Best-selling authors and parents, Richard and Linda Eyre, share a simple strategy to help parents put family first.
Think of your life in seasons: Springtime when you grew up, went to school, and gradually grew toward adulthood. Then Summertime, the season so many of us are in now, where everything, including family and career, is in full and demanding bloom. Then Autumn-time will come, rich and ripe and hopefully a bit more peaceful. And finally Winter-time when we hope to do a little more resting and reflecting.
Now ponder this: Each of our children live with us, in our homes, for an average of 18 years. As we live healthfully, our own life expectancies may stretch to 85 or 90 years, which means that a child will be with us only for approximately one fifth of our lives. As we move into Autumn, we will still have our businesses, our golf games, and our church and community interests, but our children will be gone!
And it happens so fast! Since pictures are worth thousands of words, let us illustrate:
Photos turn yellow as they get older, so we guess this first one reveals which season we are in! But here we are with the beginnings of our family “back in the day.”
Now we fast forward just a few years, and look how the picture changes….
Time keeps moving at a relentless pace. Weddings and in law kids and another generation invades our lives and snatches away our children.
Suddenly we are looking at a picture like this….
And finally, the most scary photo of all…. Doesn’t this last picture look a little like the first one, except that it’s not yellowed out yet, and except that it is our daughter with her family!
And the elapsed time from the first photo to the last one is only a little over 20 years!
“Turn around and they’re gone” says the song in Fiddler on the Roof, and indeed that is exactly what happens!
How critically important it is that we prioritize our kids while they are still with us, that we pay attention to them and focus on their needs and on helping them to become all they can be during the few fleeting years we have them with us. And if we are grandparents already, how important that we help our kids prioritize our grandkids. We all need to all remember what C.S. Lewis said, “‘Homemaker’ is the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose, and that is to support the ultimate career.”
As we start a new year, we want to give you one “best practice” that we have found to be enormously valuable to parents and grandparents who are seeking to prioritize their kids and to never let their needs slip through the cracks. We call it the Five Facet Review and here is how it works: Go on a special “date” once a month—to a nice quiet restaurant—and confine your discussion to your kids. Ask five questions, one at a time, about each of your children:
How is (Patty) doing physically? (Health, teeth, diet, exercise, etc. Any worries, any observations? Any danger signs? Any gifts you are not helping her develop? Brainstorm for a few minutes about the physical well being of your daughter. Take notes on areas of concerns or ideas on how to help.
How is she doing mentally? (Not only grades, but how does she process information, how does she learn, what is hard and easy for her, etc. Again, take notes, jot down ideas.)
How is she doing emotionally? (Think about moods, ups and downs, what upsets her, etc.)
How is she doing socially? (Friends, shyness, leadership, everything you know about her social life.)
How is she doing spiritually? (What about her heart, her character, her faith, her spirit?)
It is absolutely amazing how many ideas and how much inspiration comes to parents who are intent on thinking about and brainstorming about their own children. Potential is noticed. Problems are nipped in the bud. Solutions are developed. Understanding and insight are grown and enhanced. And a list of things that need attention is developed and becomes a template and a plan to guide the parenting that goes on during the month ahead.
Then the next month, at the next 5 facet review, the notes are reviewed, the categories revisited, and further action plans developed. It works! And it is a classic win-win for parents and kids. It is one good, practical way to implement the prioritizing of children that should go on, particularly in the fleeting summer season of our lives!
New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre are the parents of nine children and, by coincidence, the authors of 9 internationally distributed parenting and life-balance books. They lecture throughout the world on family related topics, and are the founders of Joyschools.com. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com