Fall has arrived…and with it the fall frenzy of family fun activities. In case you’re stumped on ideas for fall family fun, try one of these 10 ideas.
- Have a campfire. Nothing warms a cool fall night like sitting around a bonfire. Invite another family or enjoy s’mores with just your spouse and kids. You can even limit it to your spouse and make it a romantic evening. Either way, gather round and enjoy the fire for family fun. (Read S’More Family Fun for more)
- Go for a family hike. Enjoy the crisp fresh air, the colorful fall leaves, and time with family on a hike through your local park or a regional trail. (I enjoy Frick Park or the Laurel Highlands in our area. Where are the great hiking trails in your area?)
- Enjoy a high school or college football game. Put on your favorite team colors, buy some nachos, and cheer for your favorite team. You may even invite another family who supports the opposing team and give one another a little friendly ribbing at the game.
- Carve a few pumpkins. Sit down with your family and carve some decorative pumpkins. See who can come up with the most original carving. While you’re at it, roast some of the pumpkin seeds. Delicious family fun.
- Go on a hayride. You can even enjoy some hot cider while you’re on the ride. After the ride, why not find your way through a local corn maze? Laugh and have fun as you explore and discover your way through the maze.
- Enjoy some hot drinks. You can go someplace for the drinks or make them at home. Try hot cider, gourmet hot cocoa, pumpkin spice latte, or maple cinnamon coffee. Get a different drink for each family member and share. Drink up…cheers. (Read about the extra benefits of this hot drink for your family in A Family Fun Night with Amazing Health Benefits)
- Bake a pie together. While you’re at it, bake two and take one to your neighbor or a shut-in you know. (Celebrate your family with pie for a year!!)
- Attend a band festival. It is great entertainment to watch a variety of school band put on their marching musical shows. Enjoy some hot cocoa while you’re there.
- Rake the leaves in your yard into a pile and jump into the pile.
- Host a fall harvest party. Invite other families. Make it potluck and enjoy everyone’s favorite dish. Build a bonfire and enjoy the warm fire, delicious food, and great company. (Just so you know, going on a double date builds greater intimacy and a stronger marriage for both couples! Plug in for Family Hapiness )
Fall can become a frenzy of family fun with these ideas. Or, you can modify each one to have a romantic getaway with your spouse. Either way, enjoy your fall and the opportunities it brings to build a stronger marriage and family!
Some of the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single, even alienated somewhat His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. Before I tell you the advice, I have to offer a warning. It’s hard-to-swallow advice. It sounds foreign to our ears, dissonant with the prevailing cultural norms; but, it’s still great marital advice. It comes in two parts. The first part of this hard-to-swallow marital advice is “deny yourself.” I told you it’s hard to swallow. It’s not popular advice. Practiced wisely, however, it will lead to a strong marriage and family.
When you are completely honest with yourself, you probably know this advice is true. But we don’t like it. Culture teaches us to watch out for “number 1” rather than “deny ourselves.” Still, in our moments of self-reflective honesty, we recognize the inherent value of “denying ourselves” for families. Think about it. Truly effective parents deny their own wishes and desires to meet the needs of their children all the time.
- Parents deny their desire to go out whenever they want in order to stay home and put the baby to bed or feed them or care for them when they’re sick.
- Parents deny their own wishes for new shoes or some other purchase to assure their children have nice clothes for school or get that special dinner for their birthday.
- Parents deny themselves of sleep so they can comfort a crying baby or care for their sick child.
- Parents deny themselves of the opportunity to avoid those things they find disgusting or gross in order to change diapers and clean up vomit.
- Parents deny themselves of an afternoon of ease in order to run children to activities, wash clothes, or prepare snacks for their children’s visiting friends.
- Parents deny themselves when they forget their own agenda for the moment in order to listen carefully to what sounds like child “ramblings” or to engage in child’s play.
It’s not just parents who deny self to express love in action and build a stronger family. Spouses do it as well. It can be seen in simple things like:
- One spouse denying themselves by giving up control of the remote and watching what their spouse wants to watch.
