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Rebecca Hagelin / Dec. 29, 2009

Make Family Your New Year Priority

As we begin the New Year it’s time for America to face the fact that the modern American family is in crisis. With the pressures of dual careers, often no one is keeping the home fires burning. What families gain with an additional bread-earner, they often pay for with a loss of nurturing.

Many of our nation’s children spend more time with an endless flow of randomly-assigned teachers and “care givers” than they do with their own parents. This trend has left children of all ages hungry for the richness and depth of fully developed parent/child relationships. Family members are often like ships that pass in the night. Many get lost in the fog of a busy life, crash on the reefs of loneliness and end up split apart. Everyone suffers, and children suffer most.

Analysts at The Heritage Foundation combed through massive amounts of social science research and found that kids whose parents spend time with them are less likely to smoke, abuse drugs, drink or engage in sex. Study after study shows that the healthiest environment for men, women and children is in a loving, close knit family. (You can access the research at www.FamilyFacts.org.) This isn’t rocket science – our need to be in a loving family unit is as basic as our need for oxygen. As some call on yet more government programs to “fix” the many problems caused by absentee parents and broken families, the real solutions rest in the hands of each of us, starting with our own families.

What’s the first step in saving your family? Create more family time.

Yes, it’s difficult to find time to spend with your children in today’s world. But the bottom line is, if you want to help your children avoid a host of problems and live more secure and happier lives you will make the time.

One place to begin the transformation of your family relationships is to gather around the dinner table.

Nearly gone from our culture are the powerful yet simple family dinners and the important conversations that went with them. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that children who don’t eat dinner with their family on a regular basis are more likely to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs. As The Heritage Foundation has reported, “Compared with teens that have frequent family dinners, those who have dinner with their families only two nights per week or less are at double the risk of substance abuse.”

Just your “being there” also helps. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association notes that, “teenagers were less likely to experience emotional distress if their parents were in the home when they awoke, when they came home from school, at dinnertime, and when they went to bed, and if they engaged in activities with their parents…”

And, don’t worry about the grumbling that you might hear from your teens when you make them reschedule their lives so you can be together. They really do want to be with you, but they need you to help them make it happen. Guess what one recent study by the Associated Press revealed: The number one activity that kids between the ages of 13 and 24 said makes them happy is spending time with family.

Make it a point to look for help in creating family time. A great website containing a wealth of free tips is www.FamilyLife.com. At FamilyLife.com you will also discover practical help for conquering the most common parenting issues – it is a comprehensive resource for any parent who wants to have a closer relationship with their spouse and children.

Mom and Dad, you are vital to the happiness and well-being of your sons and daughters. The modern culture won’t tell you that, but your gut, the facts, and your children’s’ lives testify of your power. Your opportunity to enjoy and shape them when they are in your home will disappear before your eyes. Don’t let another year go by without making them the priority.

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