Most of us SAY that family comes first, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if living that motto was as easy as saying it? Whether we like it or not, work often drains the best from many of us and our family gets stuck the leftovers. So, how do we create Happy Family Evenings? Let’s learn from Dale.
Dale used to come home stressed, tired, and irritated by the people he had to deal with at his job. While he drove home, he’d be on the phone, finishing up his workday and dealing with more stress. When he walked in the door, he’d often be on a phone call, waving off his little girls who were antsy to see daddy and get his attention. He had no transition time and the girls seemed like just another demand in his exhausting day. Mom would be annoyed, wishing he’d walk in the door happy to see his little girls and give her a hug and a kiss. Not a good start to the evening.
There is a quick trick that can make a huge difference in how evening family time goes. I don’t guarantee much when it comes to human behavior, but if I were to try, I’d hedge my bets on this technique for parents who work outside of the home. Stay at home parents can use the same technique, just from inside the house.
Dale started to use a 10-minute technique that dramatically changed evenings for his entire family. Here’s what he did:
- He started pulling over on his way home to take a few minutes to transition from “work mode” to “family mode.”
- Dale turned off the ringer on his phone.
- He turned on a song that put him in a good mood. Sometimes he just savored the silence.
- He sat and soaked in the view and took a few conscious breaths to slow down his brain.
- He talked himself into leaving work at the office so that he could show up fully present for the ones he loved most in all the world.
Lastly, he set an intention for his time with the family that evening. Sometimes it was to make sure to look his wife and each child in the eyes and ask about their day…. and then to actually listen to their answers. Some days he committed to making sure to smile at each of his family members. Other days he’d focus on being a good partner in the tasks of dishes and putting the kids to bed. Sometimes he committed (to himself) to take the girls on a bike ride. Once in a while, he would look up a joke that he could tell at dinner. And always, he set his intention to be as loving as he could be. This was a big step for his goal of living without regret.
10 minutes was all it took for this man to show up as the beloved, superstar daddy that he was to his two little girls. It made his wife love him more. Evenings were transformed. Not perfect, but transformed.
Kerry Stutzman, LMFT, MSW