Several years ago I was asked to serve on a panel, answering questions about keeping our families unspotted from the world. How could I possibly help others when I was no expert and felt every one of my short-comings as a mother? As I thought about what I might be asked I felt confident that a few safeguards had served our family well.
We ate together. Dinner was 5:30-6:00p.m. Most activities had ended by then or had not started. Even with summer jobs most the time we managed to eat together. Meeting together around the dinner table became an opportunity to talk about the days events, gospel topics, recounting mission experiences, testing out our foreign language skills, and other pressing concerns we might have had. Everyone had a chance to talk and be heard.
We worked together. Saturday clean-up included everyone and chores were rotated. The radio was usually blaring. Music seemed to help the work go faster, was not as tedious, and singing along helped the chore seem less like work. We provided working opportunities out of the home as well so that each child could earn their own money and with guidance learn to manage it.
We knew how to play. Mom and Dad are pretty dull people if everything is work, work, work. It is good to take a break to play dolls or catch a ball, go on picnics, hike, play board games and cards, take trips, camp, go fishing and once in a while do something big like Disneyland. Yep. It takes planning and sometimes it is totally spontaneous! That's what play is and it should not be neglected.
We went to church together. Church developed purpose and unity plus strenghtened testimony, taught service, and built our family. This was a no-brainer. Church was never neglected.
We created our own traditions. One of the most famous and still in practice is going to the mountains to cut our Christmas tree. Our children need to see continuity, to expect something and look forward to something that belongs just to your family. It's special.
Make home a safe place where each child can be themselves, talk about anything they want, ask any question without us going into shock or express any concern they may have. That is how the talking corner in our bedroom came to be. It was the place to talk privately with mom and dad. No interruptions, no intruding. It was a safe place and it became a happy place as well. Blessings have been given there as well as announcing of engagements. Sorrows have been shared there as well. Whatever was said in this safe place never was shared with anyone else. You could count on that. Having that safe corner to express ones self has been a true blessing.
Support each other. That meant going to concerts and games and performances. It got harder as more children became involved in extracurricular activities. Supporting each other includes talking them up, complimenting each other and offering encouragement and bragging about your children's accomplishments is good too. They need to know you notice.
Your kids need to see you be a loving couple. Kiss each other in front of your kids. Although this embarrassed Dennis sometimes he danced me around the kitchen (which I loved) or he'd hug me with the intention of nibbling on my ear (which drives me crazy). I like sitting on Dennis's lap and snuggling. We always hold hands. Still do. We hug and kiss in greeting and saying goodbye. And saying "I love you" cannot be said enough. (Even when you don't feel like it.) And that includes saying it to your kids as well. Affection is glue and every family needs to slather it on!
I am sure there are other things that help to make a happy family that I have missed or not included. There is a disclaimer here though. We were not perfect in any of it but there are some pretty fun and wonderful memories associated with all of them. I like to think that practicing some of these habits, exercises, or what have you, have contributed to making six pretty terrific kids.