Archive for July 30, 2011

4 Daily Doorways to Family Intimacy

Doors, doors, and more doors. Everyday we walk through doorways…revolving doorways, automatic doorways, office doorways, garage doorways, backdoor doorways…. Not only do we walk through physical doorways, we walk through relational doorways, those doorways to intimate moments or disastrous conflict. 

In family relationships, we open at least four doorways that provide an opportunity to nurture family intimacy. Although it may only take about 15 minutes to walk through all four doorways, you can enhance the intimacy in your home by going through each one mindfully.

The first doorway is the “Good Morning Doorway.” We open this doorway every morning as we start the day. I have learned that I have to get up a little early and spend time alone before opening this doorway to others. Only after some time alone can I open it gently with a simple “Good morning,” a hug, and a kiss. As you walk through this doorway, show interest in other family members and honor them by asking how they slept. Offer to help prepare breakfast or pour a drink. As you go about this simple breakfast routine, share some of your plans for the day and ask your family what they plan to do. While you are at it, notice something positive about each family member. Compliment them on their clothing, good taste in food, or hairstyle. Thank them for some task they completed yesterday or earlier in the week. Whatever it is, find something for which you can praise or thank them. These simple conversations express honor and respect…and, loving interactions let each person start the day feeling valued, loved, and important.
The second doorway is the “Good-bye Doorway.” Every day, family members go their separate ways…work, school, out with friends, grocery shopping, etc. The moments when family members take leave of one another represent the “Good-bye Doorway.” How you walk through and close this doorway will be the last impression you leave with your family until you see them again. So, don’t let it slam shut behind you. Open it carefully and close it cautiously. You can gain intimacy through this doorway by sharing a simple hug and kiss when you say good-bye. Tell each family member that you love them. Show them how much you care by letting them know when you’ll be back and even where you are going. 
The third doorway is the “Honey, I’m Home Doorway.” When we reunite after having gone away, we walk through this doorway to potential intimacy. Take time to greet one another at this doorway. Stand in the doorway and give a “hello hug and kiss.” Take the time to greet one another rather than bombarding with information, demands, requests, or complaints. Simply welcome one another back into the safety of a relationship with you. Talk about the day and allow each person to transition back into home. Ask about one another’s day and support one another as you share your “ups and downs” of the day.
The fourth and final doorway is the “Good Night Doorway.” The “Good Night Doorway” may well be the most important doorway of the day. This doorway offers us the final opportunity to resolve differences, share words of encouragement and love, and share moments of affection before drifting into the world of dreams. Make good use of this doorway. While standing in the “Good Night Doorway” you have a great opportunity to share things you enjoyed about the day, things for which you are grateful, and things that made you happy. The threshold of the “Good Night Doorway” also offers an excellent opportunity to gently resolve any disagreements or tensions that arose during the day. Share any apologies necessary and offer forgiveness to restore relationships. As the door gently closes, share a good night hug and kiss…then enjoy a peaceful sleep with the knowledge that you have successfully navigated four doorways of growing intimacy today.

