07/28/10 — For families, balancing time can be tricky, but important

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For families, balancing time can be tricky, but important

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 28, 2010 1:46 PM

Between school and church and an array of activities, it gets harder and harder to balance family time -- or even basic downtime.

But it's important, and something even educators work to accomplish, or at the very least encourage.

"Families are very busy any more. It is easy to overextend and feel pressured to constantly be involved in more and do more," said Lynn Magoon, principal at St. Mary Catholic School. "It is important to leave time for family as you balance the many activities a child may be involved in. Often, church and school activities are family events and that is wonderful.

"But always, there should be time to eat together, to talk together and to simply enjoy being together as a family."

As modern families have more to juggle, time together becomes priceless, said Kristy Gross, a mother and a teacher at St. Mary.

"It can be very hard to squeeze in any family time at all between mom and dad's busy work schedule, homework, soccer, dance, youth group, errands, etc.," she said. "We've all felt the squeeze at some point.

"What works for our family is that we try to set aside time each week to play a family game, watch a movie together, or even just spend 20 minutes taking the dog for a walk after dinner. We put everything on hold for a short time and focus on each other."

It's not necessarily an easy feat to accomplish, Mrs. Gross said. But it's worth the effort.

Even if it's during the final minutes of the day.

"We still read books with our kids every night at bedtime," she said. "Our children are 6 and 8, but our bedtime routine remains unchanged since we started doing this with them as toddlers -- after their showers, we read some books together, say prayers and talk about our day for a few minutes.

"Sharing this special, quiet time helps us to all stay connected, even when we might not see each other much during the crazy week."

Barbara Sheldon, principal of Wayne Christian School, said it's important to keep priorities balanced while staying focused on the commitment to the family itself.

"The activities selected for each family member should strengthen, not weaken, the family balance," she said. "If one child plays on a soccer team, will the family be able to support his games or will Mom be acting as chauffeur for the other children? Using the idea of family support for each activity will help balance the number of after-school activities and prevent the energy drain of too many overlapping events."

Two of the most important activities that can help strengthen the family balance, she said, are regular meals together and involvement in family-oriented church activities.

"The dinner hour, even a quick sandwich supper, helps family members focus on one another and balance the activities of the evening and the next day," she said. "Involvement in family-oriented church and community activities balances the busyness modern society craves with a sense of accomplishment by family members.

"The mix of ages at such events encourages everyone involved to focus on shared goals, rather than competition."

Beyond that, the high school teacher and principal said, is maintaining good sleep habits. Whether young children or teens, if there are too many activities and too little rest, problems will result.

At Faith Christian Academy, the calendar is actually created with that in mind.

"We have as busy a ministry as anybody could have -- with a church, a school, a teen ministry and program," said Principal Walter Sloan. "We put out a calendar every month to let everybody know what activities are going on."

Church and school is a balance, he said. And while he cannot anticipate what works for students who attend other churches, Sloan says every effort is made to be considerate of families.

"We highly recommend family nights, especially for those with teenagers," he said. "We discourage young people from doing things outside of home but try to cooperate with our parents. We think that's a real big plus and a big help."

Educators at the school also do something fairly unique, Sloan said.

"We never give homework on Wednesday -- Wednesday night is church night," he said. "Therefore, we do not give homework on Wednesday and we do not give any tests on Thursday except math because you can't study math, it's a skills course."

Parents are the important component in making all of this work, though, he added. They are encouraged to set the tone at home, to help with homework and to be an example.

"We strongly encourage, especially when it comes to elementary children, that parents be involved, and I try to give them throughout the course of the year some tips on how to help their child improve their learning performance, grade performance, and the key is parental involvement," he said.