THE 3 “S’S” OF Being Intentional while the kids are home

In light of government and organizational responses to coronavirus, life will look a little different over the next few weeks. The CDC is asking that we practice proper handwashing and that we “implement social distancing,” which in essence means avoiding groups and keeping a physical distance from others. As a result, schools, churches, and many events are being canceled. Thus, for the next few weeks, we are going to get to spend extra quality time with our loved ones at home, likely resulting in more laughs and tears. As we all lean into the changes that surround us, we offer three S’s for being intentional while the kids are home.

Schedules

A sense of routine can help us and our kids stay calm and keep moving forward. Schedules take some effort to create and implement, but once schedules are established, they help reduce overall stress. You can create a full-day schedule or just a morning/afternoon schedule when you need to get other work done. Incorporating a variety of different types of activities will help keep kids engaged and ready to continue learning for when they do return back to school. Scheduled activities could include:

  • outdoor play,
  • art and/or music,
  • free play,
  • learning activities,
  • reading,
  • chores,
  • board games, and
  • screen time.

By providing a schedule the whole family can follow, you will reduce boredom and anxiety while increasing a sense of belonging and competency for children and adults alike.  

Karen Melton, The Intentional Family Project

Screen Time

Give yourself some grace. Your kids will likely have more screen time than usual as a result of being out of school. For older children, limit screen time so that it does not replace physical activity, sleep, or other behaviors essential to health. Having a schedule for all these essential activities can help your family manage screen time. Parents may also want to consider that all screen time is not equal. This is not only referring to the different methods that we interact with screens—smartphones, tablets, computers, gaming devices, and televisions. Instead, there are different categories for screen time use, such as: 

  • watching educational shows vs. watching entertaining shows; 
  • playing educational games vs. playing entertaining games; and
  • constructive social media vs. destructive social media use. 

Parents can help their children make wise choices by providing time limits, identifying how kids may use their screen time, and limiting access to the internet. Kids who have access to the internet will likely have extra time on social media; parents should continue to monitor their children’s social interactions online.

Social Connectedness

Part of staying healthy is having social interactions with others. Over the coming weeks, we have a great opportunity to create meaningful moments with our family. Each day of the week pick something new to do with your family at home. This could look like: 

  • Dusting off the board games. 
  • Teaching your kids a family recipe.
  • Hosting a family dance party.
  • Playing a video game as a family.
  • Having a family movie night.

During this time, we are all being asked to limit physical interactions with others, but we can use apps and other technology to stay connected with others outside our home. Let’s be intentional in reaching out to loved ones that will need connections because they are isolated.  

Life will be a little crazier than usual over the next few weeks. Remember, we are all in this together. We will all need to sacrifice and be more flexible in the coming weeks. Being intentional is a choice. If we spend a little time being intentional with schedules, screen time, and social connections, then we can look back at this time, having created meaningful moments that help our family thrive.  

The Allens Keep Focus

How They Preserved Their Family Identity

In this blog series, Portrait of an Intentional Family, we have introduced you to the Allen family, one of the first Intentional Families we interviewed as a part of the Intentional Family Project. We hope their story has given you a glimpse of what walking through the 4-Step Intentional Family Process looks like in real life, and given you some inspiration to begin your journey today.

Last month, we talked about how the Allens went from talking about their dreams and goals, to making their dreams and goals a reality. They intentionally created reminders around their home and set boundaries around their way of life that helped keep them on-track to achieve the dreams they had for their family life. In this final series article, we will explore how the Allen family tracked their progress towards their dreams and maintained the momentum needed to achieve their dreams, even in the mundane of everyday life.

Maintaining Boundaries

If you have ever set a New Year’s Resolution, you know one of the most important elements of keeping that resolution is holding yourself responsible to stick with it. For families who activate their own Intentional Family Plan, the same is true. Accountability is key. The Allen family recognized that their plans for financial freedom and household peace wouldn’t come without purposefully meeting often to talk through their Intentional Family Plan. As they said during their interview with me,

“We meet every week to discuss some of our short-term goals and then monthly for our longer-term goals. We try to integrate these conversations into our natural rhythms of life so they are more organic. These conversations help keep us on track and on purpose.”