- Spouses denying themselves the freedom to go out with whoever they want whenever they want in order to accommodate their spouses’ desires for a night together or because they want to ease their spouses’ concerns.
- Spouses deny themselves when they forget their own agenda in a conversation and focus on listening intently to what their spouse has to say.
Self-denial may be seen in more extravagant forms as well, like denying oneself of working extra overtime because it will take too much time away from family or being the first to offer forgiveness when a wrong is committed. The point is that healthy families practice self-denial in big and little ways every day. They “consider one another as more important than themselves” and “look not only to their own interests but to the interests of one another as well.” Joseph Campbell expressed the idea of self-denial in marriage when he said, “Marriage is not a simple love affair, it’s an ordeal and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one.” And, from Joseph Campbell once again, “When you make the sacrifice in marriage you’re sacrificing not to each other but to the unity of the relationship.” To paraphrase slightly, “When you practice self-denial in family, you’re sacrificing the ego to a community we call family, you’re building the unity of your family.”
Seems today you can find an app for anything. People even feel the need to have an app before they do anything.
- Don’t want to call certain people in a drunken stupor…”there’s an app for that.” (I think it might be better just to avoid the drunken state, but….)
- Want to track your bowel movements (related diet, stress, bowel texture) and share “all that crap” with friends…”there’s an app for that.” Perhaps hard to believe, but it’s true.
- On a slightly different note, want to keep track of every place in the world you have “taken a poop” (or would that be “left a poop,” anyway)…. Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Tired of playing games on your device while your cat sits idly by lounging on the floor…”there’s an app for that.” Your cat can “catch” a digital mouse or fish depending on the app you choose. Now you can play your games without the guilt of your lonely cat staring at you with those big eyes. Hmmmmmm.
- Find your teen’s behavior irritating? Show them whose boss (or whose best at irritating teen behavior) by irritating them with high frequency sounds…Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
- Ever had to go to the bathroom in the middle of a movie but you don’t want to miss anything good? Well, you guessed it, “there’s an app for that.” This app will tell you the best times to run to the bathroom during a movie and fills you in on what you’ve missed during your trip.
See what I mean? You name it, “there’s an app for that.” Sesame Street even has a song to help teach its viewers “there’s an app for that.” By the way, in case anyone out there can help create an app, I have a couple ideas for family apps to help families practice honor, grace, and celebration. I want in on the act, but I don’t know how to create an app and, I guess there’s no app for that.
In the long run, though, you don’t need an app to build a strong family. In fact, focusing on your phone and internet device to play games and monitor bowel movements can really get in the way of family life. So, I wanted to share just a few “app-free” ways to build a healthy family. The nice thing about each of these tools is you “don’t need no app for that!”
- Sit down as a family and play a board game or a card game. While you play, talk. Enjoy one another’s company. Laugh.
- Go for a walk. Get outside and walk along a creek or through a patch of woods or across the field. Walking in nature has a healing effect and it provides an opportunity to share. Take a walk to the store just to buy a drink. Talk and share as you walk.
- Prepare a meal together. Then sit down and eat together. (Check out the benefits of this activity.)
- Get your favorite book and read it out loud to one another.
- Go fly a kite. You’d be surprised at the benefits of flying a kite.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Sit on the porch and watch the birds together (I’m doing that as I write this blog).
- Have a campfire. Make some s’mores. Enjoy one another’s company and conversation. (A great family fun night.)
- Go to the zoo…or the museum. Then talk about your favorite parts over some ice cream.
- For more ideas, read this.
You get the idea. These activities are simple and there are many more. Even though they are simple, they build family togetherness. They increase family intimacy. And, you “don’t need no app for that!”
Remember Aretha Franklin’s song? “All I’m askin’ for is a little respect…R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me….” (Listen to Aretha Franklin explain it.) Our spouse, our children, and our parents are still asking for “a little respect.” They still want us to “find out what it means” for them. In fact, respect is foundational to a healthy family. Magda Gerber (founder of RIE and passionate “educarer” of children and parents) defines respect as accepting, enjoying, and loving family members as they are and not expecting them to perform beyond their ability. Without this mutual respect, families crumble. I realize I’m probably “preaching to the choir” but even the choir falls into subtle disrespect that undermines healthy relationships. Just consider some of these subtle ways we disrespect our fellow family members when we don’t know “what it means” to them.
