After surveying and talking to hundreds of parents, and experiencing the youth sports life myself, I know that one of the challenges many of them face is finding family time in the midst of a busy season.
There IS a way to prioritize family as fill your lives with all things sports. My suggestion is that you be intentional about planning each season so that chaos doesn’t sneak up on you. The following family prioritizing plan will help you get started.
The Family Prioritizing Plan
Step #1: Hold a Family Debrief Session
If you don’t already hold family meetings, now is a great time to start that habit. Hold them when they are needed, hold them regularly if you wish, but just be sure you have them periodically. Ask questions like:
• What kinds of things do you like to do as a family?
• What’s one of the most fun things we’ve done together?
• How often should we schedule family time?
Talk with the family about why family time is important and be sure to take notes of what family members say so that you can refer to them later in steps #2-#4.
Step #2: Calendar the Non-Negotiables
Take a blank calendar and start filling in the absolute non-negotiables in your life: work, medical appointments, etc. And this is the step where you need to make a major change if you are serious about prioritizing family time.
Family time must become a non-negotiable!
Before you start filling in the calendar with camps, youth sports, music lessons, play-dates, and every other negotiable activity that is screaming for your attention, put family time on the calendar.
The problem for many families who have good intentions about prioritizing family time is that they allow the family time to be an after-thought. They do it when they just happen to have a free night or weekend. This means family time rates very low on the priority totem pole.
So, when you’re filling in the calendar with the “big stuff,” be sure to schedule the family time too. It’s up to your family to decide how often they want that to be. Weekly, monthly or whatever works for your lifestyle. Just be sure it’s on the calendar and your family can count on it happening.
Step #3: Fill in the Negotiables
After your family has discussed the non-negotiables, refer to the list of things they want to do together. Decide what your family guidelines are going to be for extra-curricular activities. Will you allow a child to be involved in two sports at once? Can you handle three kids in sports all at the same time? Should your child be involved in several activities–such as sports, music, drama–all at the same time?
This is the time to really filter your time-fillers. Are you scheduling things to keep your kids busy just for the sake of keeping them occupied? Or are you allowing them to pursue real interests? Let your kids’ honest input help your family make these decisions. Other than medical or academic priorities, your child’s extra-curricular should be based on what they want, not what you think they should want to do.
Step #4 Evaluate and Re-Arrange
While you’re filling up your calendar with the non-negotiables, be sure to schedule a family meeting that focuses on re-evaluating and re-arranging schedules. Perhaps make it quarterly or every six months. Whatever fits your family’s dynamic best.
In that meeting, talk about what needs to change, what needs to go, and how they are feeling about their schedules. It’s okay for your child to try something and then decide it’s not for them.
Re-evaluating and re-arranging as needed will allow your family to continue to prioritize what is truly important to everyone.
Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – The Important Things in Life
Perhaps you’ve heard the rock, pebble and sand illustration. If not, here it is in a nutshell:
A professor gave a lecture with a glass jar in front of him. He began by filling the jar with big rocks. He then poured small pebbles into the jar so that they filled the space around the big rocks. The professor then poured sand in the jar and it went between the pebbles and the rocks.
The jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things that have real value – your family, your spouse, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job and activities.
The sand is everything else – the small stuff.
If you fill the jar up first with the sand, you won’t have space for pebbles or rocks. The same for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are most important to you. Play with your children. Spend time with your family. There will always be time to go to work and clean the house. Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.
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