“Will you be able to help with this project?” questioned my friend.

I smiled and agreed to help, but inwardly I sighed. We had just finished participating in a different project for needy children, and the kids had fallen behind in their academic work. Personally, I was feeling overwhelmed, but wanted to help our friend.

As I drove home, my daughter piped up from the back seat, “What are we doing for our family time tonight?” she queried.

“I have so much to do,” I thought, “How could I spend time just playing games?” I tried to think of a tactful response when my son said, “Dad won't be home tonight. Remember, he said he had a meeting.”

“So, no family night again, right, Mom? We never have fun together anymore,” complained my daughter.

How I needed to hear those words! What a life lesson from my young daughter. Our schedule was packed, and our recent family times were rushed at best, and canceled too frequently. Something had to change, and I knew I was the one that had to do it! I made up my mind to keep tonight’s family night and hope that Dad could show up.

My resolve to keep a weekly family night grew as I considered the importance of building family relationships that carry into the future. I learned that an important key to family unity and closeness is investing time in each other.

Make Meaningful Memories

Playing games together is a great way to bond, especially games that evoke laughter or involve teamwork. Having special events around holidays or special occasions can also forge close bonds.

Some of our family favorites: we still have a traditional Christmas baking day in December. Every summer, we took a long walk to a favorite shop for a special treat enjoyed on the patio. Our Fourth of July family fun night was a festive celebration with many adventurous memories. For birthdays in our house, the birthday person got a special plate and chose all the meals for the day.

Find fun activities that your children love and build a family tradition on that event. It creates a tie that binds with sweet memories!

Listen to Each Other

One activity that we repeated monthly is a time where we would ask questions to provoke deeper thinking and hopefully create motivation for the future. Sitting in our family room, we would go around the room asking questions like: What type of friends help you be the best you can be? How many children do you want to have when you're married? Who do you want to be like when you’re an adult? What would be your favorite place to go on a family vacation and why? These and other questions bring about great conversations, help us all plan for the future, and can inspire mom and dad!

Spend Time Encouraging One Another

Another event (that would usually happen around the dinner table in our house) is time set aside to share what we appreciate most in each member of our family. To set an example, I would start by expressing gratitude for an attribute in one of my children and tell them how much it helps me and/or the family. Then, the person seated next to me would follow, speaking life into their sibling. (This can be especially encouraging and helpful when there is tension in the home.) It makes us stop and think about the things we like about each other. The one rule is that there cannot be anything negative!

Discuss the Hard Things

Don't ignore troubling times in life. It is critical to have conversations about the tough situations we face. For example, when my mom had cancer which ultimately took her life, it opened up many doors to talk about eternity, healthcare, helping others, and so many other things!

Other good conversations happened after weddings, funerals, encounters with homeless people, and unique or awkward situations at church or elsewhere. We would have discussions about how to respond or help those in need. Those conversations allow the children to express their concerns, learn to handle things in the future, and usually opened up deeper conversations on important issues.

Build Toward the Future

Investing in our children's lives as homeschoolers is natural to most of us. However, the busyness of life can interfere with building family relationships that last. Ironically, we may prioritize math or reading over building a lasting relationship with our child. Don't fall for this trap! Make it a priority to spend time together making memories. Do fun things together, listen to each other, encourage one another, and discuss hard things. When your children become adults, it is doubtful they'll wish they had done more math or reading. However, many families wish they had taken time to love each other and make memories that built a foundation for great relationships as adults. So, invest in the future and make your family time of paramount importance!