Family Road Trip Games

Remember “Star Trek”? Whenever Captain Kirk wanted to come home from a planet, he flipped open his communicator and said, “Beam me up Scotty.” Within seconds he was transported from one location to another. I always wanted a transporter to get to and from vacation spots. Alas, we have to drive. We pile our family and luggage into the car for a “3 hour tour” (Sorry, I switched TV metaphors). Anyway, our 3 hour tour generally seems to last all day. Fortunately, even the road trip can become a fun part of the vacation when you have a few activities planned. We have found several activities that make the road trip more enjoyable and I thought I would share some with you. Hope you enjoy them and your family vacation.
Use a Playlist: Talk to each of your family members about their current favorite songs or albums. Put together a playlist of everyone’s favorites. During the trip, sing along to each person’s favorite music for a portion of the trip. By the way, don’t just use everyone’s playlist to sing along. Use familiar melodies and make up your own words.
The License Plate Game: Print out a U.S. map and mark off each state as you see the corresponding license plate. See if you can find a license from each of the 50 states during your summer travels. This can be a family project or a competition to see who finishes first.
The License Plate Game, Part 2: Look for “designer plates” and call them out. For instance, if you see “KLNX BX,” yell out “Kleenex Box.” You can also use “non-designer plates” to make up your own words and phrases. For instance, “DLP” on a plate might be “Dollop” or “CHT 9032” might be “CHaT at 9:03 too”. See who can make up the most creative words…you might find a budding Dr. Seuss.
Play Cards: Bring a deck of cards and play “Go Fish,” “Old Maid,” “500,” or any other game your family enjoys.
Hand (or Back) Writing: One person closes their eyes while another person “writes” a letter or word on their back or hand. The person with their eyes closed has to guess what was “written.” 
Tell Jokes: Take turns telling jokes—”Knock, Knock” jokes, riddles, or plain old funny stories. If you don’t know many jokes, get book from the library and take turns reading jokes out loud.
Cat’s Cradle: My daughters enjoyed making string figures like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Whiskers.” Don’t ask me how…I never could figure this one out.
I Spy: One person secretly identifies an object that everyone can see. He then says, “I spy with my little eye something…” and identifies the color of that object. Everyone else has to guess what the object is until someone figures it out. The first person to figure it out gets to pick the object for the next round.
20 Questions: This game is sometimes called “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.” One person thinks of an object but does not tell anyone what it is. The other players ask questions, trying to determine the object in less than 20 questions. Many people ask if it is “animal, mineral, or vegetable” to get started. (I always got stuck at this question–is it a vegetable or a fruit? And what really constitutes a mineral? Is a tree animal, mineral or vegetable? I don’t know…after all, I’m a psychologist not a biologist.) 
The Alphabet Game: Start with the letter “A” and find one on a sign, truck, or building. Identify the letter for everyone to see and then move on to the next letter. You can do this as a competition or together as a family for the younger beginning readers. The first one to get to the letter “Z” is the winner!
Alphabet Game II: In this version, one person picks a theme such as foods, animals, places, girl names, boy names, bands, songs…. Starting with the letter “A,” everyone picks an item that corresponds to that letter. Then move to “B” and so forth. When a person can’t think of an item, they’re out. Last person in, wins.
Rock-Paper-Scissors: In this game,each play says “Rock, Paper, Scissors” while lightly slapping a fist into their open hand once for each word. When saying “scissors,” each player changes his fist into one of three gestures: a rock by keeping the fist, scissors by holding out their first two fingers, or paper by keeping their hand flat. Rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, and paper beats rock. You can use variations of this game by making up other gestures such as Dragon (putting your hands like claws near your ears), Knight (pretending to swing a sword), or Damsel (laying your head on your hands while batting your eyes). In this version, dragon beats damsel, knight beats dragon, and damsel beats knight.
Duct Tape Art: Buy a roll of duct tape and let each person make something with it. Today, you can find duct tape in all kinds of colors–orange, blue, the traditional grey and black. Our kids and their cousins have made wallets, bracelets, gloves, and sandals. Go figure…duct tape really can fix everything.
I’m sure you have your own ideas. Please share them in the comment section or on Facebook so we can all benefit…and, have a great vacation even while your travel.

5 Summer Picnic Ideas

I enjoy eating…well really, I love to eat. In the summer I love a picnic, combining my love of food with the outdoors. When I grew up, my family would often enjoy the “vacation picnic.” We would pack a picnic before vacation and, half way to our destination, stop for a picnic. Sometimes the sky was sunny…sometimes it rained. Either way, we stopped at a rest area, figured out which sandwich had ham on it and which had turkey, which had mayonnaise and which had ketchup or mustard. After matching the right sandwich with the right person, we enjoyed a meal together with good conversation and fun. It was always an interesting experience. There are other kinds of picnics that you can enjoy this summer. Here are just a few.
Invite another family to picnic with you. Ask a friend to bring a salad while you supply the burgers and hot dogs. Meet at the park and cook it up. If you have children, carve their names into the hot dogs before cooking them. Your children will love to show off their personalized hot dog before eating it. After you’re done eating, enjoy a game of Frisbee or catch. Or have the picnic by a lake and go for a swim.
Enjoy a neighborhood picnic, church picnic, or family reunion picnic. I love these picnics—lots of people and lots of food. This type of picnic is generally a “potluck” event–everyone attending brings a favorite dish to share. Someone cooks the burgers and hotdogs on sight and everyone enjoys sampling all the dishes that people have brought to share.
If you’d like an “out-of-the-box” creative type picnic, try a “progressive picnic.” A progressive picnic involves several families. Everyone goes to one family’s home for an appetizer. Then they all go a second family’s house for salad, a third for a main dish, perhaps a fourth and fifth home for a vegetable dish, and a sixth family’s home for dessert. You can involve as many families as you like, expanding on any part of the meal that you like. If the families live close enough, you can walk from house to house burning off a few calories before enjoying another dish.
Another creative picnic can involve foods from various cultures. For instance, start the meal with an appetizer like hummus or bean dip. For the salad enjoy a Mexican or Asian salad. For a main dish, cook up some fish, chicken curry, vegetable burritos, or pasta salad. This picnic becomes a family culinary adventure and a great chance to try some new things with your family and friends.
Whatever picnic you choose, enjoy the time it allows you to spend with your family.

