8 Key Elements to Creating an Intentional Family Life
You remember the feeling, that the birth of your firstborn was a wake-up call to grow up and do something meaningful. Instantly, life was never the same and everything that was important yesterday fades in the glow of newborn skin. Children have the profound ability to dramatically affect the lives of their parents with nothing but a cry and deep breath.
Though that overwhelming emotion and hope while holding your swaddled babe is unforgettable, it doesn’t last forever. And soon the intentional life you felt empowered to create for the future of your child becomes barely enough to get you out of bed for 3 a.m. feedings. Months and years go by and you’ve built a stable home and family for your child(ren), but something is missing.
Weary, sleep deprived parents begin to feel alone and desperate. Spouses become ships passing in the night – literally passing in the hall for water cups and potty trips – intimacy nothing but a memory and an itch.
Mothers are spread too thin and fathers feel inadequate. Family time is grocery shopping and car rides to church. Intention is drowned by the tides of school presentations, soccer games, and dentist appointments, and life becomes fulfilling obligations and managing drop off and pick up times.
This isn’t exactly the meaningful life that you envisioned in the maternity ward.
The good news is there is still hope. A meaningful life is still in the face of your children and though they aren’t verbalizing it, they desire it as much as you do. Your kids are aching for an intentional life that speaks to them of unconditional love, security, purpose, and worthiness and they won’t find it displayed on a screen anywhere.
An intentional family life takes only making the choice to pursue it.
It hasn’t disappeared or become less essential. Consider these 8 key elements to an intentional family life that will engage your children, rebuild intimacy with your spouse, and create the meaningful family life your infant inspired.
- Be Present and Engaged
It takes a lot to spend all day at work where you have to be on your game 100% of the day to then come home and be as engaged and present for your family. Who has that kind of energy? But there is a phenomenon that happens when you decide what really is important; you are filled up when you pour yourself out. Being attentive with your kids and spouse will energize you more that a power nap on the couch before dinner. It’s the power of love and feeling valued that you pour into them and they give it right back.
When you come home and shut down you are drifting through life. Anything outside work is put on autopilot and you are empty and tired with no margin for your family. Your family needs you to step into it. What would it look like to stop drifting and start designing the life you want? Watch this three part video series from one of my virtual mentors Michael Hyatt on doing just that.
- Quality one on one time with your kids
Each child is precious and unique and in the noise of the household chores and conflicting schedules it’s easy to forget how individual each child is. We are working at becoming more intentional with one on one time with each of our girls and without fail every minute we get alone with our daughters we feel humbled by their minds, hearts, and imagination; each so different and perfect reflections of God.
Not only will you discover the depths of your child’s heart but they will bloom right in front of you. Get your son or daughter alone, away from siblings and friends and they will open up, like a sunflower sunning itself in the light of your smile. Give your child your undivided attention and you will learn what they need from you, their role is in the family, and how you can support and develop that role.
- Define your beliefs
Your kids need guidance, boundaries, and grace. Your beliefs will define how you provide for those needs. What are your spiritual beliefs? What are your beliefs about parenting and discipline? Where do you stand on social and political issues? I challenge you to put off any thoughts of “I should believe this” or “I’ve always believed this so I guess that’s what I should do”. Ask yourself if what you believe is actually a personal conviction or is it just familiar?
Clarifying your belief system will stabilize your approach to parenting and serve as the foundation for your intentional family life. This article by Lisa Gungor is helpful: Why Changing What You Believe Is Actually A Sign of Strength
“ if I think about it, I realize that some of the things I have believed in for so long feel so true not necessarily because of the merit of the belief, but only because I have believed it for so long.”
- Develop a family mission statement
Most businesses and churches have mission statements or a set of values which their organization is founded upon. It’s central to keeping their vision focused. Very few people however do this for the vision of their life or family. Writing down personal and/or family values and keeping them in a common, visual location will keep your eyes locked on the principles for which all family decisions should be based.
Your kids need simple. You need simple. It’s a lie that our children need to constantly be stimulated with music and dance lessons, sports camps, play dates, and art classes. Those are all wonderful activities to develop skills and creativity, but we must be mindful of how much we schedule for our kids. Not only will their full schedules burn out their will and enjoyment but it will kill your intentional living pursuit.
Also, kids flourish in clutterfree homes and fewer toys. They need more free play outside and books. Raising kids is hard, but kids aren’t complicated. Conversely, they become more complicated as their closets and playrooms fill with toys. Maybe you’ve refereed a few battles over toys once or twice?
And interesting book, The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson, posits that parents should be more concerned with finding peace and quiet for themselves rather than entertaining their children. It sounds harsh and anti-intentional, but actually it’s purpose is two-fold – the parents don’t lose themselves in raising overprotected kids and the children develop wild imaginations and self sufficiency that serves them for their lifetime. Whether you agree with the author’s position or not, it’s a very interesting read.
“I wonder if it’s because, collectively, we know simplifying is vital not only for our kid’s health, but also for our own. Simplicity is a rare gift in modern life. It’s an obvious message, and when we hear it, we can’t help but shout YES.”
- Deal with your past once and for all
If you find yourself dealing with the same demons over and again you may be missing the real lesson tangled up in your past. With gentle and purposeful reflection look back on your life and name the events or people that burden your conscience. Start to forgive. Forgive yourself, forgive others, and extract a positive lesson that can propel you toward the life you are working so hard for.
Forgiveness is freedom.
Recently my husband and I began to talk about things in our past that negativity affects our lives and relationship. We found that by not properly dealing with issues in our past we were holding back from each other emotionally. Beginning to work on releasing our demons we learn to trust more deeply and connect more authentically.
Imagine how freedom from your past can benefit your family life. Demonstrating self-forgiveness and grace for others to our children creates a grace-filled home where they know they are unconditionally accepted and valued. For tips on how to do this read How to Let Go and Forgive by ZenHabits.com.
- Change the mental tape
A few months ago I was talking with my mom about how I was learning to reprogram my thinking from self-doubt and negativity to confidence and positive self talk. She said, “You’re changing the tapes”. I intentionally was removing the negative narrative in my head with positive truths about who I am and what I’m about.
This is intense, intentional work because negative thinking is usually just selfish thinking. It focuses on what could go wrong, what will hurt you or challenge your objective. However, when you fill your head with positive and encouraging messages that reinforce your objective then you discover more peace about life and it’s not all about you.
“If there is any simple definition of positive psychology, it could be summed up in three words: other people matter.”
- Do it for others, not ego
I write a lot about intentional living as a way to discover the life you’ve always wanted, but it’s not to feed your ego or to seek only your own happiness. The intentional life, especially the family life is about serving others with your talent, skill, passion, and love.
The best way to intentionally discover your gifts, challenge your beliefs, learn your passion, and find joy is to serve others. How can your spouse and kids benefit by selfless acts of service? Who do you know that is hurting and needs a listening ear or a pot of soup? How can your family life – the one you’re designing – be a blessing to others?
This is where you will find the most meaning – giving yourself away. I recommend the book “Scary Close” by Donald Miller to dive deeper into the connection of service, relationships and living a productive and meaningful life.
Creating an intentional family life takes purposeful action that involves personal development and relationship building. You can redeem the lost conviction you felt at the birth of your children and redirect the course of your family’s future. Your kids are depending and waiting on you to show them the way.
Which of these key elements of intentional family living does your family need most?
*Linked up with Works for Me Wednesdays (WFMW) .