Several years ago I lived in a beautiful European home that had been designed by a famous architect. The house was unique, full of natural sunlight, beautiful wood and decorative glass. The home's beauty was all the more amazing, as it had been built during Nazi occupation of the area when building resources were scarce. The walls, I discovered, were insulated with crumpled newspapers and straw.
One day, as I was taking a nap, the house began to shake. In my sleepy mind I wondered what on earth my kids were doing, but when I opened my eyes and saw the bookshelves and doorframes swaying, I realized my children weren't to blame. We were experiencing a significant earthquake.
The earthquake was strong, and we were near the epicenter. Afterwards we examined our home and found that the only damage were minor cracks in the low brick wall that ran around the perimeter of the yard. I was amazed.
Despite shortages of traditional materials, and the stress of working in war-torn conditions, the builders had created a structure that would withstand the shaking of a significant earthquake. I felt immense gratitude for the attention they put into constructing a home that kept my family safe in dangerous times.
Parents today are in many ways like the builders of my beautiful home. We work in stressful times, with limited resources, often in what feels like war-torn conditions. And yet, each of us is doing our best to build a beautiful family that will withstand the shaking of life's earthquakes and storms.
The time to build strong homes and families is not when the earthquake strikes. At that point, we can only rely on what we've already put in place. It's the things we do when life is "normal" that prepare us for the storms that surprise us. These things might not feel monumental as we do them, but like putting in one nail at a time, they combine to create strong homes and families.
1. Set aside time to be together
Life is crazy fast, and only getting faster. Like Internet speeds, it seems the standard for how fast we are expected to perform is increasing so quickly it's hard to keep up. Intentionally slow the pace of life by scheduling regular times to stop and be together.
Block this time out like you would a business meeting or doctor's appointment. When other things try to interfere, just say no. Show your dedication to your family by keeping these appointments like you would if they were with your boss or even the president. After all, who is really most important in your life?
2. Bring faith into your home
Several studies have shown strong connections between faith and improved physical and mental health, enhanced relationships, and lower incidents of teen pregnancies and addictions. You can bring faith into your family by setting aside even small amounts of time daily to read scriptures together, pray together, and talk about the blessings you see in your lives.
3. Serve others together
Focus as a family on helping others—both inside and outside your home. Young children love doing secret service for others and finding ways to surprise family members and neighbors with acts of kindness. When parents and children serve together, these acts of service bring feelings of joy and connection.
As kids get older, include community service and discussions about the issues kids encounter such as homelessness, refugees, and poverty. Young people (and presumably adults as well) who are engaged in serving others have increased self-esteem, more likely to treat others kindly, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
4. Love your spouse
Let your kids see that you love your spouse through the little things you do. As parents speak kindly to (and about) each other, and do small acts of service for each other, kids' sense of well-being, love, and security is strengthened.
Having fun and playing together bring a whole host of healthy benefits, including increased optimism, lower rates of illness, and happier relationships. Turn up the fun by playing happy music, celebrating life's little accomplishments, throwing a party with just your family, playing outside together, turning "chores" into games, and reading fun books together.
As you and your family put these seemingly small practices into place, your home will grow stronger, and your family will be protected from the storms and earthquakes of life. And along the way, life will be a lot more joyful!