- Our child falls and scrapes his knee. He starts to cry. We disrespect his feelings when we say, “Oh, you’re ok. Quit crying.” We show more respect by saying, “Ouch, I bet that hurt. Do you need some help?”
- When our spouses do a chore and we redo it because it didn’t meet our standard, we disrespect their competence and ability. (Yes, I know…I apologize for reorganizing the dishes in the dishwasher.) A simple “Thank you” shows much greater respect.
- Our children start a task but, due to inexperience, they take “too long.” We grow impatient and finally say, “Get out of the way. I’ll do that or we’ll be here all day.” Oops, we have disrespected their independence and opportunity to learn. We show respect by patiently waiting or perhaps offering, “I’m glad to help if you want.”
- When our child makes a mistake and in frustration we yell, “You know better than that. What were you thinking?” we disrespect their ability to learn and grow. A respectful response would sound more like, “What did you learn from that experience? What will you do different next time?”
- Sometimes we jump in to fix a problem for our children or spouse. Unfortunately, we disrespect their ability to problem solve. We exhibit respect by observing, waiting to see what they do to solve the problem, and offering help if they ask for it.
- We disrespect our children’s developmental abilities when we expect “too much” of them. For instance, expecting a toddler to sit still for a long period of time…or a teen to never roll their eyes…or a five-year-old to never spill a drink. We can respect their developmental ability by letting them do the part of the task they can do and helping with the rest. We respect their developmental abilities when we patiently deal with difficulties and accidents that arise as a natural part of development. In other words, we show respect when we do not cry over spilled milk.
- “Will you ever grow up?” and “You never help around here” are statements that disrespect our family members’ desire to cooperate. Respect for their desire to cooperate is heard in statements like “Could you help me get dinner together please?” and “Let’s get your room cleaned up together.”
- When we tell our spouse or children “You don’t want that” or “You’re doing this whether you want to or not” we disrespect their desires and ability to choose. We can show respect for their desires and ability to choose with statements like “Would you rather do this or that?” Or, “I didn’t know you liked that. What do you like about it?”
With all the different areas in which we can show disrespect, you can see why we need to “find out what it (respect) means to me” for each family member. Disrespect is subtle. It creeps in quietly if we don’t consistently practice respect. Yet all we really want “is a little respect.” Sing it with me. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…” and then give it to everyone in your family. They’ll love you for it and you’ll love the joy it brings to family.
Ever wake up feeling kind of blue and irritated? I have! When someone wakes up in a bad mood, the whole house feels the weight of that mood. Everyone becomes more cautious and quiet, less carefree. Smiles become scarce. The whole house seems heavier, tired,
even more depressed and burdened. When days like this occur in your home, I have a solution. Smile! It’s research supported and fun. So, “if you wake up and don’t want to smile, if it takes just a little while, open your eyes and look at the day. You’ll see things in a different way” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). In fact, research suggests you will see things different. Seeing a 4 millisecond image of a smiling face gives us a “mini emotional high.” We also perceives the world in a more positive & interesting light after catching just a glance of a smiling face (How Smiling Changes Your Brain). Seeing a smiling face can even make bland drinks seem tastier (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Smiling helps us manage stress more effectively, too (see the LOL-On Safari for the Elusive Smile). When you smile even though waking up blue and irritated, your family learns “you’ll get by if you smile through your fears and sorrow…” (Michael Jackson/Charlie Chaplin in Smile)…no matter how hard the times might get.
Smiling is contagious too. Research suggests that a smile “migrates two degrees.” In other words, when you smile another person in your family will catch the smile and a second person beyond your family will catch the smile as well ( 6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). When you fill your home with smiles, even those who visit will leave smiling because “when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you…when your laughing the sun comes shining through” (Sing it with the Leftover Cuties).
