It can be difficult to squeeze in time together as a family when life gets busy—and the school year is often hectic, especially in teachers’ families. Simple, pleasant traditions everyone can count on can knit families together well, even in the busiest of times.
By Lori Watson
It’s back-to-school time, and we’re all looking forward to the prospects a new school year holds. But when we look back over the summer, family closeness often stands out as one of the blessings of June, July, and early August. As we plan a new school year, we want that family closeness to continue.
The good news is that it doesn’t take monthly Disney trips to counter the “school’s in session” tension. Small traditions can keep a family close and build great memories, even during the busiest of times. The key is in keeping them simple enough to make sure that they actually happen.
When you’re planning, bear in mind that the traditions should be scheduled regularly (so that everyone knows when they can look forward to them) and should unite the family around something all members enjoy. Here are ten suggestions to help you get the ideas rolling and find traditions that fit your family best.
Even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes a day, the experience of sitting near your children and reading to them is one that etches dear memories into their minds and yours. Even when children are older, many still enjoy being read to by someone who loves them (just pick more difficult books and don’t tell their friends). Bedtime and just after dinner are great times to build this in, and cozy surroundings make all the difference.
It’s tried-and-true. Setting one night a week apart for a good movie provides everyone something to look forward to, creates lasting memories, and gives a family common material to discuss. If you use the movies as springboards for deeper discussions about issues that matter, they double as parenting tools, too.
Afternoon walk/rollerblade/bike ride
An after-school or after-dinner stroll around the block equals great bonding time. It’s relaxing, and it helps to reset both children and adults after the stress of the day. If you’re in a rural area, a nature walk can provide wonderful memories of wildlife, too.
Family Rosary, a nightly pledge to the Sacred Heart, or the Divine Mercy Chaplet grounds children, fosters their faith early in life, and communicates the importance of daily prayer. It can be tricky with little ones, but prayer CDs can help; that way parents don’t have to stop the prayers to correct behavior. You can order a free CD of the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet at http://www.catholicity.com/ .
Meals that build togetherness
Build-Your-Own Pizza Nights or Picnic Saturdays can help knit a family together; the main idea is to choose something fun that everyone will look forward to each week. Even sandwiches are special when you take the recipes a little over-the-top and schedule them weekly. Here’s a great BLT to get you started!
You can’t argue with me on this one; not much in this world brings people together like pie. Who can hold a grudge when there’s chocolate meringue nearby?
A family service project can unite parents and kids around a common goal and build shared interests. Whether it’s shelving items at a local food pantry, beautifying the roadway by picking up litter, or creating and running an apostolic website together, service can unite a family well.
Art or Music Night
If everyone with your DNA inherits a love of Renoir, Bach, or Clapton, a scheduled art or music night each week ensures that these interests don’t slide out of sight. There’s something about fingerpainting alongside a four-year-old, crafting a landscape in watercolors beside your teen, or singing with your children while your husband plays guitar or piano that knits hearts together well. Mark a date on the calendar and pick up those paints or that music book. You’ll make memories that will never fade.
They don’t have to happen every weekend, but regularly scheduled trips to a nearby town or natural location for a day (or two) together can refresh everyone and encourage closeness. Knowing they’ll happen regularly draws the family together even more.
Football. Cricket. Any Sport Will Do.
As long as everyone in the family likes it, any sport can provide great family bonding time. If your family is more intense, an all-out basketball match might be right up your alley. If you’re a little lower-key, a good game of catch might be the ticket. Whatever sport you choose, know that the time you spend is a valuable investment in family closeness.
It can be difficult to squeeze in time together as a family when life gets busy—and we know that the school year is often hectic, especially in teachers’ families. Simple, pleasant traditions everyone can count on can knit families together well, even in the busiest of times.
Lori Ann Watson teaches, homeschools, blogs about Catholicism, and almost never gets caught up on laundry. She writes from North Central Florida.