. Organize family work efforts. Example: “Let’s all clean the house” or “Let’s get the yard work done.” One dad said, “Too often parents are doing the household chores and the kids are playing video games. Kids need chores … they can make major contributions to the operation of a household.”
10. Teach the kids how to do their own laundry (on an age-appropriate basis). Children in on-the-go families can be a big help by washing their own sheets, sorting their dirty clothes, folding their clean clothes, matching socks, etc.
11. Schedule a date night at home once a week with your spouse. For example, purchase a favorite dessert from a nearby bakery or restaurant. When the kids go to bed, enjoy it with your spouse and talk about the high and low points of your week.
12. Plan margin in your calendar—time that is not allocated to anything.
13. Take time to laugh as a family and enjoy being together.
14. When time to cook a meal will be limited because of activities, use a slow cooker.
15. Cook in large batches and freeze meals ahead of time to use on busy days
16. Choose one night a week (example: “Terrific Thursday”) for special family activities. Go out for ice cream together, play a board game, watch a movie, etc.
17. If you have a dog, ask your spouse or a child to walk the dog with you.
18. Get involved in things as an entire family instead of doing countless individual activities. One mom said, “We serve together at church or all attend discipleship groups on the same evening, so we are not shuttling on different nights.”
19. Get enough rest and reserve time for yourself in the family schedule.
20. Create one-on-one time for each child to do something fun with just Mom, as well as special time for each child to be with just Dad.
“With God’s help and determination, busy parents can learn how to control their schedules, so their schedules won’t control them.”