Strengthening family bonds: Families finding ways to spend time together

Family togetherness that used to be taken for granted is now planned deliberately and strategically by today's parents, said Dr. Terrance D. Olson, chairman of BYU's Department of Family Services.

"Parents are worried about the outside world," he said. For example, "They are worried about an atmosphere in schools that seems to breed threats and violence. More parents are expressing concern today than in the past about being able to construct a haven for their children."Dr. Olson said all families are intensely busy, but "families that succeed in doing things together are those whose hearts place the family first, and then they find a way."

"It is making time together more fundamental than the rest of their busyness that will strengthen them - and not just their families, but also strengthen their own confidence in meeting all other responsibilities."

He said that in the past, many children were reared on farms, or in rural settings where they had chores to do. They lived in a community where many people knew their parents. These neighbors formed a network that offered support for all the children in the neighborhood.

"Now, many urban parents find themselves islands in seas that threaten their children. Family home evening is held not just for enjoyment; it is an act of preservation.

"And for every family that is awakened to this need, there are other families who are still nonchalant, with eyes not fully open to what needs to be done."

He noted, however, that parents accomplish more informally than they generally give themselves credit for. "Don't underestimate the value of being with each other," he said.

Being together on vacations and outings is important. "The meaning of doing is enriched as time passes. We need to look back on experiences we've had to see what we learned from them."

People can draw strength from experience many years later, he said.

He cautioned that remembering "bonding" moments from the past is beneficial only if "we are living compassionately when we remember them."

For example, if the Book of Mormon's Laman and Lemuel were to recount their trek to the Promised Land, they would recall it very differently than would Nephi and Sam.

"One of the most important things about memories is that we have to be living compassionately in the present to see, or even admit benefits from the past. If we are offended . . . we see things in the past as a source of pain that helps justify our current hard-hearted attitude."

He said that people actually learn a great deal by experience and "by the things we suffer."

People draw upon their own lives for concepts and beliefs. "Our richest storehouse of understanding is our own experience," he concluded. "To talk about the past is at least as important to bonding as was the original event.

"This allows us to make some sense out of our mission on earth, and the meaningfulness of our relationships now."

(Additional story #1)

Home evening improves family's attitude


Family home evening is a priority for the Carl and Shirley Mautz family of the Oakton (Va.) Ward, at right.

When their children were younger, they found that it seemed to be more and more difficult to hold regular family home evenings.

"We noticed there was contention and a lot of quarrels," Sister Mautz recalled. "Something always happened to make us say, `We're not having family home evening.' "

But the Mautz family, including Carrie, 19; Alan, 17; Chris, 15; Sam, 12; and Marit, 7; began holding regular family home evenings.

This determination, plus regular family prayer and scripture study, began to result in subtle changes - changes which Marit brought to her parents' attention.

"She noticed that there is some camaraderie between her and her brothers and sisters," Sister Mautz recalled, adding that her daughter noticed good relationships at home after observing another family not getting along with each other.

Brother Mautz explained that Alan taught a family home evening lesson on the Aaronic Priesthood on Aug. 16 because his brother, Sam, is scheduled to be ordained a deacon on Aug. 21.

(Additional story #2)

`I can talk to Grandfather really easy'


For the past two years, Elmo H. Newswander, 77, has been hometeaching with his grandson, Derek D. Smith, 16, at left. As a result, the pair, both members of the Afton 4th Ward, Afton Wyoming Stake, have developed a strong relationship.

"We're very friendly. Anytime I need anything, he's willing to help me," said Brother Newswander, who is stake patriarch. "We love each other."

He added that Derek is a cooperative companion. "When we go home teaching, we have a prayer between us, and he takes his turn."

Derek said he finds his grandfather fun to be with, and that he is a good listener. "I can talk to him really easy," he explained.

And the young man has watched his grandfather's good example. As a result, Derek wants to build his own testimony and live a good life.

This example has been important to Derek, as his parents were divorced about 14 years ago. Derek lives with his mother, Ellen Smith, Brother Newswander's daughter. Derek has three sisters, Stacey, 24; Kristin, 23; and Trisha, 20.

Sister Smith explained: "My father takes an interest in Derek and is always there. By being a priesthood holder, he blesses our family. He's tried to be a father figure for Derek."

(Additional story #3)

Prodding `in a loving way' brings best results


Bruce and Betsy Doane of the Hingham Ward, Boston Massachusetts Stake, say that their children, Ricky, 13, and Meredith, 10, shown with her in the kitchen at right, earn their own way in addition to helping with the family. Teaching them to work has helped them accomplish things for themselves, said Sister Doane.

"I think they listen to me more when I am kind than if I am harsh," she said of encouraging the children to help around the home. "If I prod in a loving way, they work more than if I yell at them.

"To make work fun, we let everyone be the boss. You can get into trouble if someone is a boss, parents included.

"I am a stay-at-home-mother," she continued. "It is a sacrifice for me to stay home, so if they need extra money, if they really want something out of our budget, they have to help. It has given them a sense of value as far as money goes.

"When they earn money, they pay their tithing first. Ricky recently went to the Boy Scout National Jamboree. He earned 90 percent of the money himself. He sold candy, babysat, and took part in fund raisers.

"If you can stay home as a mother, do it, and for as long as you can, for they need you the most in their young years. It has made a difference in our family that I am here and they know that they can depend on me."

(Additional story #4)

Children serve each other

FAIRFIELD, CALIF.Michelle Toolson, 13, enjoys taking care of her sister,

Jessica, 3, above.

Michelle and Jessica are among six children in the Tom and Diane Toolson family of the Fairfield 3rd Ward, Fairfield California Stake. Other children are Sara, 15; Melissa, 10; Rachel, 7; and Andrew, 6.

Sister Toolson said that when there aren't enough parents to go around, the older children help care for the younger children. "One night after bedtime, I heard noises and thought one of the children was up. I found Michelle reading in bed with Jessica. Michelle said, `Jesse wasn't happy and I had to go get her.' "

(Additional story #5)


Jim and Martha Borchers, and their children Audry, 11; Jessica, 8; and David, 5, of the Boise 10th Ward, Boise Idaho Stake, enjoy a family outing on Payette Lake, above.

The Borchers family made vacations a priority because they felt their family was getting too caught up in his work, her volunteer efforts, plus busy Church callings.

"We wanted to do something that would force us to take `break-away time' as a family," said Brother Borchers, an elders quorum instructor, assistant ward clerk and member of the regional public affairs council.

He explained that his family couldn't afford to purchase a boat, nor did they have time to sail every week. A solution seemed to be to have several families own a boat on a partnership basis.

Now the family sails together about once a month in the summer.

"It has provided us a reason to get out of town, and we've taken the kids fishing and hiking. We're away from their friends and we just have family time. On a boat, the crew is as important as the captain, just as the children are as important as the parents. Recreation can be a little bit of work and a lot of fun. They take different jobs on the crew - helmsman, tactician - all take assignments. It does increase their communication with each other. They have to issue commands, and they have to pay attention."

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