Normally, it seems that the new year is greeted with joy and excitement. A sense of hope fills the air as the option for a fresh start looms large.
But as we flipped the calendar to 2024, I noticed something different in the air. Instead of hope, many seemed to be approaching the new year with dread.
I can’t blame people for feeling that way. One look at the headlines is enough to send a perpetually cheerful person under the bedcovers in hopes that a long nap will prove this present chaos is all a bad dream.
Alas, sleeping it off isn’t an option, so we must make the best of what we’re given to strengthen our personal moorings to withstand the hurricane-force political and cultural winds that seem likely to come this year. And there’s no better way to do that than by strengthening the most basic element of society: the family.
“The masters of modern plutocracy know what they are about,” author G.K. Chesterton wrote in his book “The Superstition of Divorce.” “A very profound and precise instinct has led them to single out the human household as the chief obstacle to their inhuman progress. Without the family, we are helpless before the State, which in our modern case is the Servile State.”
Considering this wisdom, here are five simple ways to strengthen your family in the year ahead.
Spend More Nights at Home
In most families, it isn’t unusual to be busy every night of the week, with Johnny in basketball one night, Susie at dance the next, and dad and mom at a PTA meeting the third. But constant running soon wears people down, so work to clear your calendar so that your family has at least two or three nights a week at home on a regular basis. Choose one of those nights, and set it aside to have a regular family night.
Not sure what to do with yourselves on those family nights? Play volleyball with a balloon in the living room, or have a game of hide-and-seek for all ages. Pick up some board games or puzzles at a secondhand store, then work on them together. Use the time to have real conversations as a family or listen to an audio book or drama while you work.
You can also make your own “audio books” by choosing different members of the family to read aloud. Add some colored pencils and drawing pads or a pile of Lego blocks to keep hands occupied as you work your way through a book as a family.
Take Time for Your Spouse
It’s often said that the best thing that you can do for your kids is to love their father or mother. So set aside regular time to spend with your spouse. Don’t be afraid to do it in front of your kids, either. Let them know that mommy and daddy are going to focus on each other for a while, and that they shouldn’t interrupt or distract during this time unless it’s an absolute emergency. In doing so, you model the elements of a good marriage to your children, while also giving your spousal relationship fuel and conversation to face the challenges that inevitably come to life.
Make Regular Family Goals
Nothing brings people together more than having a common goal to work toward. The same is true for a family.
It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe the goal is just eating out at a favorite restaurant or going to a local museum as a reward for chores completed faithfully for a month or a character quality cultivated in a child’s life after a year. Perhaps it’s something bigger, such as money saved for a vacation or a tent purchased for camping. Either way, working together to raise money for something—through mowing lawns, raking leaves, or shoveling snow for neighbors—or making personal life changes keeps a family from growing stagnant and complacent, both as a whole and individually.
Go to Church
“We kinda do the COVID thing for church,” someone recently admitted to me during a holiday gathering, noting that her household piles on the couch and watches a service online each Sunday rather than physically attending a church. This isn’t unusual; a 2022 Barna poll found that almost half of all churched adults attend church in either an online or hybrid online format since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Sadly, “attending” church in such a way misses the major point of church altogether, for it eliminates the spiritual community, accountability, and encouragement that are supposed to be a major part of religious institutions.
Allan Bloom noted this falling away from church in his famous 1987 work, “The Closing of the American Mind.” Those who fall into this trap, he observed, weren’t just those hailing from broken families, but were also married couples who were trying hard to raise their children right and give them a happy home.
However, in avoiding church and spiritual training, Bloom wrote, “They have nothing to give their children in the way of a vision of the world, of high models of action or profound sense of connection with others.”
Be intentional about making physical attendance a regular part of your family routine this year. And don’t just put your hour in and think that you’re good. Get plugged into a strong community that will build up marriages and encourage parents in solid child-rearing practices.
Spiritual training shouldn’t happen only in church, however. It should also happen regularly in the home.
To refer again to “The Closing of the American Mind,” spiritual training in the family creates a “sacred unity” when it regularly “transmit[s] the wonder of the moral law,” Bloom wrote. “When that belief disappears, as it has, the family has, at best, a transitory togetherness.”
For that reason, establishing what’s sometimes referred to as a “family altar” or “family devotions” is crucial in advancing the spiritual training of children, for it not only emphasizes the importance of religious training when dad and mom take time for spiritual things, but it also gives a family something worthwhile to bond over as they all work together to increase their knowledge and understanding of truth and righteousness.
Facing the Future
Yes, the year ahead could bring more than its share of troubles. But we don’t have to make those troubles our focus.
Instead, let’s fortify ourselves against those troubles by strengthening our individual families—one of the greatest weapons and fortresses we have in this crazy world.
This article is republished with permission from The Epoch Times.
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