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These days there are so many distractions – social media, smartphones, tablet computers … iThis and iThat – that families are falling apart. Dads answering their mobile phone during dinner, kids texting, mothers internet shopping.
How is a family meant to hang together these days? Well, there are some simple answers!
The ‘Good Old Days’
I remember with great delight the days that I used to come home from school as a kid. I was allowed an hour, perhaps an hour and a half of watching the TV. It was a great big hulking black and white model that sat in the corner of the lounge room. I used to watch Gilligan’s Island and Mighty Mouse and later on, Batman.
Our time in front of the tube was strictly limited by our parents. They didn’t want us getting square eyes. It was out to play with the other kids in the neighbourhood. And then in to do our homework, help with setting the table, cooking the dinner and certainly helping with clearing up and washing the dishes.
It was those times washing and drying the dishes that my sister Cori and I used to sing songs.
When it came to being a family, it seemed that there were fewer distractions back then. Oh sure, my parents worked hard and had busy lives. But there wasn’t an Internet, there weren’t dozens of Cable TV channels, we only had one TV not 3 or 4 as many homes do these days. There were just fewer distractions.
Distractions from what? Distractions I guess from being a family. Things were never perfect … but there seemed to be more time to interact. More time to do things...
Back to the Real World
In stark contrast, today’s entertainment options are prolific:
- Cable TV
- Internet – hours in front of that
- Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, … et al
- Mobile phones – SMS/Text/Unlimited talk plan to fry your brain
- Movies – lots of them – on demand on the box
- Cars – go anytime, anytime – running the kids here and there
It’s a whole different world. Now I’m not suggesting we wind back the clock. We can never do that. I’m just making the point that we live in a different world. A world where there are so many distractions. So many seemingly very good things. Entertaining things. Razzmatazzy things. Glitzy attractive things.
After a hard day at work or at school – we retreat into our virtual cocoons to be entertained. Then there’s takeaway food. There’s the microwave. The dishwasher. A lot of the menial things that people used to do together as a family – times to talk, laugh and share – they’re disappearing.
We have more bedrooms, bigger houses, more living areas. The family is under such incredible pressure!!
All these these distractions rob us of time! Time to be a family. Time to talk and listen.
What’s God’s Take?
God places a high premium on your family. Of the 10 commandments, the first four are about God and us. But the very next one, the fifth one, is about family:
Honour your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Ex 20:12).
He has a lot to say about marriages too:
Wives be subject to your husbands…husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Eph 5).
God places a massive premium on families because they were His idea in the first place. Adam, Eve … from there came the beautiful gift of oneness and intimacy. And out of that beautiful, intimate embrace … came the gift of children. And there you have it. There you have family. God’s plan for those made in His image.
Perhaps right now you feel a bit ashamed, inadequate, when you think about what’s happening in your family.
Well – maybe that is God’s plan. But look at the mess my family’s in!
Well – you’re not the only one. Adam and Eve had the same problem! One son murdered the other.
Dysfunctional families happened as a result of the fall. Dysfunctional families happened when we turned our backs on God.
And yes – we do have a whole bunch of distractions and distractions bring dysfunction. Distractions drive little wedges into the family. The thin end of the wedge doesn’t seem so bad. But the deeper you drive these wedges, the more they tear our families apart.
Some Simple Solutions
So … here are some things you can start doing right now to reverse the trend. I mean … today. This very minute.
It’s as simple as figuring out some clever, creative ways to spend time together, like...
- talking in the car
- turning the TV off over dinner (they’ll get over it!)
- having a new rule – no mobile phones at the dinner table (WHAT?! Are you for real dad?)
- starting an interesting conversation over food (it’ll start flowing in a week or two if you persist)
- sharing something that happened in your day (kids find that fascinating)
- asking your kids questions (specific ones that they have to answer)
- planning some family things that involve the kids’ friends too, so that those other kids go “wow, that was cool” – something that’s fun, alternative.
There are just so many creative things we can do. It’s called … “fun”, remember?
Bake some biscuits with the kids on a wet, cold, rainy Sunday afternoon. Involve them in cooking the soup – chopping and pealing the veggies (WHAT?! No takeaways today?).
Just inject some old fashioned fun into the mix – they might complain to start with, but in years to come those are the times they’ll look back with “fond memories”!
It’s about claiming back your time...
Read more from Berni Dymet in his blog A Different Perspective.