Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Make family a priority in 2016

Make family a priority? What are you talking about? My family's always my priority.

Of course, it is. But if you're like the rest of us, there may be times your priorities get a bit messed up. I know mine do. 

By being mindful of our priorities, it makes it easier to make decisions. And when decision-making is simpler, stress is naturally reduced.

Photo by Steve Buissinne

For example, someone asks you to bake 3 dozen cookies for the PTA bake sale. Before you respond, consider your family. 

  • It will upset your son who is struggling with not being able to eat cookies due to a specially-prescribed diet. Say no.
  • It creates a nice Saturday activity to do with your 9-year-old. Say yes.
  • It straps your grocery budget and will force you to cut corners on healthier options for your kids. Say no.
  • It is something you can do when the kids are at school and spouse is at work and you have all the ingredients left over from baking Christmas cookies last month. Say yes.
If you struggle to say no to the PTA, church, or other organizations asking for your time, offer an alternative. "I'm sorry, I can't bake cookies right now, but I'll be happy to help organize games for the spring picnic." Even if you can't come up with an alternative suggestion at the time, there's no room for guilt over saying no if your reasons center on your family as a priority.

Another scenario: Your best friend calls and asks you to go shopping with her. "The after-Christmas sales at the mall are amazing. Let's go!" Again, before saying yes, because you know you want to, consider your family.

Photo by Peter Griffin

  • It's your scheduled date night with your spouse. Say no.
  • You promised your son you would help him with his science project. Say no.
  • It's family game night. Say no. 
  • You spent too much over the holidays and your husband asked you to cut back for awhile. Say no.
  • It's movie night with your daughters and, even though you've watched it with them at least a dozen times, Frozen is on the agenda. Say no (then Let it Go).
  • Your kids are at their grandma's, husband's working late, and you have gift cards burning a hole in your wallet. Jump on that 'yes,' baby! And have fun!
By keeping the needs of your family front and center, you'll be able to give honest answers with less internal struggle.

And for those of us with grown children and grandkids, we have to do the same thing.

"Mom, can you babysit tonight?"
  • Your husband just opened a bottle of wine and put steaks on the grill. Say no.
  • You finally have some work in your inbox and the bills are pilling up. Your plan was to focus on those paying projects. Say no.
  • You realize how badly your daughter and her husband need a night out and you were just going to catch up on your emails anyway. Say yes. 
  • You haven't had any cuddle time with the grandbabies lately and your husband could use some time to himself. Say yes. Absolutely. Say yes!
Of course, monitoring outside activity against the backdrop of family is only one way to make them a priority in 2016. What about the time you actually spend with them? When's the last time you put your phone down and had dinner with your spouse without checking your messages even once? If you haven't done that, do it! Do your little ones have to compete with your tablet for your attention? Stop it. The last thing you want is for them to embarrass you at school. When the teacher asks them to draw a picture of you showing what you like to do, wouldn't it be nice if the picture showed you reading to them, cooking, playing board games, or gardening? But what are the chances your kids will draw you looking at your phone or tablet? This goes for you, too, dads. Do you want them to portray you sitting at the computer or plopped down on the couch watching sports programs that are of little interest to them?

Now I'm not saying not to do any of these things. Obviously, I hope you're spending some time catching up with Green Grandma on a regular basis. But not at the expense of your spouse or children. This year, I challenge you to focus on raising kids who, if you're married, see you making your marriage a priority, watch you carefully managing your finances, and know, without a doubt, that they are central to your life. 

These are types of New Year's resolutions that can transform families. Who's with me?

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