We often remind young parents that all our ideas for parenting didn’t come with the birth of our first child. Our parenting skills developed throughout the entire 28 years that we had children under our roof. In fact, we were making changes and adding new techniques even after our last babies (twins) were born.
Change is necessary for anything to get better. But I learned that if we were going to make changes in our household, it was something that needed to be handled very carefully. Children get used to a certain mode of operation and not everyone is excited about the status quo being altered.
A good example of this was when we instituted our weekly Family Night. All was fine and dandy until someone in the household got invited to another activity outside the home. Well, of course, he would be excused from Family Night because this other invitation was more important to him—right? Wrong!
In order to make Family Night the priority, we all had to commit to it. There would be many opportunities tempting us to cancel this family time together. We determined that no outside invitations would be accepted unless we had a unanimous vote of all family members—even if the ones wanting to accept an outside invitation were Mom and Dad!
So starting something like a weekly Family Night sounded fun until one of the children had been invited to do something else.
Navigating change—whether perceived as favorable or not—is a necessary family skill to acquire. Especially as children get older, they need to be considered in how you present a new plan of action.
Here are a few simple guidelines that have helped us make changes in our family more positive and easier to embrace.
- The Family Conference. We found it extremely helpful to call the whole family together to discuss any changes under consideration that would affect the whole family. It showed that we valued each and every family member enough to talk about changes and to listen to input. Even if Kirby and I already had decided this new direction was best for all, we wanted everyone to have a chance to discuss and voice any concerns.
WIFM. In discussing something new with family members, presenting it from a What’s In It For Me perspective is very helpful. Point out the benefits to everyone if we go this direction. When we decided to cancel the housecleaning service we’d enjoyed for a while, that was going to be a big change for all of us—this was one week after our twins were born! The benefit for me was that we could buy a van to transport our crew. For the kids, it was a special breakfast made by dad on Saturday morning before we all did housework together—even Dad was going to have a part in cleaning. And a special family activity after cleaning the house sweetened the deal. These benefits made housework much more palatable for our boys.
Team Spirit. Even though we stressed the benefits for each individual involved, we always came back to the fact that we were in this together. That this is what being a family is all about. That we all have to give a little sometimes to make life work best for everyone. That sticking together and working together would make our family stronger. Emphasizing we, not me.
Our practice of having a weekly cleaning time morphed a little over the years, but up until each child left home, he continued to have a part in the major weekly cleaning of our home. Years later, our sons are still very involved in helping their wives at home—skills that were learned from a young age.
Not every decision in a family is going to be a popular one. But by communicating in advance, being considerate of each other, giving everyone a chance to voice concerns and ask questions, staying positive, and choosing to make the best of it helps a family navigate any change together.
Question: What helps your family navigate positively through change? Share your answer in the comments below.