The Allen Family

By tracking their progress through visuals such as their family calendar and their “Debtonator” chart, the Allen family was able to talk purposefully and accurately in their weekly and monthly meetings about their progress toward their financial, nutritional, and relational goals. While all Intentional Families do their meetings just a bit differently, the Allen family found that meals were their best time to check in and discuss their goals and values as a family.

Celebrating Wins

Most of our Intentional Family Plan goals are goals that will be achieved over a lifetime; therefore, it is important that we celebrate the small wins along the way. For the Allen family, it was important to notice and celebrate small wins together. If one found that they could wear a shirt for the first time in the past 3 years because of their nutritional goals, they celebrated that together. If one debt was removed from the Debtonator, moving them toward their financial freedom goal, they acknowledged and celebrated that together. These small celebrations were enormous momentum for them to keep on going. As they described it,

“We try to celebrate the small things by remembering the big picture. If you can imagine that big picture being a thousand piece puzzle out of a box, we look for when a new piece of the puzzle snaps into place. We start to see the edges form up and some of the details of the puzzle becoming clearer. It helps us see our long-range goals coming into better focus. That’s when we’re like ‘okay, we need to keep doing this. This is helping us.’”

The Allen Family

As with each family, the Allen family is still on their Intentional Family journey. They would be quick to tell you that they are not perfect people, and they don’t always get it right. But they do want to give the best they can to their family life, and share their journey to inspire families who want the same. So, with the inspiration found in the Allen’s family story, we now invite you to begin your own steps to an intentional family life. You can start here with our introduction to the four-step Intentional Family Process to begin the journey! 

The Allens Make a Home

How They Activated Their Family Plan

In this blog series, Portrait of an Intentional Family, we have introduced you to the Allen family, one of the first Intentional Families we interviewed as a part of the Intentional Family Project. The intention of this blog series is to share the story of how Intentional Families have walked through the four steps of the Intentional Family Process so you can get a glimpse of what it looks like in real life.

Over the past two months, we uncovered the steps the Allen family took in order to recognize their family identity and establish their family plan. Their shared values led them to create specific, measurable goals in order to live a family life of freedom and peace. In order to achieve these goals, the Allen family created an Intentional Family Plan, where they created specific boundaries for family life that helped support their values and goals.

Creating Reminders

During our interview, the Allen family invited me around their home. In each of their common spaces, the Allens had carefully cultivated tangible and intangible reminders of their values and goals. In their kitchen space, the Allens posted their family calendar and menu planning guides on their refrigerator, in which they set reminders for how they wanted to spend their personal and couple time throughout the week. Tacked on the wall beside their refrigerator was a chart they entitled the “Debtonator,” where they tracked their financial goals on a monthly basis. Hanging in their living room was the family motto and values flag they created during their pre-marital counseling sessions. 

Beyond these more practical reminders, the Allens also showed me how they purposefully decorated their home – their entry way, living room, and guest room – with phrases, images, and items that invited friends and guests to share in the peace and freedom they hoped to achieve in family life. Their greatest joy was when a visitor to their home commented on the peace they felt inside the four walls. For them, this helped confirm they were on the right track, and gave them motivation to keep with their Intentional Family Plan. As they mentioned during our interview,

“We have visual reminders of our identity and goals around our home so that we stay on track with achieving them. But we have written them on dry erase boards because we realize that we can’t be rigid when life happens.”