So, build a happier family. “Put a smile on your face, make the world a better place” (Put a Smile on Your Face by Vitamin C). Go a step further and work to make your spouse and children smile. You can tell them, “All I want to do is make you smile if it takes just a little while” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). You’ll get more than a little while to make them smile too, because those who show partial smiles live 4.9 years longer than those who don’t’ smile and those who smile broadly live 7 years longer (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Go ahead, take the time and make your family smile. You’ll be giving your family the gift of life. “When U smile I smile” (U Smile by Justin Bieber)…and live longer. And “when you smile I can face the world…When you smile, I see a ray of light” (When I See You Smile by Bad English).
Enjoy the benefits of smiling in your family. “Make ’em laugh” (A classic from Singing in the Rain). Share a smile. After all, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” (You’re Never Fully Dressed in New York).
Happy the family in which all family members recognize their deep need to receive and give love and acceptance. They will experience the true joys of intimate family relationships.
Happy the family who openly shares emotions with one another, embracing one another in times of sorrow and pain, and celebrating one another in times of joy. They will know comfort, intimacy, and freedom to be themselves.
Happy the family filled with humility, willingly submitting their selfish desires to meet one another’s needs while encouraging one another in action and speech. They will know the contentment of an abundant inheritance.
Happy the family who has an appetite for doing kind deeds. They will feast on kindness and compassion.
Happy the family that practices mercy and forgiveness. They will receive mercy and know the freedom of forgiveness.
Happy the family that replaces selfish agendas with a true desire for each family member to grow into the best person they can become. They will see the beauty in one another and themselves.
Happy the family that learns to pursue peace and cooperates to maintain a peaceful home. They will know the safety and security of a strong family unity.
Happy the family that perseveres through struggles and hardships while remaining polite and respectful toward one another. They will know greater depths of love and joy.
Our communities and our families are being devastated by addiction. Drug use is destroying –families and we need to do everything we can to stop its contagion. I know this may sound simplistic…and in a way, it is; but I have an idea to help stem the rise of drug addiction. Now, I know that what I am about to suggest will not remedy the problem. It is not a magic bullet. It will only be a small part of a much broader solution. But, what I am about to suggest can play a role in stemming the scourge of drug addiction…and you can begin right in your own home with your own family. What is it? Give your family mega-doses of social laughter. Laugh as a family. Laugh with other families. Giggle, chuckle, or let out a “belly busting” laugh. Laugh Out Loud.
Research has found that laughing together increases the release of endorphins and other peptides in the brain, especially areas involved in arousal and emotions. Because laughter is contagious, its joy can spread through your family like…well, laughter! As it spreads, endorphins are released. Everyone experiences the pleasure and calming effect of this laughter-induced-endorphin-release. This promotes feelings of togetherness, enhancing bonding and connection among those laughing. If we can teach our families to enjoy the natural endorphins of laughing with your family (LOL), why would they want something else? And, who would want to lose the enhanced connection with family that comes through laughter. So, start laughing together early. Laugh often. Laugh hard. Laugh out loud.
Remember the saying:
“Our choices become our actions.
Our actions become our habits.
Our habits become our character.
Our character becomes our destiny.”
I found variations on this saying attributed to a number of sources ranging from Gandhi and Lao Tzu to Michael Hyatt and James Hunter. Doesn’t really matter who said it in the long run. It’s true for individuals and families. If you want your family to enjoy intimate
conversations, fun times, and loving interactions it begins with your choices and actions. If you want your family to become a place of refuge, fun, and security, it begins with choices and actions carried out on a consistent, daily basis. The big one time events do not shape our families for the long run. It’s the choices we make on a consistent basis that become the actions of our daily lives. As we engage in those actions on a consistent basis within the family, we form family habits. Those habits shape our families’ character and determine our families’ destiny. That’s where honor, grace, and celebration come in. When we consistently choose to practice honor, grace, and celebration in our families, we develop families filled with respect, intimacy, security, and fun. Here are some great daily actions that will help you develop an amazing family character and destiny.
- Honor your family with courteous words and polite actions.
- Honor your family with expressions of gratitude and appreciation.
- Honor your family with compliments, statements of adoration and praise.
