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June 25, 2024

Parents Wish For More Family Time

Question: Dr. Dobson, my family lives together under one roof and we share the same last name. But we don't "feel" like a family. We're so rushed and stressed by the routine pressures of living that I sometimes feel I hardly know my wife and kids. How can I begin to put a sense of togetherness into this harried household? How do you put meaningful activities into your family?

Answer: I've written and spoken extensively on the dangers of overcommitment and"routine panic," and I will not repeat that warning here, except to say that you should make a concerted effort to slow the pace at which your family is running. Beyond that advice, however, I would emphasize the importance of creating special traditions in your home. By traditions, I'm referring to those recurring events and behaviors that are anticipated, especially by children, as times of closeness and fellowship between loved ones.

For example, one of the most important holiday traditions in our family centers around food. Each year during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the women prepare tremendous meals, involving the traditional holiday menu of turkey and all that goes with it. A favorite is a fruit dish called ambrosia, containing sectioned oranges and peeled grapes. The family peels the grapes together the night before Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are wonderful experiences for all of us. There's laughter and warm family interaction throughout the day. We look forward to that festive season, not just for the food, but for what happens between loved ones who convene.

We not only attempt to serve traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, but we try to have specific foods on each holiday throughout the year. On New Year's Day, for reasons which I cannot explain, we enjoy a southern meal of pinto beans cooked for at least eight hours with large chunks of lean ham, served with cornbread and little onions. It's good! On July 4th we invite thirty or more friends and serve barbecued hamburgers and baked beans in the backyard. This has become a prelude to the fireworks display.

Obviously, many of our traditions (but not all) focus on the enjoyable activity of eating together. Another example occurs immediately prior to the Thanksgiving dinner. After the food is on the table and family members are seated, I read a passage of Scripture and Shirley tells the story of the Pilgrims who thanked God for helping them survive the ravages of winter. Then each person is given two kernels of Indian corn to symbolize the blessings he or she is most thankful for that year. A basket is passed and every member drops in the corn while sharing their two richest blessings from God during that year. Our expressions of thankfulness inevitably involve people—children, grandparents, and other loved ones. As the basket moves around the table, tears of appreciation and love are evident on many faces. It is one of the most beautiful moments of the year.

This brings me back to the question about hurried homes. The great value of traditions is that they give a family sense of identity and belonging. All of us desperately need to feel that we're not just part of a busy cluster of people living together in a house, but we're a living, breathing family that's conscious of our uniqueness, our character, and our heritage. That feeling is the only antidote for the loneliness and isolation that characterizes so many homes today.

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