The Allen Family

Negotiating Boundaries

While the Allen family created an Intentional Family Plan for their family life and set boundaries around their way of life, they were wise enough to know that in family life, life happens. A big part of their success lay in their ability to negotiate when a boundary needed to remain firm, and when a boundary needed to be flexible. For the Allens, clear, consistent, and respectful communication was key. They had a weekly date night on Friday nights, and they unified in declining other invitations in order to keep it. For other boundaries, they would work together to decide when they would allow an exception. As they mentioned to me,

“One weekend, as we were strolling around an antiques store, we spotted a cabinet that would work perfectly in our dining room space. We had been looking for a while, and, given the uniqueness of this find, we decided that adjusting our spending plan for the week was something we were able and willing to do in order to make that purchase.” 

The Allen Family

The Allen family maintained a healthy balance between being flexible with their boundaries, but also knowing that being too flexible with all boundaries can sabotage their family’s ability to achieve their goals.

By setting reminders and negotiating boundaries, the Allen family is able to stay on-track, but also meet the unexpected of life, as they journey toward peace and freedom. In our next blog, we will reveal the steps the Allen family took in order to determine if their Intentional Family Plan was actually working. Until then, we invite you to begin your own steps to an intentional family life. You can start here with our introduction to the four-step Intentional Family Process to begin the journey! 


The Allens Choose Peace

A Portrait of An Intentional Family

In this blog series, Portrait of an Intentional Family, we have introduced you to the Allen family, one of the first Intentional Families we interviewed as a part of the Intentional Family Project. The intention of this blog series is to share the story of how Intentional Families have walked through the four steps of the Intentional Family Process so you can get a glimpse of what it looks like in real life.

In last month’s blog, we uncovered the steps the Allen family took in order to recognize their family identity. Their shared values and goals, birthed out of their desire for an intentional life, led them on a journey to create a family plan so that desire could become reality. The first step of any family plan is to set goals.

Setting Goals

While general goals are a great start, Intentional Families have to set clear, measurable goals for family life that relate to their core values. For the Allen family, their family values of peace and freedom matched the short-term goals they set for family life, which included:

  • Eliminating debt,
  • Eating whole foods, and
  • Spending quality family time each week.

These goals were aligned with and motivated by the values they shared and the life they hoped to live. They planned to begin a family in the near future, and their short-term goals supported financial, physical, and relational well-being. Achieving these short-term goals, which they planned to continue in their way of life long-term, would allow them the freedom to make desired lifestyle alterations once they had children, including allowing one of them to stay-at-home with their children.

As the Allens set these goals, they had to ask important questions along the way to determine their ability to actually accomplish their goals, including:

  • Do we have the time, money, and capacity to achieve the goals we have set?
  • What are we willing to change about the way we do life now in order to accomplish our goals?

The Allen family had to realize the cost of setting and accomplishing their family goals, and collectively consider their ability and willingness to see their goals to completion. 

Setting Boundaries

Once families have accepted the cost and their capacity to accomplish their goals, Intentional Families have to think through boundaries that may be needed in order to achieve goals. As the Allen family shared with us during their interview,

“In order to be intentional in achieving our goals and maintaining our identity, we have to be clear about what we choose do AND what we choose not to do. There are things we have had to say “no” to and experiences we have chosen to live without in order to live intentionally.”

The Allen family talked about the importance of deciding up-front what they were going to say “yes” and “no” to in order to achieve their goals. They found that when they decided ahead of time together what they were going to do and not going to do, it helped them stay on-track and remain on the same page. This way, they kept their long-term values of freedom and peace first and foremost in their daily decision-making.

Preemptively and collectively deciding what they are and aren’t going to do helped them stay on track and on the same page.

Admittedly, though, one of the trickiest aspects of the Intentional Family Process is the leap between making a plan, and actually sticking to it. In our next blog, we will uncover the steps the Allen family took in order to put their Intentional Family plan in to action. Until then, we invite you to begin your own steps to an intentional family life. You can start here with our introduction to the four-step Intentional Family Process to begin the journey! 


