Putting Family First

Put family at the top of your priority list with a Weekly Family Night

Putting Family First

Photo: Gerri Photography


If you were to ask your children what they see as your top priority, would they place family and family time first?

“Many people may want to put family first. But until that deep priority connection is there and a commitment is made that is stronger than all the other forces in our lives, we will not have what it takes to prioritize the family,” says Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. “Instead, we will be driven or enticed by other things.” Covey suggests that families set aside a weekly Family Night to help deepen their connections with each other.

Of course, coming up with a day that will work for everyone can be a challenge for any family. We all have personal commitments, home maintenance, work, volunteer obligations and the kids’ activity schedule to oversee. Many families feel overwhelmed and struggle to find time for everything.

John de Graaf warns that our lives are way out of balance. de Graaf is a documentary film producer, writer and speaker on issues of overwork and over consumption. He also coordinates the Take Back Your Time Day, held every October 24. He notes that families  take on more than they have time for and often fail to maintain meaningful relationships. He urges people to step back and re-evaluate what is important.

Making a commitment

If you are struggling to put family first, start by implementing a Family Night – a time each week when your family can come together to laugh, play, and enjoy one another. Here’s how.

Set the ground rules. Before gathering up ideas for Family Night, you need to establish what Family Night is and is not. Family Night is not a time when you gather together to participate in passive activities, such as reading together, watching movies, or listening to music. These are all great activities, but they do not lend themselves to a successful Family Night. Family Night is about being active as a family. It is a time to pass down and establish new family traditions; it is an opportunity to get to know one another better through fun activities.

Gather ideas. Once everyone understands the concept, sit down and share ideas for Family Night. Let everyone in the family give input, even young children. Put a timer in the middle of the table and let everyone write down ideas either on a master list or on individual pieces of paper. When the timer runs out, go through the ideas together. You don’t have to use all of the ideas, but they can give you a starting point. Many families select a day and then take turns planning.

Pick a night. Family Night takes some commitment. Ideally, you will set aside some time each week to spend together. While some families pick a set night, others like to keep it flexible and try activities at different times of the week, day or night. 

Remember, family time need not be hours long; you can accomplish a lot in an hour, an afternoon, or an evening. But make sure you mark the calendar at least twice a month and stick to it. Consistency is key.

Choose your activities. Most families incorporate food and activity into their Family Night routine. Mix it up, keep it simple some of the time and go all out on special occasions. Work in traditions as part of your family time

Here are some other ideas:

  • Play board games. In addition to playing games that have been around since your childhood, experiment with some new games. My family finds that Cranium games are especially fun.
  • Challenge everyone to a snowman building competition.
  • Check out local hiking trails and pack a snack for an afternoon of discovery.
  • Cook together. Make Fridays your special night and take turns planning a Take Out Friday menu. Cook your favourites at home – together.
  • Play basketball, soccer, or street hockey.
  • Go swimming at the local pool.
  • Have a talent show or family show-and-tell and learn something new about one another.

This is a great time of year to kickstart a Family Night. The holiday season is typically very busy and while we may be spending time together, we are often not engaged with each other. So make a commitment to spend quality time with your family this holiday season and all year long with a weekly Family Night.

Author: 15 Minute Mom

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