Monday, February 3, 2014

The Language of Life: The State of The (Family) Union by Angela Jackson

Listening to the President give the State of the Union Address made me think about the state of my own family union. At the beginning of the year we all resolve to make changes in our lives. As busy parents, I know many of my conversations with friends revolve around how we all want to find ways to have more family time. Between running to and from soccer practices, language classes, music lessons, business meetings and social obligations, it feels like every family member is on their own schedule pursuing their own interests. I've noticed with myself and my friends that many times we are "over-programmed," packing in more activities than ever but still feeling like we don't have enough time as a family unit. With constant messaging from the media, our physicians and even the White House, about the mental and physical benefits of adults and children getting more physical activity, maybe we should heed these suggestions by becoming more active as a family unit. Surely this can improve the state of our family unions.
With all families being made up of individuals of many different interests and disinterests, how do we find common ground? How do you democratize individual activities so that every family member can experience and engage in an activity that one particular family member loves? I have to admit it and let's all face it together: shuffling around to a 7 a.m. soccer practice is not one of our favorite activities as parents, but when we know it means the world to our son or daughter, we do it! But how do we do it more joyfully?
My solution has been to get into the game. With any activity, find something interesting in the activity for you. In terms of soccer, instead of having parents stand on the sidelines, our local coach implemented parents versus kids games. I have to tell you, the kids enjoyed this practice more than any "real" game. And for me personally, I found enjoyment because we were participating as a family. We laughed, we smiled and even as the parents lost, we all commented on how we enjoyed being in the game.
Many times when we take our children to activities we're on the sidelines. We need to encourage ourselves or make suggestions on how we can physically be part of the activity. And this principle can go beyond just including ourselves in our children's activities: we can include them in our own! At my local yoga studio, I suggested that they start a class where people could bring their age appropriate children. At first they were not sure this was a good idea, but now this class has become one of the most popular on the schedule! While our kids may not understand Downward Dog, they do understand and connect with our love of things and activities. I always say a family that moves together stays together, and in my case, I have found this to be true. So the next time your son or daughter groans as the thought of yet another music lesson, let them know that you are going with them to learn, too. Ask their music teacher if they would be willing to give you a lesson every now and then. I can't promise that you will become an award-winning pianist in the world's eyes, but I am sure that you will be a star for your child.
I would love to hear from you. What activities has your family ever taken from an individual interest to a family focus? Feel free to send me your ideas via Twitter at @angjack or via email at I will be sure to share them in a future column. And I would love to hear if spending more time together improves the state of your family union, as I am sure it has and will continue to improve mine!

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