When I was asked to contribute to Simply Five, it was like winning an Emmy. Me? You want me to contribute and share my ideas for making the most of family-time? Oh thank you (princess wave)!!

Then it hit me, Shawna, you actually need to write something to contribute.  But when? I find it hard enough to make time to take a nice shower, if I can be candidly honest.  My mommy life is jammed packed with work, homework, dinner, dance classes, on top of laundry, soccer practice and basketball games, Between vacuuming, cleaning and church events, when I’m not attending meetings and band concerts. Oh, wait, did I pack their lunches? Do we even have milk?

Then, as God would have it, in the middle of the wash and conditioner phase in the shower it occurred to me that a great starting place is at the beginning. In order for anyone to keep their sanity in what could potentially be chaos, you need an organized philosophy of thought. Especially when it comes to your family.

So, I’ve identified the five essential elements I use for prioritizing my family.

1. PhilosophyFamily time must be as essential as breathing and eating. A basic human need if you will. Your family is the most important aspect of your life next to your faith, so it only makes sense that spending quality time with them (aka L.O.V.E) should be a non-negotiable. To help with this school of thought, plug in family time where it makes the most sense, during other non-negotiables: meal times, bath times, driving, etc.  Don’t make it hard on yourself, you are doing these things anyway; let’s make the most of these by making them moments to enjoy each other’s company.

2. Structure– Every busy family knows that the key to getting to every appointment, practice and getting food in the tummy is a schedule that you stick to. Use this tactic to your advantage, schedule family time. Sounds simple enough, but seems so daunting. How do you fit one more thing in your busy schedules? Literally, you just do it.  For example at the start of every school year, my kids and I sit down and plan out our calendars and daily schedules including what time is designated as Family Time. When all homework should be done, dinner is eaten and the chores are complete (theoretically). Remember family time is a non-negotiable. As 8:30pm approaches, everyone is wrapping up their activities so that we can sit together (playing a board game or watching tv or simply talki. Now, I’m not a super scheduler nor am I a complete tyrant, when our activity schedules do not allow, we have to be forgiving and plan for Family Time accordingly. Which brings me to number three.

3. Mutual Accountability- I know, sounds so formal, but it is so necessary. We have to allow our children to hold us accountable for family time.  If we don’t, family time will be lost. Most importantly, our children will lose faith in how much we value spending time as a family. They’ll give us that disappointing look that says, “But Mommy you said.” Then as time passes they’ll lose interest in family time all together and give us that teenage indifferent look that says “Yeah whatever, I don’t even care”. Okay, I’ve laid on enough guilt. But seriously, we need to communicate to our children that spending quality family time is important because our family is most important. The way to communicate that is to allow them to hold us accountable when it seems other things are getting in the way.

Okay, I know we’re talking about family time so this next point will seem a little out of place.  But stick with me, it’ll connect I promise.  I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind a few times that you have multiple children all with their own schedule of activities; how in the world do you manage to get them all together for family time?

4. Value your children as individuals– Each of them separately.  Love them for who they are, and model for your other children an appreciation for what makes them each unique.  As a family, we all go to my sons’ many sports games and likewise my daughter’s dance performances and recitals. We sit together and celebrate at the band concerts and award ceremonies, even the impromptu at home performances. We celebrate each other as a family.

5. It’s starts with you!-Know that you are an essential element to your family’s family time.  You need to be there, you need to be engaged, you have to put your phone down.  Understand, the laundry can wait another 30 minutes.  You can clean the kitchen after they’ve gone to sleep. Their toys can be picked up tomorrow. You can DVR that show. Facebook with be there after you finish playing Life or Uno. Remember YOU are modeling behaviors and philosophies for your little ones.

If we show that we genuinely enjoy spending quality time with our children, there will be no doubt in their minds and hearts that they are loved. They will gain confidence and self-assurance, and they will love better because they have experienced love. I think its safe to say that we all want to raise confident, successful adults who model God’s love for others, give of themselves and know that they were truly loved.