Meet the Allen Family

How They Recognized Their Family Identity

As we embarked on the Intentional Family Project over three years ago, we desired to create a narrative that would help families create a great family life. We knew that we would need the stories of families who were examples of the type of family life we were studying. Not perfect families, but families who would help us understand intentionality in family life, and families whose story might serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration to today’s families. 

In this blog series, Portrait of an Intentional Family, we introduce you to the Allen family, one of the first Intentional Families we interviewed. We share their story with you – not to ask you to mimic their story or to compare yours to theirs. We believe that Intentional Families are powerful simply because they have the courage to live their family story. Each month, we simply want to share how they walked through the four steps of the Intentional Family Process so you can get a glimpse of what it looks like in real life.

Intentional Families are powerful simply because they have the courage to live their family story.

The Intentional Family Project

When we first sat down to interview the Allen family, they were a couple in their late 20’s about to celebrate their fourth year of marriage. They were both in established careers in the helping professions, and Mr. Allen had recently graduated with an advanced degree. They had hopeful expectation for future changes, with the desire for adding children to their family someday.

Starting Intentionally

As we have found through our research, families are most likely to pursue intentionality during seasons of transition in family life, such as marriage or the birth of a child. For the Allen family, their journey to intentionality began on their first date. The groundwork for their dating relationship was laid through their shared desire for a purposeful marriage guided by shared values and mutual support. These shared goals were further explored during their engagement through pre-marital counseling. It was during these counseling sessions that the Allen family created visual reminders of their shared values, goals, and commitment to mutual support on their journey of intentionality.

Why Intentionality

The Intentional Families we have interviewed have generally had some specific motivation for pursuing an intentional family life . For the Allen family, looking back to their family life growing up played a significant role in helping them recognize who they wanted to be as a couple moving forward. As they said in their interview with us:

 “Our families growing up really have played a big role in our intentionality. Our families had dreams, but never any goals or plans, so the dreams never came true. In our family, we want to live intentionally, not reactionary. We want our kids to know our values and experience our goals for our family.”

The Allen Family

The Allen family recognized their dreams were not just going to happen. Their family life growing up taught them that. They wanted to live a life where their goals and values were clear to everyone around them, including family, friends, and their future children. In order to accomplish this, they knew they were going to have to create a plan. 

In our next blog, we will uncover the steps the Allen family took in order to create their Intentional Family plan. Until then, we invite you to begin your own steps to an intentional family life. You can start here with our introduction to the four-step Intentional Family Process to begin the journey! 

Propensity to Plan: Family Time

At Intentional Family Project, we are studying the lives of families in order to provide your family with research-based information on cultivating intentional practices that benefit your family. In June 2019, we presented a finding from our online study on Intentional Families & Quality of Life. The study had over 900 participants across all stages of life.

In this study, we were able to see how families manage their time based on their current season of life. From this preliminary analyses, we were able to see that: Parents with young children (ages 2 to 5) are most likely to plan their family time for the immediate- (1-2 days), short- (1-2 months), and long-term (1-2 years) in comparison to families in other seasons of life.

Parents with young children (ages 2 to 5) are most likely to plan their family time for the immediate-, short-, and long-term.

In general, all families spend time planning their family time. Our finding just suggest that during different seasons of life, families may spend more time planning for the immediate- (1-2 days), short- (1-2 months), and long-term (1-2 years). So we will walk through the family life cycle to understand these trends in planning family time.

When couples are thinking about becoming parents they spend a lot of time planning long term family events. When children arrive (birth to 2), they spend less time thinking about long-term events and more time thinking about the immediate family events. During preschool (2-5), parents plan the most in all intervals–immediate, short, and long. Then as children go through middle childhood (6-12) parents plan the most for immediate events but do not spend as much time planning short and long term family events. As children becomes teenagers (13-18) parents plan more in short and long term and decrease in immediate family plans. Finally, parents whose children are grown (18+) are the least likely to plan their family time. In our future posts, we will unpack what these trends means for our intentional families.

