Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 9, 2006, Herald Journal

Prioritize family time


The recent family tragedy of former assistant Viking’s coach Tony Dungy made even wholehearted sports “fanatics” reevaluate priorities, put things in perspective, and realize that family and people come first. It seems, many times, it takes just such a tragedy to make a change in people’s lives.

A health care professional on a radio broadcast was recently speaking on the topic of what’s happening in the high school sports scene. The holiday season, with all its family activities, is also filled with an abundance of sports games, competitions, meets, matches, and tournaments, in which families of those teens involved in sports must make decisions.

Do we travel and spend time with our extended family during the holiday season, but miss sports practices and competitions, letting team members down (as well as possibly having to “sit on the bench” for an extended period as a penalty for missing those practices)?

I’m an avid sports fan, as well as being a certified high school coach who has coached a variety of sports, and having participated in a variety of sports, myself, I understand that there are great benefits to participation in athletic activities (as well as in other extracurricular and co-curricular activities).

I realize that being involved in athletic activities can teach children many good values, such as commitment, hard work and dedication. I know that I learned many beneficial and lifelong values through my participation in sports.

But I also realize and value the importance of time spent with family. The holiday season, especially, is about family traditions and family time. It’s too bad that decisions have to be made to put one before the other, at times

As the Dungy family’s tragedy “speaks” to us all, “there ain’t nothin’ more important than family and people.”

We, as a society, have to “band together” for the sake of our children and family, to say, “families matter.” Time spent with family should be at the top of our value lists, and we should all be endorsing this, from parents, to teachers, to coaches.

In an article on families on the website http://7upcom/FamiliesPlus/, the Peeples family of Mt. Pleasant, S.C. shared this, “For us, Thanksgiving through New Year’s is major family time. That’s what we focus on. We don’t go overboard on gift giving or fancy parties . . . We’ll go out to the country and build a bonfire and roast marshmallows . . . It’s funny, but it takes effort and restraint to keep things in perspective.”

That’s probably what many of us need to do, “keep things in perspective.” Prioritize family, children, and people this holiday season and throughout the year. What a value to teach our children.

Family fun nights

Start up or continue a family fun night as a family new year’s resolution. Pick a night of the week to just focus on simple family time spent together. You’ll never go wrong with this resolution.

In an April, 2005 FamilyFun magazine article, the Hilker family from Harrison, Ark. shared a “true blue” family fun activity they engaged in. They decorated the kitchen in blue accessories, using such things as a blue beach towel and blue hearts cut from construction paper. They wore blue clothes and ate a blue dinner consisting of French fries, ketchup, Jell-O, veggie dip, and cake – all made or dyed blue (it’s amazing how food coloring can transform things). “Crazy? Yes. Worth it? You bet!” the family wrote.

The Hilker family has regular family fun nights, with many of the nights having certain themes, such as backward night and camp-in-the-living room night. Children would love to let their imaginations soar to come up with themes for the fun nights. As the family shared, “Worth it? You bet!”

Having traditions are important and meaningful. Traditions are consistent and reliable in a world that has lots of change. Whether the tradition be a family fun night, reading together each evening, or driving and seeing holiday lights, traditions provide stability and consistency, which are things we all need.

So, create a new tradition and/or keep with the “old” this new year. It’s worth it!