- Honor your family with your time.
- Honor your family by becoming a student of your spouse and each child.
- Honor your family by serving your spouse and children.
- Show your family grace by accepting and even celebrating differences in talents, interests, and opinions.
- Show your family grace by initiating the resolution of any disagreement.
- Show your family grace by putting your spouse’s and your children’s interests ahead of your own.
- Show your family grace by forgiving quickly.
- Show your family grace through discipline, setting and enforcing limits in love.
- Celebrate your family by making it a point to play and laugh together.
- Celebrate your family with dinner time together.
- Celebrate your family by acknowledging effort toward a goal as well as accomplishments.
- Celebrate your family by encouraging and supporting your spouse’s and your children’s dreams.
- Celebrate your family by worshipping together.
Make a choice to put these actions into daily practice. In doing so, you will build a family who practices honor, grace, and celebration habitually. Honor, grace, and celebration will form the foundation of character in your family and shape your family’s destiny. Who knows, if enough families make the choice to make honor, grace, and celebration the habit of their family, we might just change the world!
I’m not very political. In fact, I tend to avoid most political debates. That being said, who can miss the tumultuous political struggle going on right now? Our nation is in an uproar. Division seems to be at an all-time high. Our nation’s struggle intrudes into our daily life on the news, in the streets, and on our social media. Many of the voices are loud, angry, defensive, accusatory, and even offensive. Somehow we have to find a way to create change, a way to build the kind of nation we all desire. So, I’m going to dip my toe in the pond…and hopefully not stick my foot in my mouth. I have a suggestion, a modest proposal with revolutionary consequences. Under this proposal, every man, woman, and child can become actively engaged, on a daily basis, in creating the nation we all desire. We can all become agents of change, creating an environment in which our communities and our nation can thrive. My modest proposal: Elevate Family and Marriage! Every day do something to strengthen your family and your marriage…and encourage those around you to do the same. Empower one another to build healthy families.
I can hear the skeptics now. “What? That’s it? Where are the revolutionary consequences? How can elevating the family create a thriving nation? We need healthcare. We need a better economy. We need equal rights. We need more than just a happy home.” I told you it was a modest proposal. But, hear me out. Elevating the family does have revolutionary consequences.
- Elevating the family and marriage will result in greater health. Happily married men and women live longer, healthier lives. They recover more quickly from illnesses and surgeries. They spend less time in hospitals than those who are unmarried or unhappily married. Married people exhibit the lowest rates of mental illness (California Healthy Marriage Coalition). Do you hear it? A consequence of greater health that will decrease health care costs. I know this won’t end the healthcare crisis, but it’s a start. Yet we spend more money on our wedding and honeymoon than we do on learning what it takes to have a healthy marriage. We need to elevate the family.
- Elevating the family and marriage will result in healthier children, too. Children who live in healthy families are more likely to do well in school and graduate from high school and college. Children from divorced families receive mental health treatment about twice as often as those in healthy families. “The rate of virginity among teenagers at all ages is highly correlated with the presence or absence of married parents.” They are less likely to parent a child as a teen. Living with biological parents reduces the risk of child abuse, too. Children who live in an intact family also exhibit the lowest rate of drug use. They commit significantly fewer crimes. Once again, this won’t alleviate the problems, but it’s a tremendous start. But we invest more money in response to problems than we do in elevating the family that will help prevent the problem in the first place (California Healthy Marriage Coalition).
- Elevating family and marriage reduces the number of people living in poverty. Economists estimate that individuals within a married couple each have a net worth about twice as great as never-married individuals and divorced individuals. “When it comes to building wealth or avoiding poverty, a stable marriage may be your most important asset” (The Case for Marriage).
- Healthy families raise girls who become stronger women. Girls who grow up in a healthy, intact family achieve better in school, are less likely to experience teen pregnancy, and experience positive marriages themselves. A father who is present and active in the home broadens a daughter’s perceived career options, aka-helps create an environment in which women will “break the glass ceiling” (The Top 6 Reasons for Men to Help Around the House).