The following poster was presented at the American Association for Family & Consumer Science (AAFCS) national conference in St Louis. We are also grateful for AAFCS’s financial support for this research project through the Centennial Scholars Grant.

Citation: Melton K. & McAninch, N. (June 2019). Intentional families: Propensity to plan family time across the family life cycle. Poster presentation at American Association for Family & Consumer Sciences. St. Louis, MO. https://intentional.family/?p=907

Exploring Identity

Have you ever been watching a show or reading a book and become so captivated? If you’re anything like me, you have the tendency to get caught up in a really great story. Great stories don’t just happen. They are generally the product of careful consideration and exploration. And there is a difference between an okay story or a great story. And you know which one you would rather be watching or reading.

In the same way, we believe that most families would choose a great family story over an okay story. And at the Intentional Family Project, we believe that the story of your family life can be great. We are confident that the Intentional Family Process provides the tools you need for thoughtful exploration as you create a compelling life. We encourage you to ask the question — “When it is all said and done, what do we want our family story to be?”

While there are variations in how the question can be asked, the heart of the question is the same. Some of our intentional families have asked the question like this:

  • When our kids are grown, how do we want them to describe our family life?
  • What do we want to say we accomplished as a family?
  • How will we know we have lived our best family life?

There is a difference between an okay story or a great story. At the Intentional Family Project, we believe that the story of your family life can be great.

Coming up with an answer to the question can be a daunting task. There is both enthusiasm in the possibility, and a bit of fear in the unknown. As we discussed in An Invitation to Identity looking in can be a useful method to begin answering these kinds of questions. Now, we invite you to look beyond the family you are creating to the role that others might play in the story of your family by looking back, looking out, and looking up.

Looking Back

The story of your family’s history is a powerful place for Intentional Families to begin. This is important because it helps you look beyond the family you are creating, back to the family that created you. Looking back helps you note how choices impact generations — both for the good and the bad. We can learn so much by going beyond the surface of our family’s story in order to ask difficult yet important questions, such as:

  • What do you think they did well?
  • What do you wish they would have done differently?
  • What do you wish they would have done more?
  • What do you wish they would have done less?

Whether you want to adopt similar values, adapt some values, or establish new ones, exploring and even honoring the choices of our family’s past can help you in creating a thoughtful present-day family story.

Looking Out

Certainly, we can begin to answer the question of what we want our story to be from the story of our family’s history. But in today’s connected world, Intentional Families can also learn so much from other families who are living their lives with intentionality. Many of our Intentional Families noted the role that friends and acquaintances have had on their sense of identity. Other families have read books and memoirs or watched documentaries to find inspiration for intentional family life. As you consider who might be your own inspirational examples, ask yourselves:

  • What families inspire us? What are they doing in family life that we like?
  • What stories have we read or watched that encourage us think about doing family life differently?
  • Who do we spend a lot of time around? What can we learn about family life from them?

Looking Up

For most of the Intentional Families we interviewed, their sense of identity and core family values were deeply rooted in faith. They discussed their choice to become intentional as an expression of their belief in God. They indicated that their beliefs required action, and that they sensed they were being called to live life in a unique way. These families found their identity and values being shaped by their faith. Consider how your faith and beliefs might influence your identity by asking questions like:

  • What are our spiritual beliefs? What values do we have as a family because of those spiritual beliefs?
  • What experiences have we had that have shaped our family’s beliefs?
  • What quotes or scriptures that are important to our family?

By looking back, looking out, and looking up, you are better equipped as a family to answer the question, “When it is all said and done, what do we want our family story to be?” To help you in this pursuit, we have developed this 2-page worksheet to help you talk through each set of questions, identify some words typically used for core family values, and begin writing those down. Later on, we will provide you with tools to work through and clarify these ideas. But for now, just focus on identifying all the words that best resonate with what you know to be important to your family. These words will become the thread by which you will create your family story.

Written by Nicole McAninch, PhD, CFLE, Senior Lecturer of Child & Family Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.