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Parents share ideas: How to make the most of your family time together

In this issue, we've given lots of tips on ways to make your home an inviting place for kids to hang out, but sometimes the biggest obstacle to family time is not the location, but simply the busyness of our schedules.

With the beginning of spring sports and activities, it is easy for family time to be crowded out. We asked busy moms and dads for some suggestions for making the most of your time together – at home and away!

Adam Siskey, a father of four children ranging in age from 3 to 16 and a high school pastor at Anderson Mill Baptist Church in Spartanburg, has struggled with balancing recreational activities and time together.

“Our culture tells us that if we want our kids to be healthy, they need to be involved in a lot of things,” he said. “It is important that we don’t become so involved in recreational activities that we never spend time at home.”

Siskey recommends looking at a family’s time with an end goal in mind.

“Look at where you want your kids to be at 18, 19 or 20 and structure your time with that goal in mind,” he said.

For the Siskey family, that means choosing one sport per child, per year, making sure to have dinner together at least two or three times each week and engaging in family worship. Accomplishing those goals takes planning.

“We sit down at the beginning of the week and plan our week in advance, so that we know which nights we are eating together,” he said. “It might not be a home-cooked meal. It might just be picking up fast food, but the time together is what matters.”

Julie Finley, a mom of three, also tries to prioritize family meals to stay connected.

“It can be hard during football season,” she said. “There are times when we are eating in shifts, but we are together.”

She uses the crock pot a lot and urges parents to give themselves a break.

“I don’t worry too much if I can’t get to the dishes until the next morning, and I use leftovers to make a meal sometimes,” she said.

Finley also uses early mornings to spend time with her daughter and get to know her daughter’s friends.

“I started a Bible study for the girls,” she said. “We meet at Bojangles one morning each week for breakfast. We started with a six-week study, but the girls loved it and wanted to continue.”

Finley also takes advantage of school breaks to carve out time together.

“We always travel as a family at spring break, and we try to squeeze in a few trips snow skiing or to the lake,” she said. “We look for things that they like to do together.”

Spartanburg parents Randy and Maria Bates’ two children are grown now, but mom remembers balancing her two children’s schedules with time together. Celebrating each other’s accomplishments was a key part of keeping the family close while each pursued very different talents.

“At first, my son might have rolled his eyes over going to his sister’s music concert, but over time, he developed an appreciation for what she was doing,” Bates said. “In turn, our daughter attended his soccer games and even came home from college to go to his games.”

The Bates family also used and continues to use technology to stay connected.

“We send pictures and group messages back and forth and share in family jokes.”

The Bates family jokes have grown from an intense commitment to staying connected through the years.

“They never grow out of it,” Bates said. “As adults, we still have private jokes. Those develop from time spent together.”