Surviving the Fall Rat Race: How to Keep Your Family Sane in Back to School Season!
By popular demand, I wanted to repost a prior blog on how to survive the Fall Rat-Race!
As I sat outside my kid’s school last week, it was amazing to see all of the parents scurry here and there. Everyone looked exhausted… like I was watching the finish line of a super-marathon. Kids fumbled in and out of cars. Parents supervised with blood-shot eyes. Cars jockeyed for position. It suddenly felt so stressful.
I’ve noticed that a lot of families reel under the stress of “back-to-school” activities. There’s this feeling that, “If we can’t HAVE and DO IT ALL, then our families will fall apart.” Thus, we all enter into a tornado of sports, dentist appointments, music lessons. And yet, as I watched all of these families run here and there, I couldn’t help but to remember Christ’s words from Matthew 6.
When Jesus taught his famous “sermon on the mount,” we forget that this was way out in the wilderness. Imagine a huge grassy hill with flowers in the middle of nowhere. In fact, Jesus was a wilderness preacher early on in his ministry. People had to leave their busy lives if they wanted to hear him. And, this context makes the following observation of Christ even more profound.
In Matthew 6:32, Jesus described that the chief sign of a pagan was “Running after their needs.” I.e., Because they didn’t have a good heavenly Father, they had to “run” to meet their needs.” But Jesus was contrasting that, those of us who have a Heavenly Father don’t need to live frantic and frenetic lives.
So, before you dive headlong into the Fall rat-race of school, schedules, sports, etc… here are a few tips to help you stay full of God’s peace.
(1). Fight to Keep Dinner Times Sacred: The National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University did a study on families that regularly eat dinner together. And listen to what they found: “Kids/Teens who regularly eat dinner with their families are 3x Less Likely to smoke pot… (In fact, sacred dinner times generally cut the risk of substance abuse in half!) Consistent dinner times statistically lowered stress levels at home. And it significantly lowers the risk of suicide in young people.
Also, kids/teens who regularly eat dinner with their families are more likely to confide in their parents; more likely to feel emotionally content; more likely to be selective about finding positive friends; are more likely to get good grades; AND are more likely to say their parents are proud of them.” COME ON! All of this comes from simply protecting dinner times? Absolutely! You see, it’s the little things that can make a HUGE difference.
(2). Don’t Buy the Lie that Your Kids need to do Everything. My wife and I had a mentor who had a strange rule for her kids. She would only allow 1 of her numerous kids to go out for 1 sport or activity in each season. You see, she knew she only had so much time to drive before it would kill the family. She also knew, to do any more would kill their dinner schedule. Of course, she got all sorts of flack from other parents. People would ironically talk about her boundaries like it was child-abuse. Part of it is because, we live in a culture that falsely believes: “Kids need to be equipped with EVERY opportunity in order to succeed.” But guess what? All of her adult kids are some of the healthiest and godliest people you could ever meet! So, keep in mind: Your kids need to be trained in something that’s INFINITELY more important than sports or piano. They need to be taught margin, sabbath, and healthy priorities. A desire for Prayer & Bible reading can only flourish in a margin filled life. Indeed, ALL relationships can only flourish if there’s margin. Also, if kids aren’t taught “compromise” for the greater needs of their families, they will grow up to be selfish adults who have no concept of what a peaceful and healthy family organism looks like. NONE of us get to “have and do it all.” Rather, we only get the “ALL” that GOD has planned for us – which can never be found until the greater needs of the family are weighed out and prayed through. No one gets to “do what they want.” Only God. And when God does, ALL of us get what we want.
(3). Create a Fall “Not-To-Do” List: Life regularly fills up with silly things. Next thing you know, you skip your devotional times, workout times, etc, just to do things that have no eternal purpose. So what are you going to do about it? Every Fall, my wife and I ask the question: Do our activities reflect our eternal priorities? Does this activity truly build our family? Does it add more peace or joy (the “fruit of the Holy Spirit” listed in Galatians 5:22)? If not, it’s simply NOT a priority. Sure, people will be irritated when you set up healthy boundaries. But it’s better to lose friends than lose your kids, your sanity or your marriage.
So, take a look at your life. Make a “Not-to-Do” List! Trust God with the rest. And pretty soon, peace will begin flowing back into your life again. And once you feel it, protect it with everything you’ve got!