For years, American families have been busy. Like caps lock busy. BUSY. And while the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a good thing, that doesn’t mean some good can’t come out of it. With students out of school, sports canceled, and many parents moving to remote, work-from-home setups, families suddenly have much more time on their hands than they normally do. Last week, my family had something going on every night. Sunday was church all day. Monday was baseball/softball practice. Tuesday was more practice. Wednesday was church. Thursday was community group night. Friday and Saturday brought more practices. Suddenly, my week is wide open. I bet your evenings are also much more open than they were a week ago. Let’s make the most of it. Here are some suggestions on how to best spend your newfound free time with your families.
- Family worship & Bible study. Set aside some time each day or night to engage in family worship. If no one in your house plays an instrument or sings, YouTube has loads of videos with worship songs and their lyrics. Use them to worship together right in your living room. Choose a book of the Bible and study it together. Under the “Family Resources” tab here at jarrodhorne.com, you can find links to several worship videos and a framework for studying the Scriptures that our students have been practicing for weeks in Dive Group. Make use of them!
- Family meals. These days, with sports, dance, drama, homework, and more, it can be difficult for families to gather around the table for a meal. With most of those things canceled, share a meal with your family each night. Talk about whatever is on your mind. Maybe even get your child to help you cook the meal and pass on some of your culinary knowledge. There are few times better suited for conversation than while preparing or sharing a meal.
- Spend time together outside. Everyone is going to get tired of being in the house. Vitamin D (from the sun) is also great for your immune system and health. So find ways to get your family outside! Go for a walk down the road or visit your local park and walk some trails (observe social distancing from anyone you meet). Throw a baseball, football, or Frisbee in the yard. Grill and eat a meal on the deck. Jump on the trampoline. The possibilities are endless. Get outside with your family and enjoy the sunshine AND the relationships.
- Spend time together inside. Every day won’t allow for outside activities. If you find yourselves stuck inside, make the most of that time, too! Play a board game or card game. My family loves games of any kind. Read a book out loud together. While you don’t want to spend all your time staring at screens, some can be okay. Watch a movie together. Maybe order pizza or takeout from a local restaurant and have a family movie night. (To decide who picks, I recommend flipping a coin, drawing names, or trial by combat. Whatever you prefer.) If your family has a game console, there is a series of games called Jackbox Party Packs that feature a number of community games designed to get players talking, laughing, and engaging with one another. (Note: Each player will need a phone, tablet, or computer to play.) (WARNING: Most games have a Family-Friendly setting in the menu. I recommend you engage it just to be safe.) Being inside doesn’t have to mean isolated screen time. Make the most of your chance to be together!
- Help others in safe ways. Your priority is to keep your family safe, but if your family is young and healthy, and if you feel safe doing so, look for ways to help others during this time. Maybe you can help clean up an elderly neighbor’s yard. You’ll be outdoors and still practicing social distancing. Maybe you can purchase some groceries for a senior adult who doesn’t need to be in the stores. Leave them on the porch to limit contact. This is a time for the church to minister to the community. Be wise and continue observing social distancing as much as possible, but also be on the lookout for ways to show the love of Christ to others.
- Participate in something that interests your child. When I was a kid, my dad would occasionally tell me to turn on the N64 and play Mario Kart or Lego Racers with him. He was terrible at it. I started slowing down and missing shortcuts on purpose so he would feel like he had a chance. I wasn’t sure at first why he kept coming back to get embarrassed by his kid like that, but then I figured it out: My dad didn’t care about Mario Kart or Lego Racers, but he knew that I did. He wanted to do something I liked to do. Ask your child to tell you what interests him or her, then figure out how you can engage in that together. Maybe you’ll learn how to apply makeup in a new way. Maybe you’ll be asked to play a video game you don’t understand. Maybe you’ll have to pretend to understand what musical scales are. But that time spent engaging in something your child enjoys will be invaluable. Even if you don’t DO something and you just listen to them talk about what they are interested in, they will remember it. You’ll be learning more about your child while communicating that they and their interests are important to you, even if those things don’t appeal to you personally. That will help build relationships now and will pay dividends down the road.
These are just a few ideas. Come up with your own. Ask your kids what you should do. But please, don’t waste this time together. Be intentional. Once the virus is gone and everything is back to normal, we may never see a chance at slowing down like this again. Make the most of it. Together.