Christ the King Association
Family Night -- A Night Togetherby Howard Distelzweig
One of the great challenges that parents face in our society is maintaining family cohesiveness in the face of the many influences that tend to pull families apart. Besides the forces that are directly hostile to family life, there is a hidden danger in the multitude of activities available for people of all ages. Even activities that are good in themselves often damage families, thereby upsetting God's plan for human life. A family with several children can find themselves so busy with sports, clubs, lessons and meetings of all sorts that they spend little time doing things together. And the older the children get, the greater the demands. In order to combat this tendency, my wife and I adapted a pattern we saw others using and made every Saturday evening "Family Night."
During this time we have tried many different kinds of activities. Some work better for us than others. Sometimes we play cards, letting younger children be on teams with adults if necessary. Occasionally we played board games such as "Chutes and Ladders" when the children were younger; "Clue" is the most popular choice today. At times, especially if we are all exhausted from the week, we rent a video, often from the Classics section. (We have seen all the Abbott and Costello films our local superstore stocks). What we enjoy most, however, are activities that require a little more creativity.
to Include Everyone
We have enjoyed many other activities in the 20 years we have been doing this, but these indicate the range we have found helpful. Our minimum requirement in choosing an activity is that everyone is able to participate, although not everyone has to be enthusiastic about the activity. A willingness to do something occasionally that one doesn't especially enjoy is essential for Family Night to work – indeed, for family life to work! The ability to accept others' limitations doesn't seem to be inborn in our children, but it also is necessary. Another problem we have had to deal with, especially when our children were younger, was competitiveness. We don't generally have teams when we play games like charades, and we keep score as little as possible. Noncompetitive activities are still our preference.
We have seen many side benefits from our Family Night activities, such as greater creativity and increased knowledge of the bible, but the over-riding reason we maintain the tradition is simply to be a family. Almost always we have a good time, but even when our time together isn't of the highest quality, our familial relationships are strengthened. Years of Family Nights store up fond memories and forge bonds of love. The saying that "The family that prays together stays together" is indubitably true, but we have found that there are blessings also when the family plays together.
The father of five children, Howard Distelzweig has extensive background in religious education and has taught on the high school and college levels. Howard and his wife, Janet, are members of Word of Life Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This article originally appeared in The Family Magazine, Vol. 43, No. 8, September 1995, published by St. Paul Books & Media, Boston, MA.