- Strong families that promote healthy attachments produce more tolerant people. In fact, one study found that simply priming someone with the name of a person with whom they had a strong attachment led to more tolerant and generous behavior toward a long-standing enemy (Hot Sauce vs. the Power of Relationship).
I think you get the idea. Elevating healthy families and marriages can lead to greater health, more financial stability and less poverty, greater tolerance and acceptance of others, less teen pregnancy, less drug abuse, less abortion, stronger women…. It may not fix all the problems tomorrow. But, it is a great start. Any investment in family is ultimately an investment in our community and our nation. Elevate the family and marriage. It truly is a modest proposal with revolutionary consequences. An amazing aspect of this proposal: you can become engaged in the change right where you stand; and, you can become involved today! So, write your congressman. March in the protests. Vote your values. But, in the process don’t forget to LOVE your spouse. NURTURE your children. ENJOY your extended family. SUPPORT your neighbors’ family and marriage. ENCOURAGE those thinking of marriage to take a premarital class. Read a book to strengthen your own marriage and parenting skills. ELEVATE FAMILY!
The perception of marijuana has changed dramatically in recent years. With this change in perception, teens increasingly report a belief that marijuana is completely safe and, in fact, seem to believe it enhances their lives physically and mentally. Parents also seem more open to their children using marijuana. With all this in mind, I wanted to share what research has discovered about the impact of marijuana use for adolescents.
- Persistent marijuana use interferes with adolescent brain development. Individuals who started using marijuana in their teens and smoked persistently showed an average 8 point drop in their IQ between the ages of 18 and 38 years…even if they stopped using! Teen brains are not fully formed. They are still developing. And, persistent marijuana use interferes with their development. (Read study review here.)
- Some studies suggest that regular marijuana use during adolescence may increase the risk of developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. These same studies suggest that the areas of the brain associated with planning and impulse control are the areas experiencing greater long-term affects lasting into adulthood. (Read study review here.)
- Teens who smoke marijuana daily for about three years experienced poor working memory, which predicts poor academic performance, and results in poor performance on memory tasks. These decreases in ability lasted until at least the early 20’s—the college age when academic performance becomes increasingly important. The young adults who abused marijuana as teens (and were now two years marijuana free) performed about 18% worse on long-term memory tests than young adults who never abused marijuana. (Read study review here and another one here.)
- Individuals who started using marijuana prior to 16-years-old experienced arrested development in the prefrontal cortex, the areas of the brain responsible for judgment, reasoning, planning, and critical thinking. In other words, marijuana abuse beginning prior to 16-years-old interferes with the development of skills important to impulse control, planning, and academic performance. (Read study review here.)
- Marijuana use may interfere with a person’s ability to empathize with another person’s emotion. This, in turn, could greatly impact the ability to form intimate relationships. (Read study review here.)
- In one study, 18- to 25-year-olds who regularly used marijuana seemed to demonstrate impaired processing of social norms. They seemed less aware of social norms and exhibited a reduced capacity to reflect on or react to negative social situations. (Read study review here.)
- In another study, those in their mid-twenties who were heavy users of marijuana (using dependently for 7 years) exhibited a compromised dopamine system in their brain. Specifically, this could impact working memory, impulse control, and attention span. (Read study review here.)
- Marijuana use dampens the brain’s reward system over time. In other words, people who use marijuana feel less reward, less enjoyment, from positive, pleasurable experiences. This may increase their risk-taking behavior and the chances of addiction. (Read study review here.)
- Although teens often seem to believe marijuana use decreases their depressive symptoms, studies suggest that it has no effect on depression. In addition, marijuana use starting at a young age (under 17-years-old) led to “abnormal brain function in areas of the brain related to visual-spatial processing, memory, self-referential activity, and reward processing.” (Read study review here.)
- Many teens seem to think marijuana use enhances creativity. However, recent studies suggest that regular users of marijuana are worse at creative thinking. They also performed poorly on tests in which they had to detect their own mistakes. (Read study review here.)
More research needs done, but perhaps these studies can begin to help us gain some understanding of the potential effect of marijuana on our teens’ developing brains.