There is something about the pace and busyness of life nowadays that mitigates against healthiness in families. So many of us have forgotten that pursuing achievement (such as adult career success, or academic and extra-curricular pursuits in kids) while neglecting a prior and more basic pursuit of wholeness, will only lead to the implosion of lives and families.

I have seen enough families in which many members are hitting it out the park in financial or schooling success but are nevertheless failing in something far more essential: a family culture that daily garners wholeness in all.

Here are three habits to start with as your work towards family and personal wholeness:

PLAY

Every day make sure your kids do stuff for the fun of it.

In the West (and actually much more so in the East!) we’ve been systematically reducing daily playtime from the life of kids. And it’s almost absent in us success-driven, productivity-addicted adults.

Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting reminds us that the opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.

Some ideas to do this.

We must create time to have fun. Busyness eats into the unstructured use of time wherein play can thrive.

We must not confuse the soul-numbing thrills of screen-entertainment for the revitalizing real thing of technology-free play. Entertainment is very different to recreation.

We need to ask our spouse and kids the questions:

  • What do you like doing that makes you lose track of time?
  • What do you enjoy doing so much that you don’t want it to end?
  • How often do you just goof off, and forget about all the things that have to get done?

In my house, our living space usually has an open box of lego, and a pile of papers next to pencils and crayons – it’s amazing how often our kids get into a creative space as a result.

We’ve been lucky enough to have a garden which has been turned to a wonderland – there is a zipline, treehouse, trampoline, stand-up swing and plenty of lie-around tyres. Thanks to my DIY friends who made this possible.

Also, there are the dance-like-crazy times where the music blasts and I remind our kids by my example that we don’t do cool in this family, we do crazy fun. On the way to school this morning, Ivy (4) asked me, ‘Daddy, can you and me do ballroom dancing again tonight?’ Gush. Only a dad knows the feeling.

PRAY

Every day talk about some aspect of faith with your kids.

Those of you with no faith, or other faiths, respect.

I can’t speak for your translation of this point into your own situation.

But I can say that Julie and I have found that our Christian faith is not only a great conductor of family values, and a glue that can hold people together, but it also seriously boosts resilience in the face of adversity – in both us adults and in our kids. As for physical health, there’s plenty of evidence for the faith-health connection.

Some ideas to do this.

Julie and I try to grab 30 seconds here and there to pray for our family. At bedtime, we pray for and sometimes with our kids.

In faith-based families, there is plenty of research to reveal that there is actually a silver bullet that safeguards a marriage: it’s the couple praying together regularly. Pray together to stay together, is how preachers sometimes put it.

I find that mornings and bedtimes create natural opportunities for faith-transfer to our kids: Most mornings (lately at least) I blast the Planetshakers playlist through the house. And I read a Scripture to my kids as I hand out smoothies.

Bedtime is a chance to read Bible stories to them, and to discuss matters of faith on the points where they touch our kid’s lives. Raising Digi-natives, I also supplement these times with various Bible reading Apps (with dimmed, yellow-light settings on).

There’s also church on Sundays. The family-orientated church we’re part of organizes its Sunday services around the idea that church should be enjoyed not endured. Not surprisingly, my kids can’t wait to go every week.

LOVE

Every day connect with each other in a loving way.

Even though my family so often feels repetitive (it’s Groundhog day Monday to Thursday), chaotic (5 kids and 2 working parents) and battle-worn (with each kid surrounded by another 4, sibling conflict is inevitable), my kids often enough say that nothing matters to them more than their relationship to everyone in our dizzying family.

The greatest predictor for physical health, longevity and even happiness is not a good diet, or regular exercise. It’s close relationships that are weekly, if not daily cultivated and celebrated. Its people spending time with each other and being ready to open each other’s hearts to one another.

Some ideas to do this.

I suck at this, but I am trying to stay more in touch with Julie via calls and WhatsApp’s throughout the day. (Steven Covey in 7 Habits of Effective Families made a big thing about this.)

As for after-work, most days, Julie and I do our best to:

  • say a warm hi to everyone as we return home,
  • ignore our smartphones from 5 pm till our kids are asleep,
  • have a family dinner conversation,
  • be ready for cuddles while looking for opportunities for heart-to-heart chats at bedtime.

For Julie and I, straight after kids bedtime, we try to touch base to discuss how to best use the rest of the night. We’ve found that too many nights in a month of work, surfing the web, or watching series or DVDs tends to erode the quality of our sleep, our emotional closeness, and the regularity of our ‘romantic’ life.

Three simple verbs.

Play. Pray. Love.

Perhaps, at day’s end, you (and your spouse?) can ask yourselves 3 simple questions to evaluate how well you did this day as a family:

  • Play: Did we and our kids have some fun today?
  • Pray: Did we model and find natural opportunities to pray or talk about our faith with our kids today?
  • Love: Did we fortify our emotional connections with each other as a family today?

Published with the kind permission of Terran Williams. The original article with the additional 3 habits of Eat, Move and Sleep, can be found here

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