20 Ideas for Family Summer Fun

Summer is a great time for family fun. If your family is like mine, you’re trying to think of fun summer activities you can do as a family.  Here are some ideas if you get stuck. Add some of your ideas in the comment section or on Facebook for all of us to share.
     1.      Go to the wave pool, regular pool, or local waterpark.
     2.      Have a camping adventure–either at a campground or in your own back yard.
     3.      Go for a bike ride on the local rails-to-trails.
     4.      Have a picnic.
     5.      Have a cookout—carve each family member’s name into a hot dog or let each family member make an individualized gourmet burger by adding minced mushroom, peppers, garlic, onion, and various spices to their burger before grilling.
     6.      Play Frisbee golf, Frisbee football, or a classic game of Frisbee catch.
     7.      Break out the squirt guns, super soakers, water balloons, and buckets to have a water battle. (Dad, don’t forget the hose.)
     8.      Get sprinklers and a slip and slide for the back yard.
9.      Go for a boat ride, canoe ride, or inner tube ride in a lake, creek, or river.
10. Invite a couple of families over to play some badminton.
11. Enjoy a concert in a local park. (If you live near PGH you can enjoy free jazz concerts at Katz Plaza in downtown PGH every Tuesday at 5 pm.)
12. Take the family to a professional baseball game.
13. Catch fireflies
14. Take a (family) hike—I mean that in the nicest way possible.
15. Take a family walk after dinner and talk to the neighbors.
16. Find a local farm where you can pick your own berries. Take your family and bring home a basket of berries.
17. Go to a drive-in movie.
18. Take a ride into the country one night and look at the stars.
19. Lay out in the sun, get a tan while reading a book (try one of the books in our Favorite Picks to help strengthen your family at the same time).
20. Yard work–my wife wanted this one but my kids don’t like the idea so we’ll think of one more for a bonus.
21. Go to the zoo to see the animals.
Share your ideas in the comment section or on Facebook so we can all benefit from one another’s ideas.

Freedom & Family

Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, a step toward a free and independent United States. What does family have to do with the Fourth of July? For one thing, we celebrate the Fourth of July with our families.   Secondly, and perhaps of greater importance, family lays the foundation, creates the stability, and perpetuates the freedom and independence of our country…in any country really. People have known this truth in our country since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and represent such diverse times as…
…Elias Boudinot (a President of the Continental Congress) who noted that “Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow”
… to EH Chapin (a preacher alive from 1814-1880) who realized “break up the institution of family, deny the inviolability of its relations, and in a little while there would not be any humanity”
…to Charles Franklin Thwing (a clergyman and president of Adelbert College and Western Reserve University alive between 1853-1937) who proclaimed that “Under any system of society…the family holds the future in its bosom”
… to Pope John Paul II who, in 1986, stated that “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live”
…to Barbara Bush (First Lady of the United States from 1989-1993) who said, “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens at the White House, but what happens inside your house.”
Even those who held less esteemed views of the family knew that family undergirds any society. Lenin (living from 1870-1924) is known to have said, “Destroy the family, you destroy the country.”
Why do such diverse people note the importance of family to our society and our country? Because…
Family provides the training ground for moral character. Successful families honor moral character above personal comfort and material possession. Parents model moral character for their children. All family members encourage one another to stand for what is right. Families teach us to act in kindness and fairness, and to make personal sacrifice for the welfare of one another. It is in families that we learn moral behavior contributes to a happy, successful life.
Family teaches us of loyalty and faithfulness. Family members teach the importance of faithfulness when they keep promises made to one another. They show the importance of loyalty as they support one another in the face of difficulties, protect one another in spite of personal danger, and encourage one another in the face of disappointments. They show tolerance and work cooperatively to strengthen the family even in the midst of disagreements. Families elicit and teach that loyalty brings stability. They show that peace and trust extend from faithfulness.  
Family models that freedom is not unrestrained but accompanied by personal responsibility. The price of freedom is costly. Parents have the personal responsibility to work so they can support their family and maintain a home. Children learn the personal responsibility to complete chores, doing their part to maintain the household. When everyone in the family does their part in keeping the household running smoothly, the family is free to engage in fun activities and experience times of relaxation. However, if even one member of the family does not “pull their weight,” opportunities diminish and the whole family becomes overwhelmed with stress. The family teaches that “doing my own thing” results in others being hurt and the family unit becoming strained. Discipline soon follows such situations. So, family members learn that freedom is not unrestrained, but contingent on personal responsibility. 
Family also becomes the training ground for compassion toward others. Not only does family teach personal responsibility, but they teach us compassion for those in need. Successful families treat each family member with kindness and grace, coming to one another’s aid when a need arises. They reach out, as a family, to those in need and experience the joy of helping others. When one family member mourns, the whole family mourns with him. When one family member rejoices, the whole family rejoices. In compassion, each member of the family reaches out to encourage and lift up those family members struggling with any hardship or difficulty.
Overall, families are the backbone of a free and independent society. Without healthy families, society will lose its most important teacher and training ground…the foundation of freedom will crumble. Without strong families, our individuals will become more self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-serving. The accurate perception of responsibility, loyalty, faithfulness, moral character, and compassion will be lost. So, celebrate our independence with your family. Teach your children patriotism and loyalty. After all, the strength of our country and the perpetuation of our freedom and independence rest on the shoulders of strong families.